Last night saw the Canberra Roller Derby League’s first public bout of a sport that is experiencing a renaissance, both here and around the world – Roller Derby. NOW WITH SLIDE SHOW AT THE END OF THE POST!
Two teams of committed, focused, saucy wenches took to the parquetry floor of Southern Cross Club’s Tuggeranong indoor sports centre, decked out in some hellish mixture of lycra, fishnets, tutus and body armour for Hell-On-Wheels: A Halloween Bout.
Roller Derby is a strange beast. Populated by strong willed liberated women it’s both gritty and beautiful. It’s fast paced and theatrical; burlesque team speed skating. It’s physical; rugby tackles while running a marathon. It is Entertainment.
For the uninitiated, those few who have impossibly missed the previous Roller Derby stories on Riot, Roller Derby is a female dominated full contact team sport involving two teams of five on old school four wheel roller-skates racing around a track. An informative Wiki entry on the sport, its rules and history can be found here. The ABC seems to have been interested supporting the sport backing and airing the great doco, Roller Derby Girls and with ACT Stateline airing a preview of this very match.
There is no doubt Roller Derby is a spectacle and the sellout crowd, including members of interstate Roller Derby leagues from our near north and as far flung as South Australia, packing the bleachers to the roof added to this in their own unique way with horns, pompoms, costumes and enthusiasm.
Once the MC, one Matt Frawley, had corralled the crowd the ever charming Chanel Cole, dressed in the height of ‘50’s housewife splendour, wowed and wooed with a gorgeous and whimsical rendition of the National Anthem that had, for the first time I’ve heard in a long time, the crowd launching into massive applause at its conclusion.
And then out came the teams.
Adorned in the colours of the bruises both teams are bound to be sporting today we were introduced to the Black & Blue Belles. Lead in by their captain, #35 – Melicious Damage, the Belle’s and then the Surley Griffins in white and green, captained by the passionate Ova Bearing, paraded around the track, each playing up for the crowd in a way that epitomised their stage personas. There were whips, capes, scythes, knee-highs, fishnets, tutus and facepaint. There was shimmying and blown kisses, fist pumping and powerslides. Overall there was Attitude.
After the introduction of the Refs, with just as much showmanship, the head referee being paraded around in a chariot, the game was set.
Played in two 30 minute halves; each half made up of multiple 2 minute ‘Jams’, the first half was fast. Really fast. I wasn’t the only one to get dizzy just watching them.
The Griffins took an early lead only to find, after consecutive of their Jammer’s got sinbinned, the Belle’s take a commanding 20 point lead with only minutes to half time. In a blink of an eye it was the Belle’s suffering sinbinning and with the girls visibly tiring the Griffin’s put on two impressive jams to be one point up 65-64 at half time.
The second half was a different affair but just as enthralling. Both teams, seeming having taken the lesson of coming out pumped by the crowd at 110% in the first half could be seen to be taking things more tactically in the second. The Griffin’s star Jammer, # 4.11 – Bambi Von Smasher, had to this untrained eye been successfully countered by the Belles in the first half but in the second half she really showed her stuff. She wasn’t the only one with some impressive skating from both teams, ducking a weaving through seemingly impenetrable packs of opposition blockers.
Again penalties started playing a major part and although the Refs seemed to be ejecting members of both teams the Griffins faired better on the scoreboard extending their lead to 118-90 over the Belles with 15 minutes to go. About now the Griffin’s #27 – Dee Nature turned it on assisting their jammer with two great ‘whips’, a move not seem up til then in the match where one skater flings their arm forward propelling a skater on their own team past them. The Belle’s attempted to fight back with some gutsy jams by Roulette Rouge but as the final whistle blew the Griffin’s had come out on top with a commanding 40 point win, 149-109.
The final score didn’t really reflect the closeness of the match and even during periods where one or the other team seemed to have an unassailable lead the other would pull off a 10 to 15 point jam. The oohs and ahhs, cheers and boos of the crowd often had little to do with the actual score but when a jammer sliced through the pack, seeing a blocker take a tumble, booty blocks or the roar as a favoured skater returned from the sinbin.
If you want to get involved with Roller Derby in Canberra, as a player, ref or just as importantly spectator then go to the Canberra Roller Derby League website, email them via firstname.lastname@example.org or become friends with Canberra Derby on facebook . Otherwise keep an eye out on Riot as no doubt RiotACT member CRDL will be keeping us posted as to their activities.