Roller Derby strikes a chord with LGBT fans
Pat Head Summitt
Pic by Kim Lee
Robyn Soper aka Great Bolz of Fire from the Sydney Roller Derby League has always been a fan of skating. Her earliest memories of the sport involve watching her two older sisters being dropped off at the local rink by her Mum.
“I wasn’t allowed to go in as she said I was too little. I think this instilled a desire for the unobtainable from a very young age,” comments Robyn. “When I turned eight my Mum let me go for lessons and I spent a few years learning artistic skating and then speed skating. I had to give it all up when I went to boarding school at age 12 but I now joke with my Mum that it was the best money she ever spent!”
Soper admits she was drawn to the lifestyle elements of roller derby, enjoying the team camaraderie and the entertainment element. Indeed she thinks it is the entertaining style that “separates roller derby from other sports”. While many spectators may initially have been drawn to the eye candy element of girls in cute outfits getting their ‘biffo’ on, Soper’s sure that the action is what keeps the punters coming back. “As the sport progresses and we head into a really serious year of competition, the bells and whistles fade a little and it becomes more about the athletes and strategy,” says Soper. “Roller Derby is a spectator sport at home season level and punters come for a bit of a show. If it’s the ‘eye candy’ that gets them in it’s the thrills and spills and genuine excitement that keeps them coming back.”
As for the sexy outfits, Soper says: “We find the uniforms empowering! We are a grass roots organisation and all the ideas are our own and we are proud of being who we are.”
So just how dangerous is it - how much of the biffo going on is for show and how much is real?
“The only biffo is legal biffo and anything else is an instant ejection!” Soper answers. “Unfortunately over the last few years we’ve had girls break bones, arms, legs, ankles, collarbones and just last game a team mate of mine broke her nose and wrist and there was blood all over the track. She was very unlucky!
“In the 70s it was more WWF style with players hamming it up for the crowd. These days, girls are serious athletes and the hits are hard, legal and real. We train really hard to keep it that way!”
Roller Derby has found a slew of fans amongst the LGBTQI community. Soper believes it is the tough players and the fast pace of the game that has earned its popularity.
“It’s one of the only all female sports in the world. The players are tough, strong and passionate about the game and there are LOTS of lesbian skaters in every league. The queer community loves to support women’s sports and I hope we are able to give back by providing strong role models in an environment where we are free to completely be ourselves.
“And if you needed another reason to love roller derby there is a Queer Roller Derby league called the Vagine Regime, it’s a world wide league that spreads queer love by raising money for charities that help the LGBTI communities. There is a national VR tournament coming up in Feb 2013 which will be the first in Australia and possibly the world! It’s emotional for me watching the VR play and knowing they are all queer skaters. It’s a great sense of belonging to something really special.”
So what can the punters expect to see at a match.
“At a home season game you can expect a lot of fancy themed uniforms and skateouts, fast skating and huge spills! The 2012 SRDL home season is about to kick off in June with a grand final rematch between the Beauty School Knockouts and Team Unicorn - The Horny Rollers.. The home season focus is more on fun but players are still extremely competitive. We aim to put on a good show as well as compete at the highest level. All Stars games are where we compete for our league - so playing for The Sydney Assassins is what all skaters strive for. These skaters are the fastest and hardest hitting you will see and later in the year we will compete for national ranking at The Great Southern Slam in Adelaide….”
To find out more about roller derby visit sydneyrollederby.com