Truth be told, I’m no sports fan. Whenever I’ve frequented sports bars with the intention of watching what I’m told will be a ‘good game of rugga’, I end up having a gab session with the bored girlfriend next to me, while drinking red wine and occasionally shouting out a half-hearted ‘go team’ at the television screen.
However, Roller Derby has always been a point of fascination to me. From what little I had known, I presumed it was a glorified bar brawl – a way to vent one’s frustration in a way that wouldn’t get you thrown out of the bar. It turns out I was wrong for the most part, roller derby is a game with definitive rules, safety regulations and looks to be a whole lot of fun.
In order to understand the gist of Roller Derby, you’ll need to do your homework. It works like this, the two teams have 14 members in total, with five of them appearing on the track at a time. These team players consist of four blockers and one jammer. The game is made up of consecutive two minute match-ups otherwise known as jams.
These jams begin with the four blockers hovering in a tight pack, while skating in a clockwise direction around the track. Their role is to assist their team’s jammer and to prevent the opposing jammer from passing through, simultaneously playing offence and defence.
The jammer, identified by the star on her helmet, has to score points in the allotted time by overlapping each of her opposing players.
And if you see a couple of shoulder jabs or booty bops along the way – don’t assume it to be against the rules – these are legal moves aimed at preventing the opposition from passing through.
Arriving at the Sunningdale Sports Complex, the event’s turn-out is small but the spirit is buzzing. Benches circle the arena, giving spectators a bird’s eye view of the game. Trying to fit in with the sports fans out there, I grab a beer, purchase an enlarged foam hand, plop down on a bench and get ready for an exciting first match of the Mother City Mayhem Tournament. This event sees the Storm Riders play against the Scrim Reapers.
The game begins with a skate around the track by each team, who put on a good show by exhibiting their skills to the spectators. Staking claim to their name, the Scrim Reapers came out wearing red cloaks and dark make up. However, despite their outward appearance and their adamant refusal to be defeated, the Scrim Reapers had certainly met their match (and then some) in the Storm Riders.
While it’s easy to get a little confuddled at times, the game is a fervour of quick manoeuvres and noise making it hard to not get caught up in all the excitement as a spectator. Players to look out for include the undefeated Gazelle and Predda Terror from the Storm Riders, and Ice Queen from the Scrim Reapers.
To say that the Mother City Mayhem Tournament has changed my mindset on all things sports-related has an element of truth to it. Not only an upcoming contact sport for women in South Africa, Roller Derby is fun, and has certainly given those clunky roller skates from way back in the day, a cool name. And finally, if you’re looking for a bit of an after party on skates, the roller disco is a fun alternative to the usual Saturday night partying.
The next tournament takes place on the 15th August which sees the Storm Riders take on The Rev’ettes, you can get your tickets here.
Where Sunningdale Sports Complex, 2 Waterville Cresecent, Blouberg
When Saturday 15 August 5 pm – 10 pm
Cost R50 pp
Contact capetownrollergirls.com, [email protected], Join the CTR Mother City Mayhem event on Facebook
Photography Bryn de Kocks, Cape Town Roller Girls