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Hooray for Australian Derby!

This past weekend was spent exactly the way I like it – completely oversaturated with roller derby and fairly significantly derived of sleep. I wondered if I was the only loon foolish enough to eschew sleep three nights running in favour of watching our boys compete in Birmingham this week, but it seems I was in great company: according to the Men’s Roller Derby World Cup site, three of the ten cities with the highest viewership of the cup were in Australia!

I’ve never been much of a nationalist, but when I turned on the feed and saw our Team Australia coach Galah, and local boys like HP, Kaneage and RPG, my little Aussie heart began to flutter wildly. I thought of the groups of us all around the country, setting our alarms for 2:45am so we could get at least a few hours of shuteye, and waking up together to watch our boys make us look good. It reminded me of the very early mornings the whole country awoke when Victoria made it to D1 WFTDA play offs, and of the messages of support people sent us at all hours of the night during the 2011 Blood and Thunder World Cup.

This is truly what I think sets Aussie derby apart - the nation-wide network of tireless support, and the genuine pride and joy the rest of us feel when we see our fellow skaters take on the world.

Off the back of the men’s World Cup, it occurred to me I never told you all about our very first Team Australia training down in Melbourne last month! I’ve always been partial to a good road trip, so you can imagine the sheer ecstasy I feel when we get to take the road trip to the sky. That weekend saw a mass exodus of skaters from Brisbane for both Team Australia training, and that weekend’s Battle on the Bent Track tournament, also in Melbourne. Needless to say, the best way to prepare for the most exciting training session of your life to date is always watching live derby (regularly interspersed with bouts of intense snacking) so I was psyched to make it in time for the BOTBT final.

Heading to the training session the next morning incited many thoughts and feelings:

“I have almost definitely not got the right wheels with me. Oh man, I can’t believe it’s here. I haven’t even met some of these girls before! This is going to be incredible! It’s five hours, though…I certainly don’t have enough snacks. Is 43 degrees really hot? It sounds like it would be really hot; is a gallon of Powerade enough? Or is it entirely too much?”

First of all, it was really hot. It was so absurdly hot, Wizards skater Bohemian Slapcity joined the party by distributing bags of ice for the team to place atop their overheated heads. Between drills, the team sat on the hardwood floor that was literally emanating heat, ice packs on their heads, while misting themselves with water from magical fan spray bottles. As soon as the drill was explained, however, no one had a concern in the world other than executing the living hell out of it. Heat, fatigue, and whatever else simply fell away as the team focused 100% on honing skills, perfecting plays, and communicating up a storm. The determination displayed that day alone reinforced something I already knew: it’s one hell of a team, and the world best be ready when the Aussies come.

After a short meeting, the team geared up and dove headfirst into two hours of scrimmage scenarios: impenetrable walling, dominating in power jams and working as a solid unit were the focus for the first portion of training.

With only time for a short lunch break between sessions, Cookie, Rosie, Mad Mel and I hooned up to the IGA to be harassed by locals (in fairness, that wasn’t the goal of our trip, but it happened anyway). Armed with bananas, carbs, protein and coffee, we ate as quickly as our tummies would allow, then slipped back into our sopping gear.

The afternoon was dedicated to individual skating and blocking skills, with homework liberally applied at the end. We started with stops, footwork and agility, before moving onto the really tricky stuff. In case you’ve never attempted to weave backwards through cones on one foot before doing a one-foot transition, here’s a spoiler: it’s really hard! I’m determined to go to the next training looking more like Mad Mel and less like a wacky, waving, inflatable, arm-flailing tube man, so I’ve been doing my homework at every Sun State practice since. I’m happy to report about a 50% reduction in arm-flailing, but the whole thing’s still pretty wacky overall.

Spending the day surrounded by my new teammates and support staff, I found myself feeling pretty overwhelmed. The excitement for the coming year, and for the opportunity to train with and get to know a group of badasses from around the country really sealed the deal on an amazing weekend.

Steel yourselves, world… the emu is coming.


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