IF you’re anything like me, prior to reading this you wouldn’t have known much about roller derby.
I’ll be the first to admit aside from the fact I’ve heard they can have some pretty interesting names – both as nicknames for the players and teams – I didn’t even know what the game consisted of or how players could score.
But the enthusiasm and passion of Mildura Roller Derby League president Nicola Moras is hard to go past, and so, late last Sunday afternoon I found myself sitting on the sidelines watching a practice session.
Firstly, I should point out there are in fact some interesting names involved in the sport – think “Cow Crusher”, “Disco Brawl” and “Loco Legs”, who all formed part of the Team Regional Victoria side for Round Two of the Statewide Stampede.
Aside from that though, Roller Derby was nothing like I thought.
Google will tell you it’s a contact sport played between two teams each consisting of 15 players.
Designated jammers from both teams can score by lapping members of the opposing team.
Teams attempt to stop the opposing jammer while helping their own jammer, playing both defence and offense at the same time.
What Google will not give you, is a first hand look at just how exciting and strategic this sport is.
I watched a drill where skaters practiced obstructing the jammer from scoring.
With four females forming an obstruction, and a lot of open playing surface I was confused as to why the jammer didn’t just skate right around.
I asked the question and after it was met with some bemused looks I became a prop and the layout of the game was explained to me.
As the jammers from each team compete at the same time, members of the opposite team, called blockers, try and obstruct them from scoring. Throw in a pivot (another player position) from each team and space on the track becomes scarce.
When the jammer laps the pack cleanly and successfully, a point is scored, with the exception of in the first instance, because that’s when the “lead jammer” is decided.
Although it is a contact sport, there are rules that specify what parts of the body can be used both in defence and offense, so it’s not as scary as it sounds.
Roller Derby, I discovered, is competitive, tactical and also provides participants with a great workout.
The Mildura Roller Derby League is made up of a passionate but small group of skaters.
Because they lack in numbers, members have to travel throughout both South Australia and Victoria to compete, but they are hopeful there might one day be enough interest locally so games can be held in Mildura.
Jemima Weinert, Kahlie Brabender and Nicola Moras, who is also the league president, are part of Team Regional Victoria – a group made up of five leagues from around country Victoria.
Each month Moras and Weinert have teamed up with participants from Albury/Wodonga, Gippsland Lakes, Mornington Peninsula and Wimmera to compete in Statewide Stamped and compete against eight different teams from around Victoria.
This weekend Brabender, making her debut in the competition, and Moras will travel to Daylesford to battle it out against the VicKings (a combined team of the Kingston City Rollers and Victoria Roller Derby League) with the regional side.
As Moras explained – “bouts (the official term for games) are held not only in Daylesford, but Preston, Wangaratta and all other far flung parts of the state”.
The skaters also travel to South Australia each month to skate with the Rockabellas Roller Derby League in their Toxic Cherries team.
Locally, skaters train two to three times a week and the league also run a program to assist people to learn to skate.
“Skating is for everyone,” Moras said.
“It’s one of the most inclusive sports around, being open and welcoming of anyone who wants to be involved from 10 years up.”
SkateFit is designed for those ages 10 years plus, and consists of 90 minutes of skating fitness and fun.
It runs during the school holidays and no experience in skating is needed to participate.
The league also run a 10 week “Introduction to Roller Derby” program that teaches people both how to skate and how to play Roller Derby.
“We have two programs: our junior intro to derby (ages 10-17 years old) and adult intro to derby (18+),” Moras said.
Moras said the beauty of the sport is that it allows people who don’t want to skate to be involved in what is a family orientated, inclusive sport.
“For those people we can use your help as an on-skates referee or as an off-skates Non Skating Official,” she said.
To find out more information about Mildura Roller Derby League, or to get involved, email email@example.com.
– By ZOEY ANDREWS