Roller derby league forced to postpone intake

Roller derby leagueRotorua’s roller derby league, the Sulphur City Steam Rollers have been forced to postpone their new recruit intake indefinitely due to venue issues. The intake was scheduled for Monday August 7th 2017.

The sports league hold two membership drives per year and were scheduled to hold an Open Skate Night on Monday, where members of the public could come and get skates on and find out what it takes to play, referee or officiate roller derby.

However, due to the lack of venue availability in Rotorua, the league have had to cancel the intake because they will have nowhere to train new members.

Existing Steam Roller members currently train two nights per week at Toi Ohomai Recreation Centre, where they have had regular bookings for many years. But to take new members, they would need a third training session of up to three hours. With Toi Ohomai’s full booking schedule, the league are unable to secure any extra trainings at their usual venue.

Members of the Steam Rollers’ committee have contacted all suitable venues in the Rotorua area and have been turned down either due to the venue being fully-booked by majority sports, or because of the misconception that skates ‘damage’ gym floors.

The Steam Rollers have offered references from reputable venues to state that their activities have not damaged the venues they’ve trained or played in but have still been denied. The league feel disheartened that they’re immediately discarded without a trial being offered.

With roller derby retaining its statistic as the ‘fastest growing women’s sport in the world’ and leagues continuing to be established in New Zealand and around the world, the Sulphur City Steam Rollers are now realising that they will fall behind if they are not able to grow their membership.

The league ask that any business or organisation with floor space of either a regulation basketball size, or 33m x 23m that is available for three-hours per week (potential for this to grow), consider hiring this space to them. The Steam Rollers are also looking into lease options.

While the Steam Rollers have postponed their Open Skate Night, they still invite those interested in roller derby to attend an open training on Monday 7th August from 6:30pm. Members of the public will be able to watch the local league prepare for their first game of the New Zealand Top 10 Derby Tournament being held on August 13th in Palmerston North.

Follow SCSR on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sulphurcitysteamrollers/
Find them on Twitter and Instagram: @rotoruaderby
Sign up to the SCSR Newsletter: www.tinyurl.com/scsrnews
Email SCSR: sc.steamrollers@gmail.com

Roller derby slams in to Rotorua

The Sulphur City Steam Rollers present… Slam Rock 2017!

Slam Rock 2017 - Roller Derby in Rotorua

Rotorua’s roller derby league, the Sulphur City Steam Rollers are ready to rock into the Southern Trust Sportsdrome with their annual fundraising event, Slam Rock 2017.

Slam Rock, now in its fourth year, is a sporting event unlike any other in New Zealand. Along with mirror balls, spotlights, great music, fun and frivolity not to mention the annual Slam Rock Air Guitar Competition at half time, comes an action packed game of roller derby!

This year, Hamilton’s ‘Hellmilton Roller Ghouls’ are sending their travel team, ‘Raggedy Angst’ to take on Rotorua’s ‘Motley Crew’ in the hard-hitting, full contact game played on roller skates. It will be the third time the teams have played each other, and with one win each, Slam Rock will see Raggedy Angst and Motley Crew battle it out for the ‘best of three’.

“Motley Crew have taken the win at all three previous Slam Rock events, so you know the pressure is on as it always is on home ground!” Sulphur City Steam Rollers Chairperson, Layla Robinson (Primevil) admits. “But we go into all our games with a great attitude, and have often been told we’re one of the most fun teams in New Zealand to play, so I think we have a good balance of being competitive and being great sportspeople.”

In the game of roller derby, which is full contact and has been likened to ‘rugby on skates’, players skate around an oval track in a pack made up of eight players, four from each team, who hold the position of blockers. Blockers must remain within a certain distance from each other at all times. Also on the track are jammers, one from each team who are the point scorers. It is the jammers’ role to attempt to ‘break’ through the pack and score points for each opposition player they pass.

Following an extensive rule set, modern roller derby also includes a large group of officials who keep the players in line and track game statistics. There are up to seven referees required during a game, each with individual responsibilities. Up to 14 Non-skating Officials are also required, and generally include newer skaters, or in Steam Roller terminology, Groupies.

The Steam Rollers welcome spectators to dress in their ‘rock star’ best for the event, with prizes being given to the Best Dressed Adult and Child. The teams also ask that their friends, family and fans bring a sign to show who they’re rooting for. The Best Supporter Sign will win a signed, framed copy of the event poster and Sulphur City merchandise.

Half-time entertainment includes the annual Slam Rock Air Guitar Competition which invites adults and kids from the crowd to compete in an Air Guitar battle in the centre of the track.

“The Steam Rollers really pride ourselves on our Slam Rock event,” said Motley Crew Co-Captain, Nat Calder (Nat Demon). “It’s by far the biggest fundraising event we do each year and funds raised are put toward the cost of our travel games, uniforms and skate gear for our new recruits. With the help of Layla’s company, WildSide Promotions, a lot of effort goes into the event from concept to promotion to execution, our volunteer crew are well looked after and the feedback we get from those who have attended is always outstanding.”

Slam Rock has sold out in the past three years, so ensure you purchase your tickets when they go on sale to prevent disappointment! Door sales are not guaranteed.

Tickets for Slam Rock go on sale at 9am on June 1st from Ticketmaster at the Howard Morrison Performing Arts Centre or online at: http://www.ticketmaster.co.nz 

More information about Slam Rock 2017 can be found at the official event listing: https://www.facebook.com/events/1891253701116720/

Find out more about the Sulphur City Steam Rollers: https://www.facebook.com/sulphurcitysteamrollers or phone chairperson Layla Robinson on: 027 287 3837 or email sc.steamrollers@gmail.com

Find out more about the Hellmilton Roller Ghouls: https://www.facebook.com/HellmiltonRollerGhouls/

Success comes to those who derby

The evolution of Princess Die – #12″

When Kerry Pearson took part in the Sulphur City Steam Rollers’ ‘Freshmeat’ Course for new roller derby recruits in 2012, she had no idea that one day she would have the opportunity to represent her country.

New Zealand Roller Derby Skater, Princess Die

SCSR’s Head Coach, Princess Die – Image courtesy Kelly Albrecht

Kerry didn’t play team sports at school. Instead, she preferred to read, ride horses and watch marathon sessions of the Star Wars saga.

While studying at Auckland University, biology student Kerry Pearson saw a poster advertising a Pirate City Rollers (PCR) roller derby event.

PCR are New Zealand’s original roller derby league and were established in 2006. Curious to find out more, Kerry went straight home and ‘stalked’ the PCR website, immediately falling in love with the sport and scene of these rolling misfits.

Unfortunately, due to issues only a full-time university student can understand, Kerry was unable to get involved in the sport at that time. It would be another four years before Kerry stumbled upon roller derby again. This time, it was 2012 and she was back in her home town of Rotorua where she discovered a local fledgling league.

The Sulphur City Steam Rollers (SCSR), Rotorua’s roller derby league, was founded by Primevil (Layla Robinson) and Raz (Kate Rasmussen) in 2011. Inspired by the movie Whip It, and sparked by the growth of roller derby in New Zealand, the two Rotorua women put the call out to friends on Facebook. After a successful ‘expression of interest’ meeting with over 25 people in attendance, Primevil and Raz formed a committee, became an Incorporated Society and started the training process.

Rotorua Roller Derby League

SCSR’s Amazing Race through Rotorua’s CBD soon after Kerry joined the league

Initially, Primevil, Raz, Sadistic Doll (DeArna Branson, founding member) and a number of other SCSR members travelled 40 minutes each way to train with the Kawerau Derby Dolls. Kawerau’s coaches took them under their elbow pad adorned wings and put them through the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association’s ‘Basic Skills’ course.

Once the course was completed and the founding members of SCSR had passed their skills test, roller derby was finally brought to Rotorua.

When Kerry joined SCSR, she had good balance which made learning a lot easier. However, learning crossovers (propelling around corners) proved to be a challenge which affected her speed. At the time, new members were required to skate 25 laps in under five minutes (now 27), so the need for powerful strides on straight sections of the track, and equally powerful crossovers were imperative.

But Kerry faced this challenge head on and her perseverance paid off when she passed the Freshmeat course in October 2012.

Roller Derby in New Zealand

Sulphur City Steam Rollers during warm up

Primevil remembers Kerry as being one of the fastest learners she’d ever put through Freshmeat.

“Kerry was passionate and determined from the outset. One of the more difficult skills to learn for newcomers is to ‘transition’, which requires balance and stability to enable them to turn 180º and 360º. I recall Kerry doing one length of the gym to get her head around it, and then acing it on her next try.

“Although Kerry had very strong skills for a new-to-derby skater, I feel it was her commitment and positive attitude that made her fly through the skills test.”

Slam Rock - Roller Derby in Rotorua

Motley Crew at Slam Rock 2015 after a win to Northland Nightmares’ Hell’s Wives – Image courtesy Kelly Albrecht

Like other roller derby leagues worldwide, SCSR’s Freshmeat course consists of 16+ weeks of planned coaching sessions where each week skaters are taught a new skill which is progressively built on. Kerry remembers a sense of accomplishment after every training.

“I would go home thinking, ‘well, I couldn’t do that two hours ago!”

Kerry also enjoyed the positive atmosphere of the course with a highlight being that if skaters didn’t ace the skill straight away, time would be spent looking at what they did right while also working on what they did wrong. This would enable them to work toward improvements the following week.

Along with a well structured course, Kerry also appreciated the welcoming atmosphere of roller derby, particularly the fact that it’s a sport that embraces any body type.

Once Kerry passed her Basic Skills Test, there was no stopping her. She went on to play for Whakatane Roller Derby League as a blocker while SCSR used the year to prepare newer skaters for the league’s first game.

Rotorua's Roller Derby League partaking in Ride the Runway

Princess Die and SCSR marshaling for the Rotorua Bike Festival’s Ride the Runway event

Kerry enjoys her role as a blocker due to the mental challenge of the game, knowing when to play offense or defence, and what she can do to support her teammates.

When Primevil and Raz took a break from coaching in 2013 to raise the next generation of roller derby fanatics, Kerry, now named Princess Die in the roller derby world, became a coach.

“Stepping up to coach SCSR was literally a life-changer for me and a huge turning point for my self-confidence. The support and encouragement I got from the league, enabled me to pluck up the courage to go back to University and get my Teaching Diploma in Secondary Science.

“While studying, I still managed my coaching duties and work which taught me a lot about how to manage my time so I could still do the things I love.”

Princess Die, Rotorua's Roller Derby skater

Princess Die during Slam Rock 2015 – Image courtesy Kelly Albrecht

While to her team mates, Kerry handled this period of her life with ease, it was one of the toughest years she can recall. Not only a student, employee and coach, Kerry also has a long-term partner who she “tried not to neglect” during this time.

“The derby widow (partner of a roller derby skater) doesn’t think I’m as hilarious as I think I am when I’m with my derby family, but he is learning to live with Princess Die, the derby me.”

Princess Die has captained SCSR’s A-team Motley Crew to victory many times, but the highlight for her was actually a game that Motley Crew lost.

“The team spirit of Motley Crew in our 2015 game against Whakatane Roller Derby League was an emotional high for me. It was a mentally and physically demanding game and we ended up playing with only eight skaters! There was little to no break time but we held together and supported each other and kept the high fives alive.”

With the camaraderie of roller derby, close friendships often form. This was certainly the case for Princess Die who’s derby wife (closest friend and confidant in the team) Shan Grenade (Shannon Seymour), brought out the best in her.

Princess Die credits Shan Grenade with inspiring her to make a plan to achieve her goals and pushing harder to master a challenging skill.

“I look up to Shan Grenade who physically pushes herself as hard as she can at every training. It makes me feel like I need to try harder as well. It was because of Shan that I had the courage to try out for the Team New Zealand training squad.

Rotoruas Roller Derby League in 2016

Princess Die bracing her team mates for defense at Slam Rock 2016 – Image courtesy Mark Coker

“My ultimate goal in derby is to take it as far as I possibly can. When I was accepted as part of the initial training squad for New Zealand, I was blown away. I never would have dreamed I would come anywhere this close to representing my country in anything!”

“If someone had told me five years ago I would be on a training squad for a NZ representative team I would have laughed at them.”

But Princess Die’s derby wife disagrees.

“Die is obsessed with derby, even more than me,” said Shan Grenade. “She listens to derby while cleaning the house, watches derby at every opportunity, travels to other leagues to coach and train with them and has rulebook knowledge second to none. I’m not surprised to see her in the training squad at all, and I hope to see her go further!”

Rotorua Roller Derby Skaters

Princess Die with her Derby Wife, Shan Grenade

The next phase of Team New Zealand tryouts is in early February at New Zealand’s annual roller derby event, Full Contact in Auckland. To ensure she puts her best skate forward, Princess Die has started running to help with overall fitness and has also joined the Rotorua Group Challenge boot camp to help speed up recovery from the off-season.

Being accepted into the training squad isn’t the only big news Princess Die has had recently, with the Sulphur City Steam Rollers having been invited to play in the New Zealand Roller Derby Top 10 Championship. This will see the league in playoffs throughout the 2017 season, with a final tournament being held in November.

Princess Die is proud of her beloved sport and how appreciation and respect for roller derby has grown so well in recent years. But she’s particularly proud of her league who have held four successful large events in their hometown, and are instantly recognised out and about as the ‘derby girls of Rotorua’.

Her goal for SCSR would be to grow the league and share derby with more people.

Rotorua's Roller Derby League at the Rotorua Bike Festival

Princess Die volunteering at Ride the Runway – Image courtesy Dara Olsen

“With support from the public and their growing interest in our events and teams, we would like to bring roller derby to the wider Rotorua community. This is difficult, as we do not currently have a training venue that meets our specifications for training so it is hard to expand the size of the league by creating other factions such as Junior Roller Derby.”

The Sulphur City Steam Rollers are currently working on a proposal to present to the Rotorua Lakes Council in the hope to drum up support for a skate rink that they can call home. With a strong team culture and common goal, the league are ready to work hard to make the growth of SCSR happen.

Now with a permanent teaching position at a local high school, Princess Die hopes to share what derby has to offer to the younger generation. Particularly those (like her) who are not interested in mainstream sports.

SCSR welcomes those over the age of 17 to attend the first new recruit intake of 2017 in February, and Princess Die wants to challenge people considering joining, that it’s worth it.

“Push yourself to overcome the challenges because you will learn so much, not just about the game, but about yourself.”

 

Rotorua's Roller Derby League, the Sulphur City Steam RollersPrincess Die’s Message to SCSR: “Thank you for everything you give to our league, all the blood (literally), sweat and tears. You guys are my heroes! I’ve watched many of you gain confidence in your skills and abilities on the track and you all make me very proud to be a Steam Roller!”

Captain’s Motto: “Keep the high five alive, and do some cool stuff!”

Skates: “Bonts with short mounted Avenger plates and Radar wheels; it’s light weight and great for agility.”

Recommended track skills: “Strong communication on the track is one of the most underestimated yet crucial skills a player has.”

Dream team to play for: “Rose City Rollers. Because if you could play as part of any team in the world, why not pick the best!”

Follow Princess Die and the Sulphur City Steam Rollers on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sulphurcitysteamrollers/

RSVP to attend the league’s Info Night and Public Skate Session: https://www.facebook.com/events/281578958923816/

Join Rotorua's Roller Derby League

Halloween roller derby spooktacular descends on Rotorua

Rotorua’s roller derby league, the Sulphur City Steam Rollers are celebrating Halloween early this year with a ‘spooktacular’ event at the Southern Trust Sportsdrome on Saturday October 29.

billboard2For the inaugural Halloween Roller Derby Spooktacular, Sulphur City are hosting the Pirate City Rollers from Auckland; New Zealand’s original roller derby league founded in 2006. The Pirate’s ‘Broadside Brawlers’ will be looking to take the win against Sulphur’s ‘Motley Crew’ in their first visit to Rotorua, but the local team will play hard in the hope of retaining their 100% home win record.

Roller derby is a contact sport played by two teams of five, skating on ‘quad’ roller skates around an oval track. A game is played in two halves, with a series of short match ups (jams) in which each team has one jammer (has a star on their helmet) who scores points by lapping members of the opposite team. The other four players from each team make up a ‘pack’ of blockers, it is their job to hinder the opposing jammer with defensive plays, while assisting their own jammer with offensive maneuvers.

In New Zealand, the game has been likened to ‘rugby oHalloween Events in Rotoruan skates’ due to the high level of physical contact. However, the sport has evolved in recent years, going from a game known mainly for big hits to a strategic game of agility, speed and strength, but the Steam Rollers promise the big hits haven’t gone anywhere.

“A roller derby bout is fast paced and action packed,” says Sulphur City Chairperson, Layla Robinson (Primevil). “At our events, roughly 65% of attendees have never seen a roller derby bout and are completely blown away with the techniques of our skaters. They’re also impressed with how physically different every team member is and how those differences are embraced and honed to create a specific skill set.”

Due to the game being new to the majority of spectators, Sulphur City include a basic breakdown of how the game is played in their event programme and on the event video which is played prior to the game. They also add an instructional video to their Facebook event listing the week before the game.

Slam Rock 2014_1193The Sulphur City Steam Rollers hold some of the most successful roller derby events in the country, selling out their ‘Slam Rock’ event for the past three years with over 500 people in attendance. The non-profit sports club utilise their public events as fundraisers to assist in covering costs for travel games, equipment and future events.

Proceeds from July’s Slam Rock subsidised costs for 14 Steam Rollers to attend Sk8 School; a boot camp hosted by Whakatane Roller Derby League and featuring skaters from one of the top teams in the world: Victorian Roller Derby League (Melbourne, Australia).

The Steam Rollers are hoping to see family groups at Hell-O-Wheels as it provides a safe place for children to wear Halloween costumes and have fun. The league will be having a lolly scramble at half time, inviting everyone in costume to the ‘Track for Treats’.

Also at half time, members of the Rotorua Roller Skating Club will perform, showing off their outstanding artistic skating skills. It is the first time the two skating clubs have joined together to showcase their skills and both groups assure it won’t be the last!

Adults aren’t forgotten, with the Steam Rollers’ raffle for a chance to win tickets to New Zealand’s Haunted Attraction Theme Park, Spookers in Auckland, as well as prizes being given for ‘Best Costume’ and ‘Best Supporter Sign.’ Food and beverages (including alcoholic drinks for those over 18 years old with ID) will also be available for purchase.

Tickets are available onlinSCSR 2015_smle from Ticketmaster or over the counter at the Howard Morrison Performing Arts Centre. General Admission Prices –  Adult: $15, Child: $7 and Family (four adults, four children under 14): $40 (Ticketmaster fees will apply).

VIP Trackside Sponsor Tables are currently still available, please email the league for information.

Email: sc.steamrollers@gmail.com
Web Presence: www.steamrollers.co.nz
Organiser: Layla Robinson, WildSide Promotions
Phone: 027 287 3837

New Zealand woman gains confidence from roller derby

Roller Derby Skater - Panel Beat Her

Image credit: Kelly Albrecht

It comes as no surprise that many years after becoming the first fully qualified female Panel Beater in New Zealand, Rotorua’s Angela Vanner chose the tough sport of roller derby as her passion.

Angela has participated in various sporting activities in her 45 years including netball, soccer, softball and Tai Kwon Do, and when she discovered her home town’s local league the thrill seeker was hooked. So hooked in fact, that three months before the Sulphur City Steam Rollers were due to begin their third new recruit intake in 2013, Angela had purchased skates and safety gear in preparation. To this day, Angela is thrilled with her decision as, among other things, she has gained confidence from roller derby.

Roller derby was immediately attractive to Angela due to its physical nature and sheer intensity. But it was also the sense of camaraderie and team spirit she felt when meeting the league members. While having not skated for over 15 years, Angela’s interest, dedication and determination saw her through the league’s ‘Freshmeat’ (beginner’s) course.

Roller Derby Skater - Panel Beat Her #1997

Image credit: Kelly Albrecht

“I’d only ever had one speed when I used to skate, and that was 0-100 in the shortest amount of time with no idea of how to stop! Having to learn all the different stops during my Freshmeat course was difficult, but the coaches and I persevered and eventually I could stop without the help of a wall!”

 

During the Sulphur City Steam Rollers’ 16 week course for beginners (now called Groupies), skaters learn the basics including how to stop, fall safely and skate with confidence. They are then tested for competency and progress through to the next stage: learning how to play the game!

 

Roller Derby League - Sulphur City Steam Rollers

Image credit: Kelly Albrecht

In the game of roller derby there are five players on each side made up of one jammer and four blockers. The blockers start on the track together, forming a ‘pack’ and play both offense and defense. The jammer’s role involves pushing or dodging their way through the pack. It is the blockers’ job to try to stop the opposition’s jammer while helping their own jammer. Jammers are the players who score the points for their team. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins.

 

Angela can’t say enough about her fellow league members, commending the improvements both in the management of the league and skills of the skaters in the three years since having joined.

ITCo Solutions Rotorua“In all the times that I have been on committees and clubs, this one by far seems to be the most organised. Everyone works so well together, both on and off the track. We all look to each other for guidance and every single one of us is keen to share anything we have learned with our club. Each of us brings something to the table to enhance our league.”

SCSR Coach and Vice Chairperson, Kerry Pearson agrees with Angela’s opinion on the league. “In the past two years in particular, we have really focused on communication and being ‘on the same page’. It’s strengthened our players on the track, and we’ve been increasingly more cohesive as we develop these skills. Angela is one of our best communicators and is never afraid to ask questions so that she can refine her own skills. It is likely that if you hear one voice above all others communicating with her teammates during a game, it’s Panel Beat Her!”

While her day job as an Accounts Administrator for her husband and his business partner’s IT company,
ITCo Solutions is somewhat sedentary, Angela is quite the opposite.

Datsun 1200 CoupeAs a mum to two girls, Angela also takes care of her family’s property which includes wrangling chickens and herding sheep! Angela is also a passionate car enthusiast and has restored her pride and joy, a 1972 Datasun 1200 Coupe. If family, home and derby allows, Angela plans to hit the track at the Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park this year. However, with roller derby being a lifestyle in itself, it may be difficult to find the time, but Angela is adamant that derby is worth it.

 

Panel Beat Her

Image Credit: Claus Vindriis

Roller derby players are the first to admit it is a tough sport and isn’t for everyone, but all will agree that it does more than just offer physical challenges, it helps with mental challenges too.
“I suffer from depression, anxiety and Crohns Disease, so there are many times when I doubt my ability. But my teammates are so positive that any negative thoughts go out the window. My self-esteem and confidence are boosted and I have learned to overcome and push myself to the limit and beyond – for me, there’s no such thing as holding back.”

 

Angela certainly didn’t hold back in SCSR’s recent team trials where she underwent fitness, scrimmage and rules testing which resulted in securing a place on SCSR’s A Team, Motley Crew for her third season.In the role of ‘jammer’, it is Panel Beat Her’s job to score points for her team by passing a pack of skaters, which include players from the opposition who are trying their hardest to hold her back, or hit her out. To become a jammer, not only strength and a high level of fitness is required, but a tremendous amount of will power too.

 

Roller Derby Fan in New Zealand

Image credit: Kelly Albrecht

“Panel Beat Her is a skater we can rely on to keep on trucking, even at the end of a very difficult game. She has a ‘no retreat, no surrender’ attitude and a resilience that is envied by her teammates,” says Kerry, whose main position on the track is as a blocker. “That, combined with strength and speed, make Panel Beat Her a tough jammer to block.”

 

Angela admits that if she were 15 years younger and had more skating experience, she may have tried out for the National team but at this time in her life, is happy to keep skating while retaining her place in Motley Crew and giving 100% in every game. With new memories being created every year, Angela already has some great stories to tell at the infamous ‘roller derby after party’.

“It was the Bay of Plenty Regionals in 2014. I was on to jam near the end of the game and I noticed that the other team had neglected to put their jammer on the track. I was nervous knowing that if they did not field a jammer, it would be a power jam to us meaning I had a potential two minutes to attempt to score points. The whistle blew, and they still didn’t have a jammer on the track so I skated as hard as I could, receiving the biggest hits I’d ever experienced and lasted the full two minutes getting points on the board for our team. My heart is beating really fast just thinking about it!”

 

Panel Beat Her 2014

Image credit: Rich Johns

Even more memories are due to be made in 2017, as Angela and the rest of the Steam Rollers prepare for their first new recruit intake of the year and first game of the season.

Like the sound of roller derby? Come along to one of the Sulphur City Steam Rollers Info Night and Public Skate Sessions held twice a year.

Visit www.steamrollers.co.nz for more details.

Roller Derby, a sport anyBODY can play

IMG_3329cutout1

In a world where many professional sports teams are driving the various codes toward becoming less inclusive, one sport has embraced the different genetic makeups we are born with.

Roller derby skaters, Primevil (Layla Robinson) and Cankle Biter (Zara Matthews), from Rotorua, New Zealand’s Sulphur City Steam Rollers (SCSR) have very different physiques, but each have attributes that make them assets to their league.

Matching her natural skating ability with strength and agility, Primevil is a great example of a roller derby blocker. In other sports, her physique and lifestyle wouldn’t ‘cut it’

“When we started SCSR in 2011, I hadn’t done any form of exercise since high school. I simply wasn’t interested in the sports that are popular here like netball, hockey, touch or basketball and felt that I wouldn’t fit in well even if I tried. But when I learned about roller derby and how inclusive it is, I knew it would be something I’d be passionate about and decent at due to having skated as a kid.

10636534_10153216363793496_2015220423576443663_o“I’ve overcome a lot of challenges both physically and mentally in the time I’ve skated. My fitness level still isn’t where it should be, and with limited skating facilities in our city I often struggle to get out on my skates to do extra training. I’ve also had a couple of injuries in the past year which has certainly slowed me down. But I make up for my comparatively poor fitness and dicky ankle with determination to skate hard and play hard and so far that’s working for me.

“On the track, I’m currently focusing on being a strong anchor for my teammates, as well as a good communicator and quick thinker. Thinking like an athlete in a team sport doesn’t come naturally to me, I’ve found the strategy aspect of roller derby pretty hard to get my head around but with perseverance (and lots of derby video watching), it finally makes sense to me. It was worth the struggle because roller derby has saved me, it’s brought me back to life.”

When a new member joins SCSR as a Groupie, they take part in a 14-week training programme coached by Primevil and experienced skater, Nat Demon (Nat Calder). The programme starts  with covering the basics of skating including technique, stopping and falling safely. They then progress to more derby focused skills including transitions (turning on skates), hitting (targeting legal zones on opponents’ bodies) and endurance (skating 27 laps in five minutes).

IMG_3354cutout1Once they have completed the course, Groupies sit the Basic Skills Test set out by the international governing body of roller derby, Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA). It is upon passing this test that they are then permitted to partake in scrimmage training which leads to trialing for a team and eventually their first game.

Cankle Biter’s background as a dancer specialising in ballet is a far cry from the sport of roller derby. She admits that it was a big change. As one of SCSR’s recently skills-tested skaters, Cankle Biter has faced challenges of her own but says that the support she received from other members of the league kept her going.

“Being part of this team is amazing! The derby girls are the most inspiring women you will ever meet and the team has become like a second family. Everyone is so supportive and empowering it makes it fun to train/exercise twice a week.

“In the beginning I was scared to join as it all looked so intense and I’d never roller skated before. But the coaches teach you the skills right from the basics and really encourage you along the way.

IMG_3334“Initially I found it tough to adapt to the technique that roller derby requires. Being able to get down low in ‘derby stance’ is the foundation for roller derby, but in ballet it was the opposite. It was all about lengthening up. But I am a head-strong person, so stuck with it and now being low comes naturally when I’m on skates.

“The hardest battle has come from within though, because I’m a perfectionist and it takes me a while to get confident enough to step outside my comfort zone. But being part of such a great team has enabled me to become so much stronger mentally and physically.

“A few times when confronted with the various challenges of training I doubted that I would be able to stick with derby, but I really fell in love with the sport and now want to keep improving my skills to be the best ‘derby me’ I can be. I also work on fitness outside of derby training by dancing once a week to keep my body toned, and with Zumba to help with cardio.

“One of my favourite things about derby is that everyone has something different they can bring to the sport. Not to mention, derby is the best fun you will ever have!”

SCSR 2015_sml

The Sulphur City Steam Rollers are always seeking new members for their Rotorua league. More information can be found on their Facebook page.

Sheer determination puts skater back on track

Shan Grenade - Rotorua Roller Derby SkaterSHAN-GRENADE # 800M

The Sulphur City Steam Rollers​ are amped to announce that their resident unicorn skater SHAN-GRENADE will be playing her first game in 15 months on April 25th! Shan sustained a bad knee injury during SCSR’s first bout back in December 2013 and spent much of 2014 recuperating.

Shan is a food scientist by trade and is currently employed as a technical manager for a meat company. Along with working full-time and training hard, Shan is also mum to a three year old ‘mini-me’. With interests that include reading, music, making things, trail running and taxidermy (!), Shan’s spare time is limited but she spends every extra moment working for the Steam Rollers. As the current Chairperson and one of the league’s Coaches, Shan-Grenade is a huge asset to Rotorua’s roller derby league.

In 2012 SCSR performed a demonstration under the headlights of one of the skater’s vehicles during the Rotorua Fire & Ice Festival. Shan attended this demonstration and was hooked as she watched the skaters scrimmage on the uneven road surface.

“I was told I wasn’t big enough, tough enough or weird enough (whaaaat?) to play so of Roller Derby Wivescourse I had to show the doubters.”

Shan’s superhero-like determination kicked in and she proceeded to prove them wrong. Shan had a natural skating ability, incredible agility and speed and a never-quit attitude and was skills tested with flying colours in February 2013.

While SCSR were on somewhat of a hiatus during that year, Shan and her derby wife Princess Die played a full season with the Whakatane Roller Derby League with which SCSR has close ties. Shan loved her time with WRDL as a skater and felt privileged to have been a part of the league’s first season. Now that SCSR are back on track, all focus is on growing Rotorua’s league.

Shan and Die met through the Steam Rollers, and Die ‘proposed’ to Shan at the Roller Derby Nationals in 2013 when they were pool playing for WRDL. Die gifted Shan a handmade ring (thanks to McFeerce)… which Shan proceeded to lose a year later at a Nine Inch Nails / Queens of the Stone Age concert. But her lobster Die forgave her, as only a loyal wife would.

The Steam Rollers were devastated when Shan was injured in 2013, twisting her knee and tearing her ACL when getting hit out while jamming. Shan then sustained a second injury on the same knee in March 2014 with hyper-extension and an impact fracture.

New Zealand Roller DerbyMany skaters would have called it quits. The prognosis was a long and drawn out healing process with some doubt that Shan would be able to play again. But the doubt didn’t come from Shan-Grenade. She may have lost her ability to skate for a time, but she didn’t lose her die hard attitude. While injured, Shan continued to coach SCSR’s endurance sessions, attend boot camps off skates to take notes, help in fundraisers and remained active on the committee, Shan even benched SCSR’s 2014 games.

Having trained and competed in Tae Kwon Do in her past, Shan is a very disciplined person and set goals for healing and rehabilitation realising that it was either rest the injury or never skate again. Shan recommends cycling on a wind trainer while listening to music or pod casts and running.

“Once you’re back on skates you can deal with the derby fitness.”Skater Shan Grenade - Rotorua Roller Derby

Shan also purchased an amazing pair of custom Bonts as a goal, so she HAD to get better to be able to use them.

Shan believes that if you really want to stay involved in derby as a skater and rehabilitate you can.

“Keep a routine of being involved with your league and don’t let yourself get too isolated. And watch games on YouTube!”

Shan-Grenade participated in her first non-positional game play in March this year during the SCSR team
trials and is part of the SCSR Development Team due to play BCR Twisted Sisters on April 25
th 4pm at the Rodney Green Centennial Events Centre in Napier.

On the track, Shan-Grenade is a lethal weapon. Expect to see a strong blocker and nimble jammer who prefers to use her toe stops for running and juking. Shan is a reliable team player who other skaters look to for guidance and reassurance and SCSR can’t wait to get back on the track with their modern day super hero, SHAN-GRENADE #800M!

The Sulphur City Steam Rollers are always seeking new members for their Rotorua league. More information can be found on their Facebook page.