Blood, Sweat and Wheels: Vulture goes to the Roller Derby
Roller derby. Babes on rollerskates smashing into each other. Sounds awesome, doesn’t it?
The Vulture recently headed along to Bout 5 of the current Victorian Roller Derby League season, and we were astounded by the athleticism and roller skating skills on display, and the dedication to this very unique sport by those who play it. We caught two matches – The Dolls of Hazard defeated the Rock Mobsters, and the Toxic Avengers took down the Dead Ringer Rosies. There were thrills, spills and action aplenty, and there was even a halftime dodgeball game! Check out our full photo gallery here.
The night was incredibly well run, with a full commentary team, animated scoreboard, and a fittingly rock and roll soundtrack playing all night. Curious newcomers like ourselves are well looked after, with a printed explanation of the rules given out on arrival, and roaming staff members available to answer any questions. We especially enjoyed the skater’s self-appointed, wordplay-heavy nicknames – our favourites were Skate Bush, Double D’Viant, Rocky Rogue, and Crunchlady Doris.
We spoke to Dead Ringer Rosies skater and VRDL organiser Mon-U-Mental ahead of their next big bout: an Interstate showdown with the VRDL All Stars vs. QLD’s Sun State Roller Girls and the VRDL Queen Bees vs. The Northern Brisbane Rollers on September 1st at the Melbourne Showgrounds. Tickets are on sale now.
How would you describe roller derby to someone who’s never heard of it before?
A full contact, high intensity women’s sport on roller skates. A game of Roller Derby involves two teams of 4 blockers and 2 jammers. Jammers score points by passing the ‘pack’ of blockers legally as many times as she can in a two minute jam. Blockers must block /defend their points by stopping the opposing jammer but also play offense by helping their own jammer through the pack. I always tell people that Roller Derby is a bit like a combination of Rugby and Ice Hockey but without the stick or ball!
What do you love about roller derby?
The physical challenge, the fitness and have to say that the full contact nature of the sport is very satisfying! I love that it’s a women’s sport that challenges dominant stereotypes about women and is accepting of individuality and diversity and that women of all aged (18+ ) can play. It’s one of the very few full contact sports for women- I’m no good with ball sports! I love that our league in particular, promotes athleticism and teamwork over spectacle.
I love that Roller Derby is grass roots, 100% skater owned and operated and that the Roller Derby community is an amazing group of talented and diverse men and women who all come together to promote and play this sport we love!
Why do you think it’s enjoyed a boost in popularity in recent years?
Well certainly a couple of years back, the movie Whip It probably boosted its popularity a bit and drew in a bunch of young rebellious women who wanted to be Ellen Page, but the people who stick around have to be committed as we (VRDL) train up to 4 times a week (as well as off skates fitness stuff too) and it can take up 2 years or more to become a bouting skater so it’s really not for the faint-hearted or the easily disheartened!
It’s a fantastic spectator sport – people really enjoy our bouts and we are getting more and more families coming along because it’s a really fun night out. As more and more leagues pop up all around Australia, more people are aware of the sport too. Having said that, we still find it difficult to get mainstream media reportage of our bouts – even when our All Stars came 5th place in their first American Tournament and then went on to win the final of the Great Southern Slam, national tournament. Like all women’s sports, we don’t get much recognition.
I think its popularity has increased for the reasons I mentioned above too: it offers women a fun, full-contact sport that differs from the norm. Although it sounds cliché, Roller Derby is empowering for women – and not just because you feel physically strong, but also because you are part of a self-sustaining, supportive community .
How do you see the sport growing in Victoria and Australia in the future?
It seems like a new league is created every month! It will only grow and continue to grow. The Great Southern Slam in Adelaide this year which saw leagues from all over Australia and New Zealand competing for the title of Champions of the Southern Hemisphere (The VRDL All Stars won for the second time running), was a huge boost to Adelaide’s economy with thousands of skaters and spectators attending. I think this was a sign of things to come for Roller Derby in Australia- it’s huge!
We’ll see more Australian/ international games happening in the next few years too. VRDL are currently the only Women’s Flat Track Derby Association’s (WFTDA) members in Australia, so our All Stars get to play other WFTDA teams in the US, and are able to be ranked internationally. As more Australian leagues become members, we’ll eventually have more WFTDA sanctioned bouts here in Oz… and then the US leagues will come to us!