Roller Derby

Andrew Stephens, Sunday the 11th of October, 2009 in Travel and Places

Wellington This post was automatically imported from my old sandfly.net.nz blog. It may look a little weird since it was not originally written for this format. is truly the cultural capital of NZ . Last weekend I attended the first art exhibition I have ever had to queue to get into; this weekend: Roller Derby!

I
Poster for the Rollor Derby Event
was vaguely aware of Roller Derby before, but this is my first experience with this very odd sport. The game is played by 2 teams of woman on roller skates moving at speed around a short circuit track. Each play (or "jam") starts with most of the players forming the "pack" of blockers, while a "jammer" from each team starts 2 seconds later from several meters behind. The object of the game is for the jammer to fight their way through the pack, hindered by the opposition while their own team members attempt to help out. Once a jammer makes it through the pack they can score points by lapping the pack again - 1 point per opposition player passed each lap. Each jam lasts a maximum of 2 minutes, but is often called off early by the lead jammer to prevent the other team from scoring points.

The game is full contact, except the hands cannot be used to block. There is a penalty box where players who have infringed on the rules are sent for a few minutes - this well used. Amusingly, even the jammers can be sent off leading to jams where one team cannot score - disaster!

The match tonight was the 2nd in a series of three between Brutal Pageant (in beauty contestant garb) and SmashMalice (resplendent in leopard skin). After a promising start, Brutal Pageant faded early - trailing 78-63 at half-time and eventually suffering a 166-117 trashing from SmashMalice. The organisers have done an excellent job of drumming up support, there were over 800 cheering fans in the audience.

The closest thing I could compare Roller Derby to is Pro Wrestling - there is the same air of pageantry, larger-than-life characterisation, and same-sex romance about them. But the two are not really comparable, Roller Derby is a real sport with rigid rules and unscripted matches. The object is not so much entertainment and athleticism (although both are present) but to actually score points and win.

I enjoyed Roller Derby a lot more than I thought I would. There is something about scantily-clad woman on rollerskates playing a reasonably clever and slightly violent game that appeals to me on some level. Probably not one of the top levels, but I have depth.

The next event (and final in the series) is on at the TSB arena on the 7th of November, tickets from Under the Radar.

A much better article about the Richter City Rollers can be found at Field Theory.

Finally, here is a slightly creepy looking video explaining the rules of Roller Derby in detail.