Welly rolls Palmy in derby battle

On the night of Anzac Day, Wellington’s Richter City All Stars triumphed over Palmerston North’s Swamp City Roller Rats 174-126 in a bruising match held at the Leisureplex Centre in Palmerston North.

The Swamp City Roller Rats got off to a strong start, before being pegged back by the Wellington side, which went into half-time with an 84-70 advantage.

The Richter City All Stars, ranked No.1 in the country, continued their dominance over the 3rd ranked Roller Rats, having never lost to the Palmerstonian ladies in all previous encounters.

One of the Swamp Rats, second-year Massey student Danelle Mercer, conceded that the Wellingtonians are “really fit and fast, so it was hard to  keep up.”

“We lost by 48 points” said Mercer, “in a game of derby that isn’t impossible to come back from. That was a hard game; I was a bit battered for a few days afterwards.”

Mercer’s body wouldn’t have been the only one suffering aches and pains in the days following the match. Roller derby is played at speed and never lacks in the physicality department.  It is a game that not only challenges the body but also traditional gender roles, resembling, at times, rugby on skates.

Roller derby is a relatively new sport in New Zealand, with the Palmerston North side hosting the first national tournament in 2012. Since then, the sport has blossomed and now boasts over 25 teams across New Zealand. For the most part, it is a woman’s sport, but recently men have begun taking up the game as well.

Part of its attraction is the sense of camaraderie that it encourages. Mercer believes that the game possesses a unique culture: “it’s friendly. After the game we all hang out and go for a drink, everyone is friends off the track, it’s awesome.”

Mercer and her Swamp Rat teammates will be quick to dust off their defeat with an upcoming international tournament on the Gold Coast to look forward to in June.

Anyone interested in taking up roller derby can take part in ‘Fresh Meat’ trainings hosted by the Swamp Rats every Monday night at 7.30 at Bell Hall on Waldergrave Street. Skates can be hired and you’re more than welcome to simply watch before deciding if roller derby is for you.

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