Words and pictures
by VICTORIA GRAF
You can usually hear it long before you see it. The clacking and screeching of wheels against the floor, the murmuring voices and sharp whistles.
In an industrial park in Preston is The Factory, home to the roller derby team currently ranked No.1 in the world.
Through the open shutters the morning sun reflects on the polished concrete. Victorian Roller Derby’s All Stars-team are just about to start the day’s practice.
For the past couple of years, the team has risen through the rankings nearly undefeated and in 2017 won the annual Women’s Flat Track Derby Association’s (WFTDA) championship.
This was their last training session before heading to Denver for the Thin Air Throwdown competition this weekend. In November they defend their title at the WFTDA tournament in New Orleans, having already received a bye into the championships as the world’s top-ranked team.
This is the last practice before leaving to Denver, and player Bianca Sciarretta is giving the team instructions for the next drill in the middle of the oval flat track.
Roller derby is played during two-minute intervals called jams. During these jams it’s the blockers job to stop the jammers (the players with the star on their helmets) getting past. Even leaving a couple of centimetres uncovered could let a jammer like Byrne (in the Anna Conned Her top) squeak by.
The sport allows full contact with other players, and a skater is required to wear helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards and a mouth guard. Some players also wear a visor to protect their face, like jammer Jambi.
The players are set up and waiting for whistle to start the jam. Jammers Sarah Chambers and Lady Trample will soon spring into action.
The sport is tough and physically demanding, especially for jammers. Sometimes the players get to show off their strength and agility. The blockers didn’t leave any room for jammer Jambi to get past so, like a figure skater, she jumped and skated backwards on one foot.
Chop chop, Jambi and Sarah Chambers taking the time between jams to rest, drink some water and discuss tactics.
The walls around the track are padded to minimise the risk injury. But despite the tough sport, they keep it in perspective.
It rained heavily the night before, and practice had to stop regularly to mop up water from the track. The moisture is a hazard for the players since they can slip and fall and get badly injured. “This is ordinary,” one player said. “The roof here isn’t the best.”
After more than four hours of on-skate practice, the players finally get to gear-off for the day.
Just to get in the mood for the upcoming tournament, Lorrae Evans and Lauren Foote wear merchandise from competing leagues Rat City Rollers and Gotham Roller Derby.
After practice the players and bench crew sat down and talked about the upcoming tournament, visualisation and goals, and how they can be better teammates.