Faces of Ballarat: Phillip Leitch
Meet Ballarat's very own knight in shining armour – Kryal Castle site manager Phillip Leitch.
As Australia's only full-time knight, Phillip is also the defending World Jousting Champion.
"Jousting is an ancient sport where two people on horses charge at each other with wooden spears called lances, trying to hit their opponent in a designated target area (usually the shield and helmet)," Phillip said.
"Points are awarded for hitting and extra points are awarded if you hit hard enough to break your lance or knock your opponent from their horse."
We spoke to Phillip – also known as Sir Reynard – about making the move from Hobart to Ballarat, where to get a good beer, and what he has learnt in 2020.
What's your Ballarat story?
"I moved to Ballarat from Tasmania in 2012. I never really expected to love it as much as I do. Hobart and indeed the entire state of Tasmania is just an amazing place to live. Ballarat had a lot to live up to and I knew little more than that Sovereign Hill and, of course, Kryal Castle were located here."
Tell us about your role at Kryal Castle...
"When I arrived at Kryal Castle in 2012, the place was in a state of temporary closure while a complete overhaul was being made to the entire site. The castle had changed hands from its original owners and the new business operators had a lot of maintenance to catch up on, as well as a new vision of how the site was to be presented and run."
"Part of the new program was to have live jousts held and an in-house joust team, including horses, to be established. I had been jousting for only a couple of years at this stage but was very enthusiastic and when the opportunity to joust full-time was offered, I jumped at the chance. Moving my family and our many horses from Tasmania was a difficult and lengthy process but the effort was well worth it."
How often do you joust?
"Kryal Castle has four regular jousters, as well as some guest jousters that we have here from time to time. We joust every single day that we are open, which is every weekend and every day during school holiday periods, so we do about 170 jousts a year."
"The armour we wear is made from real steel and is just like the real armour worn by knights in the Middle Ages. It has to be to protect us properly from the hits we take. It is heavy and takes some getting used to but once you have adjusted to wearing it, you find it's not actually that bad to get around in."
"Kryal Castle has three horses we ride in the jousts and several of the knights have their own horses that they bring in to joust as well. It's great to have a number of horses to choose from as you want to be able to rest them occasionally and have extra horses for when we have knights visiting here for competitions."
What do you love most about the Ballarat region?
"The region offers just about everything really. You have an easy to navigate city with plenty on offer and if you can’t find what you need here, Melbourne is only really an hour away. The city itself is really pretty. We’ve had friends from Europe even comment on the beautiful old buildings we have here."
Where are your favourite Ballarat places to eat?
"Meigas has been a favourite of mine here for a while now, but I’m really wanting to explore the menu a little further at Pancho in the future. For lunch, Fika and Hydrant Food Hall are great. You are completely spoilt for choice in Ballarat for good places to eat."
What do you do for fun in Ballarat?
"Meeting up with friends at Hop Temple to try a special beer then moving on to a movie would be a fairly regular occurrence."
What's Ballarat's best kept secret?
"I don't think I’ve found it yet. I’ve been here eight years but have a lot more exploring to do."
And, finally, what has 2020 taught you?
"Life is uncertain and the whole world can change overnight. Do things that make you happy, regardless of what is going on around you."
121 Forbes Road, Leigh Creek