Category Archives: Roller Derby
SPORT: Roller Derby
WHERE: Melbourne, Australia
WHERE IS IT PLAYED: Predominantly in the USA, but leagues can be found around the World
WHO WAS COMPETING: Victorian Roller Derby League (Women) vs Victorian Vanguard (Men)
WHO WAS WATCHING: Quite a decent crowd of enthusiasts and curious onlookers. Very much an “alternative” crowd.
HIGHLIGHTS & OBSERVATIONS:
I remember Roller Derby as once quite popular in the 90s as a Sport Entertainment “Wrestling” style TV based contest that you used to come across on Sunday afternoon TV. Upon further research it seems that Roller Derby has been popular in various forms on and off as early as the 30’s in the US. It’s peak was actually in the late 70s and early 80s where matches could regularly attract 20,000+ crowds! It’s popularity has mirrored the fad nature of roller skating over the years. However, it is enjoying a modern day contemporary revival driven on the whole, as a DIY all-female organised and run sport. It is fair to say that this ethos has naturally attracted a somewhat feminist, somewhat lesbotic, somewhat punk/rockabilly diversity to its participants and supporters – not that there’s anything wrong with that.
What was quite impressive was that the all the skaters have a innuendo laden playing pseudonym – some of the better ones we saw included “Slippery Nicholls”, “Anna Conned Her”, “Skate Bush”, “Bicepsual” and my favourite for more than one reason “G-Banger”. Even the refs had their own nicknames too!
The sport itself is very competitive. It is psuedo-violent in nature as there is charging and blocking involved as long as you dont use your arms and hands. Remembering that you can build up quite some speed, momentum & kinetic energy whilst on roller skates. The oval track is quite tight so to fulfill any of the sport’s roles you do need to be ultra-proficient with your skating skills. Speed and agility do come to the fore, and as much as it looks like being unstructured, there are tactics in play and there are specialist positions.
Matches consist of 2 x 30 minute halves and is made up of as many individual “jams” as they can fit in in that time. Each jam starts with a mobile scrum of blockers positioning themselves in order that their scoring skater (The Jammer) can get through the pack and start to lap the other team’s blockers. To score points the jammer must lap the opposition blockers as many times as they can. There are penalties for illegal blocking – which includes a sin bin scenario – and there are protocols for skaters that go out of bounds to get back in the play. The action is non-stop and there is always something going on either on the track, on the sidelines or in the crowd!!!
Now the Victorian team – who incidentally absolutely smashed the men’s team in this bout – are off to Oregon in the US to compete in the World Division I Playoffs later this month – the first Australian team to get this far. I bet that there would be some right old monsters waiting for them over there though!!!
Roller Derby is the fastest growing women’s sport in the world. I know those stats get bandied about willy-nilly sometimes, because if you start from a very low base, any growth can be categorised as exponential. But, you can see and understand why it is an attractive proposition. It is competitive, empowering and gives you your workout and a bonus of great leg definition! I would imagine that the camaraderie amongst the girls would be pretty rewarding too.