What is roller derby? When and where did it start?
Roller derby is Australia’s fastest growing women’s sport. It is a full-contact sport played on quad skates. It is a predominantly female sport, but we have men’s and mixed teams as well. Teams are run independently by volunteers, but most are affiliated with the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) or the Men’s Roller Derby Association (MRDA). There are hundreds of teams all across the world, whereby the highest ranked WFTDA member leagues compete in an annual international competition (“Playoffs”, followed by “Championships”), usually held in the US.
Skaters play in one of three possible positions, either as a jammer, blocker or pivot (the pivot is a special kind of blocker, as they have the ability to become the jammer). The jammer wears a star on her helmet, and the pivot wears a stripe. Normal game play sees one jammer from each team on the track, along with four blockers from each team. The eight blockers form a “pack”, which the jammers must skate through in order to score points. There are well-defined areas where we’re allowed to hit each other, and there’s no kicking or punching allowed. Games run for an hour, with two halves, broken up into two-minute intervals called “jams”.
The season is generally March – October. It started as a serious, athletic, competitive sport in the US in the early 2000s, and in Australia around 2007. My league, Sydney Roller Derby League (SRDL), was one of the first leagues to form in NSW.
How did you first get involved?
I joined a small roller derby league in 2012 where I trained quite casually, until I moved to SRDL in mid-2016 to ramp things up and skate more competitively. SRDL is one of the best-performing leagues in NSW, so it is a real privilege for me to be able to skate in one of their two competitive travel teams, the Snipers. I did a bit of artistic roller skating when I was a child, which I absolutely loved – so when I found an opportunity to get back on skates as an adult, I just had to get involved.
Where does your team train and compete?
We train three times a week at the Dunc Gray Velodrome in Bass Hill, on a flat track. The Snipers compete nationally within Australia, but most often against other regional teams within NSW. A recent achievement was third place in the A-Division of the 5×5 Roller Derby Championship, back in August.
Are there risks involved in the sport? What’s most exciting about it?
Roller derby is a high-impact and full-contact sport, so carries the same risks as other such sports. Although we wear a lot of protective gear in the form of helmets and knee/elbow/wrist/mouth guards, skaters are still at risk of sustaining concussions, broken bones and any other injuries common to all athletic endeavours. Concussion is something we take very seriously at our league, and there are strict rules governing this.
What opportunities are there for readers to get involved?
I would really encourage anyone who’s interested in playing, or just wants to watch a game and see what the sport is all about, to come to our 10th Anniversary Bout on Saturday October 14, at our home ground: Sydney Boys High School (556 Cleveland St, Moore Park). Doors open at 5pm, and tickets are on sale via our Facebook page facebook.com/SydneyRollerDerbyLeague.