18 May 2023

A prize-winning bird in the hand for blockbusting Jack

| John Thistleton
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man holding goose

Rising breeder Jack Peppernell about to pen one of his Chinese geese. Photo: John Thistleton.

Goulburn bricklayer and bruising rugby league forward Jack Peppernell has his softer side, too.

A lock forward who represented NSW Under 18s when they toured the United Kingdom in 2019, Jack is becoming a passionate breeder of waterfowls. Instead of a ball tucked under his arm, these days it’s more likely to be a couple of geese.

Last year at the NSW Waterfowl Breeders Association Show, he won a category for best pair of geese with his two Chinese geese. This year he finished third in the geese class and also entered mallard and Saxony drakes.

Living on 10 hectares (25 acres) near Goulburn, Jack has a mentor as a rising young breeder of waterfowl in seasoned champion Bert Hewitt of Gunnedah. Jack spent most of Saturday (13 May) at the show looking over more than 640 ducks and geese assembled at the Goulburn Recreation Ground’s poultry pavilion, contemplating whether to buy some to enhance his flock.

“I bought Mum a pair of white mallards for Mother’s Day,” he said after the show. The auction of show birds is held throughout the judging, with breeders placing their bids on a board next to the waterfowl offered for sale.

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Jack has had a season off football, but according to his mother Michelle, he has been spending lots of time in the gym when not wrangling his ducks, to be back bigger and better next season.

Meanwhile, Goulburn continues to be a popular hosting venue for the waterfowl breeders’ annual show. Association vice-president and fourth-generation breeder Dylan Summerell has travelled from Wallarah on the Central Coast to Goulburn for the past six years. This year, he towed a horse float on the three-hour journey carrying 50 ducks and geese and was in town for four days helping to set up the show and pack up afterwards.

“We come to Goulburn because of its central location, central for people in Queensland, South Australia and Victoria who all come and visit and exhibit here as well,” he said.

He said plentiful accommodation and the Goulburn poultry community making available their pens and other facilities were other reasons for continuing to return.

Breeders are passionate about particular breeds of ducks and geese, travelling thousands of kilometres to compete in Goulburn. Some of them donate several hundred dollars in prize money for a particular breed.

“We don’t go for large-scale corporate sponsorships, we have some brands of feed for sponsors, but for the breed classes we go out to the poultry-breeding community,” Dylan said.

man with duck

Dylan Summerell with a bantam Saxony duck, a breed developed in Australia. Photo: John Thistleton.

His efforts paid dividends this year. He won three best-of-breed categories with a Khaki Campbell duck, Australian settler goose and a Toulouse goose.

To promote various breeds, the show has a featured duck and this year’s was the mallard, once a popular breed but in decline, especially the coloured varieties.

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“Naturals, whites, and blue fawns are pretty common, some of the other colours are disappearing,” Dylan said. “We try and encourage people to come and bring some of the rarer colours and put on a big display of a breed that has started to decline in numbers.

“You have to work harder to get a mallard right, it’s about the finer details in them. To win with a mallard, it needs to be as close to perfect as possible.”

Competition is intense as breeders go to exceptional lengths for the prestige of winning a ribbon.

“People will have a 15-hour drive to get here, all for the competition and to be part of an event like this,” Dylan said.

man with ducks

Dylan in the horse float with his ducks. He is holding a bantam silver Appleyard, named after Reginald Appleyard, who developed the breed in England in the 1930s. Photo: John Thistleton.

He believes ducks are becoming a favoured choice for backyard poultry ahead of chooks because they don’t make as much noise.

“You won’t get into trouble from your neighbours for having a crowing rooster,” he said. “Your level of competition is growing as well.”

He bought more ducks at the auction.

“One of the things I was taught very early was to look at it (breeding) like building. You have to build your house before you can paint it,” he said.

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