Roller Derby in old south Wales

Posted on October 9, 2014 by


Yes, it is totally called old south Wales. I was there for, like, 12 days so I know these things.

old vs new south wales

old vs new south wales

I was very excited to train with the Tiger Bay Brawlers. By excited, I mean so nervous I could barely think. I had skimmed through the youtube below before I left for the UK and knew I was going to be well out of my comfort zone.

Tiger Bay train in two different training venues. The one on Wednesday nights was a little tricky to get to on public transport so my stepdad drove me there and sat in the car for two hours while I trained.

me with Rob - the man who made it possible for me to get to all my training sessions

me with Rob – the man who made it possible for me to get to all my training sessions

Wednesday night is skills training. The skaters warm themselves up so I just followed around imitating what other women were doing. Then it was time to do the group warm up. I wasn’t worried. I mean, my skating is ok; it’s my derby that needs work. Wrong! The first thing that night’s trainer said was “ok, lets warm up our front T stops”. I had no idea what a front T stop was. I was devastated – I didn’t even know how to do the most basic skill of the night. It actually got better from there but my confidence had already been shaken. I spent the rest of the session feeling bad for anyone who ended up with me in their group. They were all so skilled and it must’ve been a drag having me in their wall and a complete waste of training time playing opposite me.

Despite my discomfort at being so rubbish I was on a high by the time I left. I had been exposed to such a high level of ability and could feel that I had improved through just that two hours of exposure.

I assumed they wouldn’t want me back for scrimmage and asked in a way that would release them from inviting me but they said it was fine so that Sunday I rocked up to their scrimmage venue. We did almost an hour of skills and then it was time for scrimmage.

Again, I was useless during the drills section so I asked if they wanted me to NSO during scrimmage. It was my way of letting them uninvite me from scrimmage without having to actually uninvite me. But again they said it was fine for me to join in. So I did.

It was great fun. I love the format they use for scrimmage sessions. Basically, there’s a pile each of black and orange bibs. Everyone grabs one and most people swap at some point during the two hours. That way, you get to play with and against pretty much every other skater. Also, everyone is expected to ref for at least three jams. There’s no rigid structure to it. Someone will just finish their reffing and yell “I need a jam ref” and another skater will take over. If one team is lacking a jammer, someone off the track will quickly swap tops and jump on as jammer.

It worked so well!

I got ridiculously picked on by Pip, a skater who is so skilled she’s played on Team England. Every time she saw me *pow* she’d smash me straight off the track and then use me as a bunny or just skate off. I ended up muttering “oh no, not you again” whenever I saw her coming for me. A Danish skater whose name I’ve forgotten now also took advantage of my obvious lack of ability. She was really good about killing me and then coming over to explain how I’d let it happen and what to do in future to prevent it.

The Brawlers are an extremely focussed and competitive league. There was no idle chit chat during training. Like, none. It was almost eerie and I was in awe of their culture. We did have a drink break during scrimmage, though, and two of the B team skaters chatted with me then.

Some of the lovely Brawlers. I'm so bad with names! But they were great. Picture source

Some of the lovely Brawlers. I’m so bad with names! But they were great. Picture source

On the train home, I sat next to a Brawler and we chatted about derby in Wales, the history of the Brawlers and similar things. She told me about some other leagues in the area. This turned out to be quite lucky as I was unable to get to my third session with the Brawlers. It was just impossible to get myself to their Wednesday training venue and my stepdad was under the impression that I’d given him the night off from being my personal Welsh chauffeur and made other plans.

Even though I was disappointed about missing my final session with the Brawlers, I managed to invite myself along to a Friday night session with the Dare Valley Vixens, who trained pretty much in the neighbourhood I was staying in.

I was almost overwhelmed with how friendly the Vixens were. I’m so shy around new people and only had one training session with them so I expected to say about five words while I was there. But they were just incredibly friendly as soon as I walked in and I found myself chatting away happily before and after drills but also being quite vocal and involved on the track, contributing to how we were doing the drills. I had such a great time that instead of just packing my stuff up and scooting out as soon as training is over (which is my MO, even home in Adelaide), my stepdad had to come in and drag me out.

Dare Valley Vixens. Source

Dare Valley Vixens. Source

I left old south Wales the next day.

Looking back on my derby time in Wales, half of me wishes I had trained at all the sessions of both leagues while the other half points out that by doing only three training sessions I had more time available to meet Rob’s family and to cram in all the sightseeing we did. Basically, juggling derby-life balance is a challenge even on holiday.

If I ever go back I would love to train with both leagues again. Also, Brawlers, Vixens, if any of you ever feel like visiting Adelaide, I will personally organise a couch for you to crash on and link you up with the South Australian leagues – we would love to have you!

Posted in: LimboLand