Fast and furious, roller derby

Bloody Sundaes vs Mistresses of Mayhem.

Photo by Matthew Boggs

Bloody Sundaes vs Mistresses of Mayhem.

When thinking about full-contact sports, our minds quite often drift to rugby, football, or martial arts. But one sport that should come to mind is roller derby.

Roller derby is an entertaining sport where you can watch players race around on roller blades tackling each other.

According to Business Insider, it is one of the fastest growing sports in the world.

While it dates back to the 1930s, it is definitely not outdated. The sport is increasing in popularity in Australia and since its debut as an official sport, almost 70 clubs have opened across the country.

What is roller derby and how does it work ?

In order to understand why this sport is growing so fast, we need a short overview of how it works:

A roller derby is a full-contact sport played on quad roller skates on a flat track. The competition consists of two teams of 14 players, with each team selecting five players to be on the track at the same time. The team of five are called a ‘pack’, and they play a 60 minute ‘bout’ which is essentially a match.

In each team of five, four players are blockers and one player is a jammer. The jammer is identified by wearing a helmet with a star on it. The jammer is the person who scores the points.

How is a point scored ?

Jammers skate around the track multiple times with one common goal; try to pass the opposing teams blockers. With each opposing player the jammer passes, one point is scored. A maximum of five points can be scored with each lap of the track.

What do the experts say ?

In Perth alone there are five roller derby leagues. Perth Roller Derby (PRD) league spoke to NewsVineWA about the dos and don’ts of this fascinating sport.

Lauren Wade (also known as ‘Wayzer’) captain of the Bloody Sundaes, said the game strategy takes time to understand.

“It can be very confusing to begin with. The blockers are trying to help their jammer through but at the same time they’re trying to stop the opposing teams jammer. So it’s offence and defense at the same time.”

Speaking of defence, imagine being tackled while on roller blades! It sure won’t be hard for your feet to be swept from underneath you.

Well, that’s what rules are for.

There’s legal target zones. You can’t hit above the shoulders, you can’t use your elbows or your fists. You can’t hit below the knees. “So there’s certain areas you can’t hit but you can use the full weight of your body to hit the jammer out,” Wade said.

The Perth Roller Derby (PRD) League

As one of the more well-known leagues in Perth, the PRD was the first league to open in WA. It consists of a group of skaters and several members. Within the league there are three home teams: Mistresses of Mayhem, Bloody Sundaes, and the Apocalipstiks. As well as two travel teams: Team A and Team B.

The PRD have come a long way after starting the first WA league and have more exciting events ahead.

“Our travel A-team is actually going to America at the end of this month to compete in roller derby competitions overseas for the first time ever, we are very excited. It gives us a good opportunity to gauge where our skills are at on an international level,” Wade said.

Misconceptions: fishnets and tutus

While the PRDs travel team is ready to take on international teams, roller derby wasn’t always considered a professional sport, but rather, purely as entertainment.

Over the years roller derby has had a few reincarnations. In the 1970s roller derby was all about entertainment and big personalities.

It followed a similar set-up to WWE where it was all about being over the top, instead of being a reflection of reality.

Wade explained the nature of roller derby was reborn in WA in the 2000s, after a group of women were inspired by a movie called Hell on Wheels, and started the Perth Roller Derby league in 2008.

“When it first reformed it was very underground and it was all about fishnets and tutus. But we’ve gone a little bit away from that now because the sport has become a lot more athletic and people are trying to take it seriously. But there’s still a lot of groovy names.”

In roller derby, one of the entertaining aspects is the interesting names players come up with for their teammates.

“Often the names are more about your alter ego. There’s people who are teachers and nurses who have a really different personalities in their reality, that they don’t get to show at work. So when they skate they enjoy taking on a new persona,” Wade said.

Wade even has a nickname of her own,

“My surname is Wade but they all just call me Wayzer. It’s not that exciting but during the game it turns into a thousand other names like ‘ah-wayzing’ and ‘all-the-way’.

“One of our players is caller Prescription-Mint, but she gets called Minty and Mint-Top. Sometimes I don’t even know their real names!”

How to get involved

Yes, getting involved may sound daunting, and if you’re a newbie the thought of being tackled by someone with experience may sound scary; but that’s what the ‘Fresh Meat’ program is for.

The PRD league runs an annual program for newcomers who are interested in becoming a part of a roller derby team. It is a three-stage program that teaches all about basic skating and safety requirements. The program runs from November to February every year.

But if being competitive is not in your nature and you simply want to learn how to skate, there are programs for that too.

“This isn’t derby specific, it’s more about getting adults skating. There’s lots of skating classes you can go to at places like Morley Rollerdrome etc. but you often have to skate with the little kids at the same time,” Wade explained.

So whether you’re looking for a new favourite sport to watch on the weekend, you feel like getting knocked off your feet on roller skates, or you simply want to live out an alter-ego; then why not try roller derby?

For more information on the PRD league games, or  details on signing-up to the ‘Fresh Meat’ program, click here.