When Mieka Leitch dons her armour and mounts her steed for the Keith Ryall Memorial Jousting Tournament at Kryal Castle this weekend she'll not only be continuing a family legacy but marking a return to health after major surgery last year.
On the battlefield of the Kryal Castle arena in Ballarat in Victoria's Central Highlands, she'll face not only a cavalry of fierce competitors but also her father and jousting world champion Phillip Leitch.
Mieka, 19, will make her competition jousting debut in the tournament and only last month completed her first public joust at the attraction.
It's the culmination of a dream she has had since childhood when she used to help her father don his armour and prepare for his jousts.
"When she was very young, probably about seven, she was helping me with armour and handing up lances and even longer ago, before I was jousting, she was coming with me to medieval events and learning about history, dances, watching people fight and do different arts and crafts," Mr Leitch said.
But last year that dream seemed a long way off as she developed chronic seizures resulting from cysts in her brain.
"It was during the height of COVID lockdown when she had to go in to hospital without mum and dad and have brain surgery," Mr Leitch said. "We were all terrified because we didn't know how it was going to work out. We had to put our faith in the surgical team in Melbourne ... we literally had to drop her off then over the next few days after surgery we could only talk to her on the phone."
The surgery was successful and the seizures are gone.
"She's now able to ride a horse without being worried about having a seizure, can drive a car again and is working on her licence," Mr Leitch said.
Mieka has been training hard ahead of the tournament, which began six years ago after the death of Kryal Castle founder Keith Ryall. She will ride her father's well-known jousting horse Valiant in the clashes, and her father will compete on her horse Desi.
"It started as a fairly small affair, just with the Kryal Castle jousters, but since then it's grown and we usually get interstate jousters coming to the event as well," Mr Leitch said.
This weekend there will be eight jousters competing for the trophy across four sessions - morning and afternoon each day.
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Over the course of the weekend each jouster will compete against five others with a cumulative points total taken across the weekend.
Mr Leitch said each jouster ran three "passes" against their opponent with the goal of breaking their lance on the shield of their opponent. The father v daughter match-up will be the last bout on the weekend.
"It's very much a team effort among the jousters that work at Kryal Castle. We are always working with each other, offering advice and help so we want to see everyone do very well, even more so when that person is my daughter," he said.
"If she's out there and doing ok and being safe and being a great opponent then I'm more than happy."
Tickets are available at kryalcastle.com.au or at the gate on the weekend.