If tattooed, punk-rock girls engaging in a full contact sport on roller skates is something you're not familiar with, let me introduce you to the world of contemporary Roller Derby.
Although in its infancy in Australia, Roller Derby as created in the USA in the 1930s by a fellow called Leo Seltzer. It was originally an endurance race but over time the rules have been modified and it has developed into a contact sport due to audience enthusiasm over skater collisions and falls. Its popularity has been through peaks and troughs throughout the decades but is currently experiencing a worldwide revival.
In the past, it was a sport for men and women, but these days it is almost completely female dominated, with over five hundred leagues operating across sixteen countries. In 2007, The Victorian Roller Derby League (VRDL) was established and has attracted much interest. The VRDL is a women's league, but men are welcome and encouraged to train and skate in supporting roles.
Roller Derby competitions are referred to as bouts, and they take place on a circuit track. A bout is divided into two thirty minute blocks which are then split into two minute jams – a countdown period in which teams try to score points. There are five players on each team and offense and defence are played simultaneously. On each team there is one jammer, three blockers, and a pivot which have specific roles. For a more detailed description of the rules, click here. To see an example of some local Roller Derby girls in action, watch this video.
Typically, Roller Derby today is heavily dominated by the punk aesthetic: tattoos and piercings, and rockabilly and burlesque-inspired uniforms. Players usually create a derby persona, often using satirical, violent or sexual puns. Some examples of players names in the VRDL include: Rocky Rogue, Kittie von Krusher, and Calamity Maim.
To become a Roller Derby girl is a big commitment. You are required to train at least twice a week and invest in roller skates, helmet, protective padding and mouth guard. Expect to train for an average of six to ten months from when you begin to participating in your first bout. Being a contact sport, injuries are common: from scrapes and scratches, to bruising and broken bones. If you're not deterred and are interested in joining a league, email firstname.lastname@example.org to be put on the 'Potential Fresh Meat' list. However, if spectating is more your style, check the events page on the VRDL website for upcoming bouts.