Vice City Rollers - Digging Our Own Grave (Danger)

On Sunday 23 March 2014, Canberra Roller Derby League's representative team the Vice City Rollers reached a new milestone, playing their first international game against Grave Danger, one of Seattle’s Rat City Rollergirls’ esteemed home teams.


(Photo by Brett Sargeant, D-Eye Photography)

This game filled me with equal parts excitement and dread--we were actually playing against actual Americans! Hailing from the birthplace of modern roller derby, the USA's veteran skaters are daunting opponents and boast indisputable mastery of the sport (just look at how Team USA did in the 2011 Blood and Thunder World Cup). Far from a fledgling league themselves, Rat City are just shy of their 10th birthday and have established quite a legacy, with their representative team the All-Stars currently ranked 13th on the WFTDA ladder. Having seen enough of the high-quality gameplay within Victorian Roller Derby League's intra-league competition, whose own All-Stars have a WFTDA ranking of 21st, I knew well how a league with an illustrious representative team fosters excellent skills and strength in skaters of all levels. 

Moreover, one of the many excellent skaters Grave Danger consists of is Carmen Getsome: trainer, 2014 Team USA skater, and all-around awesome if I didn't need enough reason to be intimidated! A chance to swap sweat on the track with skaters of this caliber doesn't come along every day, and I was horrified that if we inadequately matched the competition, we'd be squandering the opportunity.

I direly warned my friends attending that we'd be shooting for our best game, as always, but there was no guarantee that the team wouldn't be thrashed: Grave Danger had won the Rat City championship three years running and were clearly a force to be reckoned with. Suffice to say my expectations for winning the game weren't high. Instead, I had to remind myself that my expectations for how we played the game itself could still be high: this was going to be a great challenge for the Rollers, a flexible team that thrives on pressure. 

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(Photo by Steven Craddock)

In a year where we would be attending The Great Southern Slam (aka Australasia's largest roller derby tournament) and hoping to make some waves, this could be the just the kick we needed.

After a stirring rendition of our team's anthem, Bon Jovi's Livin' on a Prayer (tactlessly undertaken while Grave Danger were in a huddle and singing their national anthem--we're very sorry, we didn't know!), we were ready to take to the track. And take we did! To our immense surprise, we were not mercilessly pounded to a pulp; in fact, we put the first points on the board and maintained a modest lead for much of the game.


(Photo by Diego Zambrano)

Grave Danger were an incredible team to play against, each skater demanding the best from us every second the clock ran--and then some, as we had a four hour boot camp after the game. 

Throughout the game, their pack work was practically choreographed; their jammer/blocker coordination seamless; and their awareness and strategy in each lineup meant we worked hard for every point, every pass. Even with a gun to my head, I couldn't possibly pick one outstanding player because their teamwork was so forceful (although a gun to my skates might be a different story).

Our tenuous lead was rarely more than a handful of points, and we were acutely aware they could be snatched from us at any moment. It seemed almost as though that pressure brought out the best in us in a way I don't think I've experienced before. The atmosphere on the track was electric and it inspired cohesion in the Rollers, jam after jam.


(Photo by Brett Sargeant)

In the final seven minutes, power jams meant our hold on the game got away from us, and we ultimately lost 175-142. But in these days of blowouts and >40-point power jams, what's 27 points difference?

The fact that we performed more than respectably--that we held our own--was a success in its own right. I was definitely not the only one thinking that although we hadn't won, we felt like winners. As an individual skater, I was certainly happy to have satisfied a few goals I'd established ahead of time, but this game mattered far more to me as a team member. Getting to play in my first game of the season with the Rollers, and in such a tight and disciplined way, with everyone at the top of their game? Awesome. 

While my passion for derby has never truly flagged since I started skating with Canberra Roller Derby League in 2010, there have certainly been times that I've been less enthused than others. Grave Danger injected me with a shot of adrenaline and focus that I don't think I'll be able to shake for a while: derby begetting more derby!

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(Photo by David Mackie)

Being a part of Grave Danger's tour down under was such a privilege, and I've no doubt we'll be a stronger team following this experience. I can't wait to see what we bring in 2014.

Freudian Slit - Canberra Roller Derby League

(Header image by Steven Craddock. All photos used in this article are done so with the knowledge and permission of their original creators)

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