The Northern Rivers Roller Derby team is gearing up to launch the local league.
The Northern Rivers Roller Derby team is gearing up to launch the local league.

Anarchy on four wheels

They are fast, they are on wheels, and they are wearing fishnet stockings. The Northern Rivers Roller Girls are getting ready to launch their new local roller derby league and it’s not going to be pretty.

It’s a physical, sweaty, high-risk, full contact sport in skates, developed by women for women – and there’s bruises to go with it. Since flat-track roller derby fever hit Lismore last year, the Lismore skating rink has become the new Mecca for women who want to get fit and have fun while wearing quad skates and costumes.

“It is not like other sports, there’s a sexy, punk glamour, with elements of rockabilly and burlesque,” said organiser Annabelle Keene (aka Dr Dirt). “It has captured the imagination of women not engaged in other formal sporting activities.”

With names like Syko Sin D, Deb Orchery and Hurricane Katrina, the women who put on their skates also get a chance to put on an alter ego, pull on a costume and come up with a roller derby name.

“Taking on another persona and putting on your protective gear is an important part of being able to express yourself,” said organiser Amber McBride (aka Flying Fairy Princess Power).

Wearing a helmet and wrist, elbow and knee protectors, women whiz around the skating rink learning the basics of what it takes to be a roller derby team. One of the minimum requirements to make it onto the team is being able to skate 25 laps in five minutes.

“We’re still on training wheels,” Dr Dirt said. “We don’t have the skills and experience to bout at the moment, but the Brisbane League, the Sun State Roller Girls, have been going for years. They are our big sisters and they have been mentoring us.”

When roller derby is played, each team has five skaters on the track who skate in a series of two minute ‘jams’. One team member is the jammer, who wears a star on her helmet, and the other four are blockers. As the pack of eight blockers moves around the track, the jammers try to get through and pass them while the blockers try their best to stop them. The first jammer through the pack becomes the lead jammer who is then able to score points for the team by passing the opposition’s blockers. It’s physical and fast and endurance is crucial to the sport. Needless to say, women are knocked over during the jams and injuries happen.

“When you begin, you need to learn to stop, start and fall safely,” Dr Dirt said. “Then you can learn to jump, block and hit. I think I may be half way there. If I develop enough I may bout, but I’m enjoying the process of learning to skate in a sport.”

“We are set to be an amazing league,” Flying Fairy Princess Power said. “Every woman is amazing. It takes so much courage – it’s the best thing that Lismore has seen.”

If you want to get down and derby with the local team, practice sessions are on Thursday afternoons from 6-8.30pm and costs $10. Come along and hire some skates to start with, and borrow some protective gear from the local league. If you want to get into full roller derby, you’ll need to buy your own protective gear. The money the league makes goes back into purchasing more gear.

On Saturday, May 15, at the Lismore Roller skating rink, there will be an exhibition bout of roller derby. The Sun State Roller Girls will be coming from Brisbane to show locals how the game is played and the local league will be introduced. Tickets are $15 and there will be a limited number available at the door.

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