IMAGINE a world where Mona Rampage, Fighting Torque and Marshall Lawless join forces with Submarine, Rogue Runner and Jackash to take down the Twisted Thistles and Fierce Valley.
Confused? Don’t be – they are among the stars of the fastest-growing female sport in the world . . . flat-track roller derby.
Heroes don’t come any more rock and roll – quite literally – than the girls of Glasgow Roller Derby (GRD).
Combining athleticism, attitude and full-contact action, they are fast, fun, thrilling and tough.
The GRD are the queens of roller derby in Scotland – with their A-team, the infamous Irn Bruisers, feared and revered throughout the UK and abroad.
Most of the competitors in this colourful collision of roller skates, racing and rivalries boast their own ‘skater names’ and the GRD are home to some of the best.
The ranks include The Very Hungry Splatterkiller, Haberbashery, Devil’s Advoskate, Jess E Ska and Hardcore Prawn – who hails from Kirkintilloch.
Roller derby is deceptively simple, but cunningly strategic – there is one scorer (called a jammer) for each team on track. It is their job to jink their way through the four opposition blockers, fly round the track and start to lap the opposing players.
For every player she overtakes, the jammer scores a point (see below for more on the rules).
It is a full-contact sport but there are very specific rules. You can’t elbow or hit anyone with a forearm, knee, kick or shove an opponent, or plough full tilt into someone’s back.
Similarly, if you are blocking, you are not allowed to hold onto opposition players or link arms to hold them back.
However, you can use your shoulders, hips and upper body to force your way through or knock someone off course.
Thrills and spills are a given in roller derby and all the girls are equipped with mouth guard, helmet, elbow guards, wrist pads and knee pads to prevent injury.
Prawn – aka Alison Hope – is one of the star ‘jammers’ for the Irn Bruisers.
She was inspired by the 2009 film ‘Whip It’, about a roller derby league in Texas.
Alison (29) said: “My friend and I went to see ‘Whip It’ and she messaged me to say there’s a league in Glasgow. I didn’t know it existed.”
After signing up as part of the new skater intake in March 2010, Alison was shown the basics and underwent tests and assessments.
She said: “I had last skated when I was wee, in my garden round the back of my house. Once you get into it, it becomes very addictive. Skating’s just great fun.
“It’s competitive and it’s great when you win. Lots of the girls are friends, we go out a lot together as well.”
Alison, a lab scientist by day, went to Holy Family Primary and St Ninian’s High before moving to Glasgow in 2007.
Her mum and dad, Rose Marie and John, still live in Kirkintilloch.
Friend and fellow team member Rogue Runner – aka Heather Allison (30) – added: “It’s a really exciting sport. My favourite bit is when I’m lining up on the jam line when the whistle is about to blow, because anything can happen. It’s the most important thing in my life.”
Glasgow Roller Girls, as they were known originally, were the first flat-track roller derby league to be established in Scotland, in April 2007.
Since then they have sped from strength to strength – establishing an A-team (Irn Bruisers), a B-team (Maiden Grrders) and three home teams (Bad Omens, Death Stars and Hell’s Belles).
In 2010, the Irn Bruisers won the first Scottish tournament, the Highland Fling, while the Maiden Grrders were third.
They became an Apprentice League of the US-based Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby Association (WFTDA) during 2011. Bouts are held at the Kelvinhall International Sports Arena and Glasgow Caledonian University’s Arc Sports Centre.
Now known as Glasgow Roller Derby, the GRD regularly compete against teams throughout Scotland and the UK, as well as international opposition from places such as Berlin, Paris, Ghent, Stockholm and Malmo.
The Irn Bruisers are in the top 10 in Europe and recently played at a competition in Berlin.
Last year they organised their first competition – Chaos on the Clyde – and brilliantly lifted the trophy.
Despite growing in popularity and stature every year, the club – which has around 70 members – remains fiercly proud of its DIY ethic. Everyone involved in the club is a volunteer.
The GRD recently secured Lottery funding and regularly take on new skaters at ‘fresh meat’ intakes.
The training takes you from not being able to stand up on skates to being comfortable on wheels and able to cope with starting, stopping and – importantly – coping with the spills.
If you are interested in joining, check the club’s Facebook page and also visit the website – www.glasgowrollerderby.com
There’s also a full range of amazing merchandise and tickets available direct from the GRD.
* The first game of the new season is on Saturday, February 23 – Glasgow Roller Derby vs Auld Reekie Rollergirls – from 12.30pm to 4pm at the Arc Sportscentre, Cowcaddens Road, Glasgow. The highlight will be the Irn Bruisers vs Twisted Thistles and tickets are going quick. Visit the website to secure yours.
Roller derby – the rules:
* Each team fields five skaters for a two-minute playing segment, called a “jam”.
* Each team has a jammer and four blockers.
* It is the jammer’s job to escape the pack, speed round the track and begin lapping opposition players – scoring a point every time she does so.
* It is the blocker’s job to try to stop the opposition jammer from escaping the pack while helping her own jammer to get through.
* The first jammer out of the pack without committing any penalties is declared lead jammer. That gives her the advantage of being able to stop the action at any time if she feels she cannot score any more points.
* A jammer can keep racking up points until the two minutes are up.
* After the jam is finished, the action is reset and five players line up for the new jam.
* There are two halves – each lasting 30 minutes. Each squad has 14 players and can field any five at one time.
* Players are penalised if they commit a foul against another player or stray out of bounds by the team of refs watching the action. The team is left skating short until the penalty is served (usually one minute).
* Blockers play offence and defence – often both at the same time or be ready to switch between the two roles in a heartbeat (part of what makes roller derby so amazing).
* The jammer wears a star cover on their helmet.
* One of the blockers wears a stripe cover on her helmet and is called a pivot. She organises her pack and can take over as jammer if nececessary.
* There are a variety of tactics which teams can use at the start and during jams.
* Games are played on an oval, flat track, with markings to show where the competitors must skate.
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