I'm feeling a little delicate for this write up. This is the first time that I've dealt with such a young league and there seems to be very little in terms of a code of conduct outside of their games (one of their players found me on Facebook to call me a thief for example and another one was quite abusive at the after party after I'd said that I do game write ups on Rollin News. Look they exist!!! And this is a write up... and I did it.) and they're VERY defensive about any criticism... of which I have a bit but I don't think it's to the extent that they think it is. Either which way, I fear I've made very few friends from my trip away.
This was my very first time travelling exclusively for a game. I mean, I've had a derby date while catching up with people (and would even time my visit so that I could have a derby date) but this is the first time I've rocked up to a place just to watch derby... no date to hand.
The Sulphur City Steam Rollers have only been in existence for 3 years, in which time they've been training. This was their very first public game. That's dedication! That's love for the game. Training without hope of a bout anytime soon... Though I'm guessing this would be about a normal amount of time for fresh meat?
This was probably THE best marketed game ever. Apart from a small case of multiple personality disorder at one point, their social presence was awesome. Being introduced to the team beforehand via what are probably the coolest player pictures
I've ever seen was brilliant. There was a lead up. While I found myself criticizing some aspects of this, a friend did point out that the alternative - NO information - sucks.
I was a little annoyed with the tickets. They were being marketed as being $15 but the only way to buy them cost $23 - an "order processing fee" on each ticket of $8... The fee was unavoidable, but the way it was presented to fans could have been managed. Instead of advertising the tickets for $15, I think it would have been better to sell them for $17, market them as being $25 and then been able to market the fact that cheaper $17 tickets were available for locals rather than leaving the buyer feeling cheated and deceived.
Arriving to the game had this whole other vibe to it. There was a line that I was lucky to get into when I did because it quickly grew and disappeared into the distance. The audience were excited. There were pink wigs all over the place and the crowd's energy was pure electric. This was something different. Something exciting.
Okay... the venue not the greatest (There's much more to the story here). I took a seat and the MC started up. I wasn't at all a fan. The guy they got was on a children's television show and then become a weather man. From what I know of him, I think he's possibly going into politics?
He was distracting. During jams he'd be talking about someone's sign or costume and as someone who was there for derby (rather than signs or what people were wearing) it was distracting to say the least. Besides which, rather than a local celebrity, it would have been really cool to go with a derby legend. Someone who could talk about the game and explain exactly what's going on and best of all, was their own hero as opposed to someone who seems to end up on TV. Derby isn't a sanitized children's show... Derby is really awesome people doing really awesome things. It's mothers with tattoos kind of awesome... Real people.
The first 10 minutes of the game was a bit of a surprise for me. I wasn't at all expecting what I found. The Sulphur City Steam Rollers were getting lead jammer jam after jam. This was my first time seeing Mount Militia play and I'd been told they were really good. In fact, they're a friend's favourite team (it's not even his local team). It turns out they were fielding a fresh meat team - Iron Maidens. I really should have done my research before the game.
So finally - the game. We've got 2 teams made up of women who've never played before. Behind me were a whole bunch of experienced derby people yelling "Call it!!!!". In fact, generally speaking, they were just parroting what I was thinking. I even found myself waving my arms about while yelling "Just F***ing call it already!". The jammers from each side seemed to be blissfully unaware of where their opposing jammer was and weren't checking their bench manager all that often. So points often went un-necessarily reciprocated.
Mount Militia's Iron Maidens biggest issue for me was their lack of cohesiveness in their blocking line. At times they'd try to stretch the pack but instead of getting back quickly to work with another person, they'd have a go at blocking on their own. Otherwise if they were able to form up into a line, there was a bit of a "oh it's over on your side" going on. This generally slowed down the opposing jammer... but definitely wasn't blocking them. I think this is a solid win for them. It's an identifiable "We need to get this bit sorted" set of skills that I think will change their game to a huge degree.
The reffing... I don't normally talk about the refs all that much. If they've done their job right, there should never be a need to say all that much except to thank them. But the reffing... There are things to work on there. There was a good solid 10 minute stretch where team seagull (What I call the time keeper when they're signalling that it's a time out) was out on the track. By the end of it she looked exhausted! A blocking penalty was called after the 5 second whistle but before the jam had begun. A cut track was called when the opposing player had also ended up out of bounds. Calls were soon forgotten as a ref realised the player just wasn't paying attention to him. It was all just a little messy.
In their defence, it can't be easy reffing a fresh meat style game. Add to that the things I was finding distracting, such as the commentating (I've had word that they couldn't hear each others whistles over the noise) and ... well ... you wouldn't find me wanting to officiate a game like this (if I was anywhere near able to).
The final score: 187:The Sulphur City Steam Rollers Motley Crew, 146:Mount Militia Iron Maidens.Venue Woes: On the path to Rotorua's first roller derby event
One of the big show hurdles around the event was just getting a venue. It turns out the Rotorua city council seemed to be under the perception that roller derby would cause damage to their facilities. This is not at all what I would have thought their concern was - I would be more worried about injury (safety first). So they took the venue they could get (and I'm guessing the ticketing agent that came with the venue though no one's confirmed whether my suspicions here are right or not).
It looks like this might not be quite as much of a hurdle next time as I think the positive nature of the night has made it something that the council would be keen to get behind. Which hopefully means that they can have a few more accessibility options at their next home hosted bout, be able to sell more tickets and have options in terms of ticketing agents.
Great event. Congratulations Rotorua. May the derby treat you well (I'm almost certain it will).