The first Roller Derby State Championship Tournament began with Convict City Rollers (CCR) hosting the first bout against fellow/rival Hobart league the South Island Sirens (SIS) in July this year. SIS was formed after a split from CCR, and has been shooting hoops since its inception in 2009; travelling to Sydney to bout SWS, hosting Hobart’s first roller derby double-header and bringing international roller derby coach, Bonnie D. Stroir to town for a multi-league boot camp. However it was the Convicts’ experience on the track that gave CCR its first ever win, with a score of 125-90.

Roller Derby - Convict City Rollers v South Island Sirens

Convict City Rollers v South Island Sirens (photo by Marc Bester)

Roller Derby in Tasmania

by Vanessa Shredgrave

The Sirens then travelled north to Westbury for the second bout, this time against the Van Diemen Rollers (VDR), the first Tasmanian league and a force to be reckoned with. The Sirens vitally needed a win to stay in the tournament. Both teams fought hard, with SIS succumbing to VDR in the last jam (101-97).

It was now down to the North versus the South. Who would get bragging rights as Roller Derby State Champs?

Roller Derby - Rival Hobart Teams, CCR & SIS

Hobart Roller Derby: CCR & SIS (photo by Marc Bester)

In the beginning of time (October 2010) the Convict City Rollers were hammered out of their bouting virginity when they challenged VDR to play them for their ‘Inaugural Brawl’. Just over a year ago, CCR were a team of fresh green skaters who had two main strategies: ‘stay in derby stance, and… make a wall!’

…VDR creamed the Convicts. They had miles of experience ahead of CCR in terms of strategy, communication and team cohesion, not to mention a swag of intra league games. Since then, a mammoth year of boot camps, guest coaches, explosive push-ups and an unpalatable magnesium drink had built CCR into a team to be very, very, scared of.

The Challenge

VDR, undergoing a restructuring of their league, included a couple of star players from their North West branch for the final. Lined up with mostly players from VDR’s star intra league team, the Jam Tarts, VDR had brought to Hobart a collective of strong-willed skaters who fought hard to the final second.

The Roller Derby Final: CCR v VDR

CCR had underestimated VDR’s strength, and lost their game a little in the first half, a somewhat unexplainable pattern in some recent bouts. Half time scores were 53-35 to VDR. CCR regained focus for the second half, playing only the A grade players repeatedly to bring multiple lead changes and ties all the way to the last jam; CCR had one mission, to get lead jammer and protect the winning point that CCR jammer Blue Spark had just scored. There were 57 seconds on the clock when the jam started, and the CCR jammer (your writer) was downed by VDR blocker Woah Nelly. This was a blessing in disguise; recovering from Nelly’s sideswipe swallowed up some clock time. The jam was strategically called off after the initial pass, resulting in the clock timing out and CCR keeping their one point lead. The crowd of 900 was electric in those last few jams, on their feet and going bananas.

Roller Derby - Convict City Rollers

Convict City Rollers: State Champions 2011 (photo by Pip Stafford)

The score was 99-98 (CCR). Convict City Rollers were proclaimed Tasmanian State Champions and handed the golden skate trophy to the roar of the orange-clad home crowd.

All tournament games showed a level of skill and commitment across the three main leagues, which has manifested in the state All Star team (the Apple Betties) led by VDR and comprised of skaters from VDR, CCR and SIS. The phenomenon of roller derby is progressively evolving in all corners of the state, with these leagues sharing resources, training together and sharing the derby love to make the advancement of the sport their highest priority. Since the championship final a new northern league has formed from mostly Launceston skaters, Devil State Roller Derby. This adds to the growing number of leagues across Australia. There are now 65 and counting, compared with 33 in 2010. It’s one of the fastest growing extreme sports worldwide; 13 countries recently competed in the inaugural Blood & Thunder World Cup in Toronto, with Team Australia smashing Scotland, Sweden, Germany and Finland to finish in 4th place.

Tasmanian Representative Team

The Apple Betties (Tassie All Stars) played the Queen Bees (VRDL) as the first bout of a massive double header to finish off the year: VRDL All Stars v Rat City All Stars

Roller Derby - Tasmania v Victoria

Tasmanian Roller Derby interstate (photo by Kim Lee)

It was the first trip to the mainland to play derby for many of the girls on the team. The objective was to promote Tasmanian roller derby on the national stage. The 2000 plus crowd packed into the showgrounds in Flemington for a massive double header bout: Apple Betties versus Victorian Roller Derby League’s Queen Bees, the warm up game to the VRDL All-Stars’ match against Rat City from Seattle. The Derby News Network (DNN) streamed the whole Apple Betties game online. Tasmanian fans filled the suicide seating for the game, and supported the state team the whole game. For the first few jams, Apple Betties had no score on the board, but the points slowly crept up on the board. According to trackside fans, there wasn’t too much noticeable difference in skill level. The major difference on the track was the Bees’ amazing cohesiveness as a team, constantly water-falling the Apple Betties jammer off the track.

Blitz n Bill was the star jammer of the night for the Betties, scoring over half of the total points. The Bees however easily took a 255 point win over the Betties’ 62 points. Reports from the Bees said that the game was the most fun they’d had bouting, and although the Betties got whipped, it was incredible to be part of the first Tasmanian state representative team taking on the mainland. Comparatively, when the Bees played Ballarat in October, they scored 168 to 88, so while Ballarat’s defences were of a much higher level than the Betties, they still only managed to score 20 more points. And roller derby scores are nothing like football. 20 points can be snapped up in a matter of minutes.

2012 Roller Derby Season

The first half of 2012 is packed full of interstate tournaments, with Australian roller derby growing so fast that regional tournaments are starting to crop up; there’s Mayfever, a Victorian and Tasmanian tournament and The Great Southern Slam, which draws in leagues from all over the country.

For more information tune in to Talk Derby To Me on Edge Radio 99.3, 11:00-12:00pm Wednesdays.

Vanessa Shredgrave is the Convict City Roller Derby Team Captain, Training Coordinator and host of Talk Derby to Me on Edge Radio 99.3fm. Vanessa wrote and submitted this article (with photos as credited) for publication by Think Tasmania