Mel Rogers (L) and Cassie Brown went head-to-head in the Territory Tough n’ Tumble. (ABC News: Shahni Wellington)
The days of hanging around a skating rink may be long gone, but roller derby is undergoing a revival and taking the world by storm.
With about 1,250 amateur leagues worldwide, the women in the rollerskates are proving the niche sport is much more than hard hits and show names.
The Darwin Roller Girls cleared the way for Top End skating fanatics, establishing the first league in the Northern Territory.
The team has since gone from strength to strength, taking on Adelaide in the Territory “Tough n Tumble” exhibition match on Saturday night.
So who are these colourful characters making a name for the sport? And why do they do it?
‘You’re challenging stereotypes and yourself’
One mother-daughter combo takes to the floor as “Flamin’ El” and “uhOh Razzama Kaz”.
After 30 years away from the skates, mum Karen Avery decided to lace up once more. Since that moment, she hasn’t looked back.
“Skating for me has always been about a sense of freedom and flying,” she said.
“I get to do that, but I also get to do it with an amazing group of incredibly strong and diverse women.
“There’s a real community, and I get to do this great sport where I get to hit my friends — and they love me for it.”
Ms Avery said the roller derby community helped women develop their confidence and personal skills.
The sentiment was echoed by her 17-year-old daughter Eloise.
“I definitely think that roller derby has brought me out of my shell a bit … I’m happy to coach people and help them out,” she said.
Skates donned by Karen and Eloise Avery, a mother-daughter combo for the Darwin Roller Girls. (ABC News: Shahni Wellington)
“I think this is something that I’m going to stick with for a very long time.
“I think one of my favourite parts is the people; I can call them up and they’ll always try to help and be there.”
The duo agree their family connection works as an advantage on the playing field, where they often read each other’s thoughts.
Ms Avery wants other women to get involved in the sport, calling it a liberating experience.
“You’re challenging stereotypes, you’re challenging yourself and your skills and your strength — and what’s not to love about that?” she said.
‘It allows someone to own a new identity’
Cassie Brown is a Darwin Roller Girl and owner of a local skating shop. (ABC News: Terrance McDonald)
Cassie Brown has turned her passion for rollerskating into a career, and wants to revive skating as a family activity.
“Of course I’ve got my roller derby crew supporting my [skating] shop heavily, but I really want to get kids on skates,” she said.
“I remember when my rink closed and it left me with nothing so, it is really important to see those kids getting on roller skates again.
“It’s fun, it’s healthy, it’s consuming. You fall in love with it, and that is only a health thing.”
Last night, Ms Brown went head-to-head with Adelaide roller girl, Mel Rogers.
A former Darwin Roller Girls senior coach, she races under the show name “Irma Gherd” and says there is a lot more to a show name than people think.
“I really like the derby names because I think it really allows someone to own a new identity,” Ms Rogers said.
“I’ve seen a lot of people grow through their derby experience and part of that is having this alter ego on the track.”
The first match Ms Rogers watched was between the Mile Die Club and the Wild Herses in the Adelaide Roller Derby League.
She said it was the sport’s culture that got her hooked.
“It doesn’t matter what size or shape you are, [how] young or old you are, you have your strengths and weaknesses and you learn to work with them,” she said.
Mel Rogers rolls out as “Irma Gherd” in the Adelaide Roller Derby League. (ABC News: Shahni Wellington)
“It doesn’t matter, you’ve got skills to exhibit on this track.”
‘A home away from home’
Without a junior league, 21-year-old Skye Manly was unable to play in a roller derby competition until she was 18.
The wait was not enough to deter her though, and she has rolled on to captain the Darwin side under the name “Skye Walker”.
“For me, growing up it was really cool because I was the youngest person doing it at the time,” she said.
“To have all these way-old women who were so cool and could do all these amazing things on skates, it really inspired [me] and felt like having a home away from home.”
Ms Manly said roller derby had changed her life, and she encouraged any struggling young women to give it a go.
“You’ll find that you gradually start to beat that little voice in your head that says ‘no you can’t do it’ or ‘you look stupid’,” she said.
“Or whatever thing is holding you back in your head a little bit, it’s the perfect sport for overcoming that.”