An Interview With Flea Raaah!

Flea Raaah chose to leave Preston Roller Girls last year to go travelling and is having an amazing time! Having settled down under until the end of the year when she will return home, she has made sure she gets her roller derby fix training with different teams and skating in a number of roller derby events. With such exciting stories to tell, we just had to share them!

 How is training different with your new team? (eg, is it tougher, are there more team members, is it a stricter training environment?)

Well, the first team I was with in Perth was much bigger, they have three home teams and two travel teams, but it wasn’t so bad because they also did different training sessions for all the teams. Even still, that training was never short of people for group work and they had the space for it too. SO they were really great sessions. They were a tough team too, being the oldest team in Perth, they have quite the reputation and with good reason. Having had four months off skates, I really struggled in the sessions. I needed something to ease me in. The difficulty with transferring to a team in Australia is that they do things much differently here. All the teams are insured and registered with Skate Australia, and to be a full bouting member, each person has to pass a series of test, based on the minimum skills- and work their way up to a level four skater. Unlike the UK where most teams do a twelve week course and you hope to tick off each skill. Well although I (finally) passed my mins nine days before I left the UK, I hadn’t bouted and PRD wanted me to do the level four test. Which I did and failed, twice.

Problem here is that at PRD, the way they do things, there was no where for me to go at the point I was at other than start fresh meat again…not so bad, except PRD’s fresh meat is 11 months long.
So very sadly, after two months, it was time to move on from PRD and onto Swan City Roller Derby. Although they are a young team and haven’t bouted yet (they had their first awesome external Scrim in December, which I played against them), the advantage here is that they are a coed team. I loved scrimming coed and was excited at the prospect of things I would learn from playing in a coed team.
Numbers at Swan are sometimes a bit low but that is to be expected from such a new, up and coming team but it is an excellent opportunity to learn in this team.
I do find that overall in Australia, that the teams play tougher than I have seen in the UK which I cannot wait to bring back to Preston Roller Girls.
In fact, Roller Derby is just a much bigger thing here, I’d estimate around 70% of the Australians I speak to know what it is when I tell they I play roller derby, as opposed to 70% of Brits asking where the ball comes in. (figures are made up)

Did you have any expectations when you joined? (eg, did you know what it would be like beforehand or did you not know anything about the team?) 

I choose to initially join PRD simply because I had googled Perth roller derby and guess what, it was the first result. When I was still in Asia (Japan actually, around July) I met two girls from Perth and they told me it was really tough to join a team in Australia. So I got scared and got in touch almost immediately. SO I had no idea what the league was going to be like. To be honest, I probably should have done a little more research because PRD are an awesome team- I’d say the majority of them are a team players.
I transferred to Swan after the Scrim I played in against them. Partly because Mosh the president was mega keen to get me on board after I told her where I was at and also because they seemed like a really great team to play with.

How regularly do you train? 

Well at the moment I don’t train a great deal because I have traveled across to Tasmania to do some farm work but back in Perth, Swan train twice a week and then once a week in a open training session with Perth Mens team (hardest training I have ever done)Then I was doing my usual outdoor skating whenever I could, plenty of night skating because it was still warm at night. I also started skating in skate parks once a week too, them ramps are awesome!

Have you picked up any minor/major injuries since you started playing again? 

Usual bumps and bruises but nothing major from roller derby. On a motorcycle in Thailand however…but that is another story…haha

Is roller derby an easy sport to pursue in Australia or is it limited to the bigger cities? 

Well the thing here is that you have to remember the sheer size of Australia. You can fit the entirety of Europe inside of Australia and still have plenty of room to spare, however I believe it is also the least dense country. SO on the east side where the majority of people live, there are many more teams around. There are many small towns throughout Australia that I would imagine do not have teams but they are in the middle of nowhere.
I recently wet on a bus adventure 9 hours (which is nothing in the grand scheme of Australia) to bout in Kalgoorlie, that place has a team. Most the major towns have teams. You might have a cluster of towns all together but take Perth- although Perth has about five teams within the central area, the next closet team is about two hours away and there is another four hours away. However, I am no expert on this.
Currently in Devonport in Northern Tasmania, there are two teams either side of here, both 30 minute drives away but Devonport does not have a team- despite it being the second biggest city in this state (don’t get excited, the population is only 25000(ish)

Does the Australian roller derby community differ from the UK in any way?

I cannot answer for the whole of Australia because Western Australia (the state that Perth is in) is so far removed from the majority of the Australian roller derby community. However, I can say that for the most part, the community is very friendly. Often hosting friendly open scrims and inter-league events. Sometimes loaning players to each other. I have made many new friends through various different teams in Western Australia. One big thing that I did think was completely different was the fact that a fair number of the teams in Perth had open training sessions. So their normal training sessions but once a week they’d open it up to anyone from other teams training with them- including other Perth teams. Don’t quote me but I don’t think you’d have two local teams allowing each other to attend training regularly. One week, I attended PMD’s training, the same week they played my Swan city. Tactically, I could have been snooping, I wasn’t but I could.

Have you been to watch any bouts and if so which teams?

Sadly, not as many as I’d have liked. In the UK, I tried to see a game at least once a fortnight and when there are dozens of teams within a couple of hours drive, that becomes fairly easy to do. But, western Australia is huge and not so hugely populated. I have watched Perth Roller Derby play, in fact they were the first playing against Margaret River Roller Derby (who I recently got to play with). It felt so good to watch a bout after four months of being deprived of all things derby in Asia. I also watched MRRD play against another Perth team- Western Australia Roller Derby. Both excellent games to watch.

Tell us about some of your favourite bouting experiences down under! 

Well I volunteered to bout in a pot luck event for charity recently. Both teams were constructed from approx 8 or 9 different teams from Western Australia (players volunteered themselves). It was so much fun, it was my first bout and an amazing one too. I just felt super confident and it showed with some of the moves I pulled, I even managed to do some backwards blocking, which I think is super impressive, even if I do say so myself. There was even dancing on track, if you don’t dance during a bout, there is just no point, right?

Have you got any exciting events coming up in the next few months? 

As it happens, yes!! So, Margaret River Roller Derby recently asked my team if we had anyone that would join them in Kalgoorlie to play against Gold City Roller Derby. I jumped at the chance- the 12 hours traveling (one way) was totally worth it. I would make so much more effort if it meant I got to play roller derby. Anyway, on the way back, the president asked if I wanted to join the in The Great Southern Slam tournament in the June. It was in Adelaide and I stupidly told them I wasn’t sure because I didn’t know where I was going to be in the June. But after considering the offer (there really shouldn’t have been any considering), I realised it was the weekend of my 30th birthday, is there a better way that celebrating that playing in a tournament which is equivalent to the Australian Nationals? I do not think that there is. So it was a huge yes. Finding the funding to get there is proving very tough at the moment because I am picking fruit in Tasmania and there isn’t always money to be made but be sure, I will find the money somewhere. I will sell a kidney to get there.

How much are you missing PRG??? 

You have no idea. That bunch of girls is the best bunch that you will ever meet. I love each and every one of them and I miss them more and more every day. But alas, I will be back in Preston before you know it and I will be bashing them around that sports hall like you wouldn’t believe. Cannot wait.

Hey from Hippy Hazard!

So the Preston Roller Girls have their next home bout coming up this Saturday 15th February. We’re all very excited to host another home bout after the success of our ‘Debutante Brawl’, ‘Blockhemian Rhapsody’ and ‘Disblockable Me’ bouts. We aim to show PRG’s true (navy and white) colours and open up our doors to one and all again.  This time it’s a Valentine’s theme with a gruesome twist, and perhaps Al Capone and Bugs Moran there somewhere. Yep, PRG present ‘Valentine’s Day Massacre’ against the Swansea City Slayers. (WOOOOOO :D)

Advance tickets at the price of £4.50 are available here until Friday 14th February at midnight. Tickets will also be available on the door. More details can be found on the event page here. We can’t wait to see you all there!

A recent post in blogpreston put us at number two for top places to have a Valentine’s date. Thinking about it, why wouldn’t you want to sit awkwardly close to someone you probably fancy the pants off, eating some kind of glittery cupcake, to watch lots of awesome women skilfully bash each other on skates? Seems legit. It may mean shouting a little to hear each other, or it may even get you wanting to practice awkward flirty derby moves on each other. Beats Nando’s hands down, right!?

But I digress…

With all this (commercially sickening, I’m not cynical or anything) love in the air, I thought I’d ask a few of our skaters to express what made them FALL IN LOVE with roller derby. Each of our players has a flourishing route to derby love as unique as their taste in skating socks…and  90’s pop music. The kind of warm and fuzzy moments that send you out of training something like this…

500 Days of Summer – You Make My Dreams

To throw in my own contribution, I shall seek in the cosmic realms of my mind the warm and fuzzy feelings of love and acceptance. I started the Sinners to Winners course in August 2012 with a huge smile and kept it ever since). At some point there was a feeling where I became ONE with my skates (my team mates will laugh at this, because I probably still look like I’m constantly about to fall over). But it was as if my skates had become a lovely extension of my legs and not just a strange eight-wheeled hindrance.

Secondly, and more importantly, an acceptance of my seemingly strange personality happened. Like, duuuuuuuudes we are all in this together (crap, I nearly started singing High School Musical). Say if you’ve missed a few training sessions, and you come back greeted with a bunch of smiling chatty faces, I feel lucky and grateful every damn time.

So, onward with this cosmic love journey. Here are a few of our skaters declaring their love for roller derby…

‘I, like many others, first heard about roller derby through the film ‘Whip It’. I’ve never been very athletic, and I’ve never participated in team sports, but I fell in love with the game through that film. The “Be Your Own Hero” mantra inspired me to try and change the areas of my life that I felt I was unsatisfied with. I wanted to be around people who inspired me, and challenged me, and taught me new things. But I also wanted to look cool doing it. I didn’t plan on joining the team at the time that I did. My plan was to get some skates and practice for a little while so that I wouldn’t go into it looking like Bambi on ice. Around the time I was looking at getting my skates Preston Roller Girls announced their 4th Sinners to Winners group. My head told me to go for it, so I went for it. I had changed my job a couple months before, and now I had every Sunday, and every evening free, the timing was perfect. I just had to risk looking like Bambi for a little while. On the first day I fell backwards and hurt my coccyx, but I carried on. In the space of 16 weeks I went from not being able to stop unless there was a wall in my way, to doing crossovers, skating backwards, passable transitions, and even stopping on my own. But the only reason I can do all this is because of my team. I went into this sport alone, and I have met so many wonderful, amazing people who have taught me so much. I can’t wait to learn more, and I’m looking forward to getting to know my team better.’
 Ferris Crueller

‘I just loved that when playing derby, you have to be forceful and assertive but you also have to be a really good team player. That’s a combination of skills I think are really important in life generally and in derby you’re encouraged to be like that and meet lots of people who are like that too.’
Peppy Nephrine (She has been skating overall for around four years and joined PRG around 16 months ago)

‘It was an accident really, I went to the Superfunk roller disco in 2010 with the [derby] wife and got handed a flyer for this weird thing they called ‘roller derby’. As I wanted to keep fit in a fun way (and loving skating already) I went along to my first session in October intending just to have a little skate about for a bit of fun and basically fell in love from there on.’

‘I started skating 5 months ago after not being on skates since I was a teen. I found Derby just a few weeks after and fell in love/became obsessed with it. I’d never been much into sports but the dedication and support from the trainers and the other team members, and the way they believed in us fresh meat, made me stick with it and believe I really can do this.’
Unhinged Ginge

‘I’ve been skating since October 2010. I fell in love with derby because of the ethos and spirit of it. Everyone feels like a part of the ‘family’.
Anneka Vice

‘I’ve been skating just over a year now yaaaay! And I think it had to be joining in with the big girls drills where I was sort of like omfg omfg but also eeeep this is it I’M IN’

‘I have been skating since September 2013. A mere 16 weeks of intense training and extra skate sessions at Wigan to improve those pesky minimum skill requirements! Though covered in bruises, many wall slams and face plants, I have loved every moment skating with PRG. Everyone is so supportive and always encouraging me to push myself. It is all of this I have fallen in love with! Not to mention bashy fun!’
Texas Warrior

Some awesome insights into derby love, eh? We all hope you can make this Saturday so that you can see the bashy love in person!

I shall now leave you with a simple confession. I don’t have a fancy quote to shove at the end of this post or anything. But I know one thing. I share a common love for an awesome sport that goes towards shaping many supposedly ‘ordinary’ people with ‘ordinary’ lives. Roller derby brings out something extraordinary in us all, and we should never be afraid to embrace it…with all the hip checks and hugs in the world.

Peace, Love and Bashyness,

Hippy Hazard (plus Sick Bucket) x