Women all over town are queuing to take part in the Canberra Roller Derby, but ELERI HARRIS discovers there’s another league on the rise.
IT’S the crowds that make the game when people who don’t go to sports matches are packing out the stands.
Sipping beer and munching down fried food, the high-heeled, tattooed and Doc Martin-clad fans share benches with bevvies of little girls dressed like fairy princesses and cheerleaders, while red-lipsticked, rockabilly pin-up girls and their long-haired, metal-head boyfriends cart babies wearing t-shirts saying: “I met these people on Facebook”.
Screaming and chanting and waving signs, the kooky, family-filled congregation goes wild as a gang of chicks on skates squeal across the gymnasium floor.
Welcome to the Canberra Roller Derby at Tuggeranong’s Southern Cross Stadium, a regular sell-out sports entertainment bout run by volunteers, skaters and devotees of this increasingly popular game.
The Canberra Roller Derby League, considered the most professional in the country, has been running for two years, starting with two teams of 16 and now with four – the Black and Blue Bells; Surly Griffins; Red Bellied Black Hearts and the Brindabelters.
But with 400 names on their “fresh meat” list, the CRDL doesn’t have the capacity to expand fast enough to accommodate everyone who wants to spend the required 18 months training to bout.
Enter students Emma Eriksen, 19, and Tea Karacic, 23, and their newly founded ANU Roller Derby.
“Everyone’s seen the movie ‘Whip It’ and wanted to do roller derby, I just decided to start my own league,” Emma smiles as she laces her shiny new black skates.
“CRDL is so packed, but there’s room in this town for people wanting to commit to a life of fishnets and skates.”
Teeing up with the ANU Students Association and kicking off incorporation with ANU Sports and Recreation, Tea and Emma have gathered together a team of skating enthusiasts to do what CDRL did three years ago; establish their own roller derby league.
“This is a bit more laissez faire and laid back,” Tea says as she smooths down her Mohawk, dons a helmet and helps a newbie stand up.
“We’re all learning together and are, more or less, at the same level. We had a couple of meetings at the start of term, but then we had to stop because we had an accident. Our first casualty, one of our girls, fell down and broke her leg.”
The ANU Roller Derby girls have enlisted the help of former Central Coast skate guru Kaylee “Marie Slamtoinette” Dean and started ticking safety and accreditation boxes.
“As soon as the accident happened, Emma and I got our butts into gear,” Tea says.
“We did all our paperwork and finished our incorporation with ANUSA and went to talk with the guys at the sports hall, we did our risk management.
“Sports and Rec have given us the use of a hall for an hour every Sunday. If all goes according to plan we’re going to maintain that for the rest of the year.”
With rules too complicated to summarise, a mandatory Australian Flat-track Skating grading system using coloured stars for different levels of skill and some serious fitness requirements, it will take more than a year for the ANU roller derby kids to get into a real live bouting ring.
“Emma and I have really ambitious ideas,” Tea admits.
“She’d like to compete against the teams in the Canberra Roller Derby, but we’d really like to start a university league. It would be awesome to get teams into the Uni Games.
“But, right now we’re focusing on fundraising because we need to pay for the hire of the hall and equipment, we need some crash pads for practice!”
The ANU Roller Derby hope to take on the CDRL teams by June 2012.
More information from firstname.lastname@example.org and for roller derby rules visit http://wftda.com/rules