Roller derby teams conclude their season


Dave Moore

Newcastle’s only female roller derby teams capped off their season on winning notes last month. The Whippin Hinnies, Newcastle’s B-team, edged out the Auld Reekie roller team (AARG) all star reserves 172-132, while the A-team, Canny Belters, skated to a 203-132 victory over the AARG all stars.

Roller derby, a contact sport where teams try to guide an elected team member around an oval or circular track to score points, came to Newcastle in 2009 with the establishment of the Newcastle Roller Girls’ three teams. Players take on pseudonyms and characters when playing the sport.

Jesmond resident and Roller Girls co-captain Penny Bizarre (Antonia Lister) told JesmondLocal the off-season is about hard work, training, and fundraising for the tournaments ahead.

Bizarre has been skating for just over five years and enjoys the female camaraderie the sport had to offer. 

“Roller derby has an alternative edge to it and I suppose that is what attracted me to it. It happens to everyone, you get the bug,” she said.

When asked what was the most common misconception around the sport, she explained that most people don’t think it’s a regulated sport that includes referees. 

She also added that: “It’s a contact sport. There are rules and it’s aggressive, but we are playing a game tactically and strategically. We are not just going out to hurt people.”

The team’s PR and communications officer Helen Fussell explained roller derby is a small, grass roots sport where a team of individuals take on many roles to make the team function. She described it as by women for women.

“It’s still fairly underground in some places,” Fussell said. “We just do what we can to get the word out.”

The A- and B-teams plan to play more international teams to better improve their overall ranking (though Newcastle’s A-team are ranked first in the United Kingdom Roller Derby Association rankings, they are 104th in the worldwide Women’s Flat Track Derby Association rankings) and Fussell expects that next year, they can make playoffs in the roller derby equivalent of the World Cup.

Getting to international tournaments requires paying your own way, though. “We all contribute towards our travel costs,” she explains. “For the big US tournament this year and hopefully next year, we do extra fundraising.”

“We can’t always travel. Financially you can’t make it work and go to the States so we want to put [a tournament] on here in Newcastle of that standard so that some of those higher ranked teams can come,” Fussell told JesmondLocal.

The Newcastle roller derby team is applying for the Aviva Community fund for the opportunity to host an international roller derby tournament in the city of Newcastle.

Penny Bizarre believes hosting a large scale tournament would mean more UK teams getting involved, and a chance to compete at a higher level.