They spent the first year putting a group of women together and the last 18 months honing their skills. Now, the 709 Roller Derby girls are finally ready to bring their fast-paced, hard hitting and undeniably gritty sport to the general public.
On Saturday, at the Jack Byrne Arena in Torbay, the group is putting off a rockabilly-themed event dubbed Roller Derby Rumble: Cruisin’ For A Bruisin’, in which the league’s two teams, the Delinquent Dolls and the Squaresville Slammers, meet in the season-opening bout.
“We spent the last year and a half trying to learn the game and perfect the skills so we can actually give the sport what it needs to be played properly, and for it to actually be a good show for people to come and watch,” says derby girl Alicia Simms, or Creme Melee as she’s known on the track.
The premise is simple; ten women hit the track, There are five aside, with one jammer and four blockers competing for each team. The blocker’s job is twofold: to keep the opponent’s jammer from passing all the opposing team’s players (that’s how points are scored) while also assisting in getting their own jammer past the blockers.
“You have to be offensive and defensive at the exact same time. You have to watch for your team member while watching out for the other team’s jammer, who is trying to break through, all while getting smacked around by the other team,” Simms explains.
“You need to have your head on a swivel. It’s really easy to get seriously injured if you’re not good at what you do.”
But Simms wants to assure people “it’s not quite the spectacle it used to be in the 1960s and 1970s.”
“It’s not like it was in the old days when you could elbow someone in the face or hit someone in the back. There are legal hitting zones and major penalties and people will get tossed if they’re not playing safely.”
Making the Derby Girls version more than a little safer than mainstream roller derby outfits in the United States is the lack of a banked track which help generate high speeds for jammers. The 709 Derby Girls will instead use the flat, cold concrete of Jack Byrne.
“In order to get around these tracks, you need to have a lot more strength in your legs to get up the speed you need to get you need to get around it as many times as you can to score points,” says Simms,
She says roller derby offers something for everyone.
“Whether you like to watch the sport to figure how it works or if you like to pick a team and root for them, people are going to love it because there’s great showmanship.”
Still not convinced a night at the roller derby isn’t your particular cup of tea?
“You get to see girls beating the hell out of each other in fishnet stockings and short skirts,” says Simms. “Who doesn’t want to see that?”
Doors opens at 6:30 p.m., with a pre-show by the Anchormen Barbershop Chorus, with the bout getting underway at 7:30. Halftime will feature a true rockabilly band. The event will include concessions and a bar area.
Tickets can be purchased in advance ($12) at the Jack Byrne Arena, Downtown Comics, Ballistic and Trouble Bound Studios or can be purchased at the door ($15). Kids under 12 are admitted free of charge.