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Blockie's TGSS Diary

I sat down at my computer this morning and said to myself, “Okay, Self, let’s write a recap of TGSS for the nice folks in RDA-land”. I sat, my fingers hovering expectantly over the keyboard, and thought about how I would begin that story. Or what I’d put in the middle. How might I, merely some guy who went there, actually disseminate that monumental event into one readable piece of writing? How do I sufficiently give props the fifty+ teams who were represented? How do I mention every game, every memorable moment? How do I quite encapsulate the years of preparation every person put in - this before even considering the demi-gods who actually organised the event? My mind literally boggled.

By this point, my hovering fingers had begun to ache and quiver, and I think I had a mild stroke even attempting to wrap my mind around the enormity of it all. I gave up and instead decided to write a diary of MY Great Southern Slam (which, if I’m perfectly honest, was about 80% swanning around Adelaide in a scarf and drinking coffee).

Day One: The Descent Upon Adelaide

My alarm goes off at 4:15am and I am pleased to discover that I feel mostly like an alive human person, which is a nice departure from the way I normally feel when we have to get the first flight of the day. Either I’m becoming a morning person against my will, or I’m so excited about what’s waiting at the other end that getting up this early is almost worth it,

After an uneventful flight, we arrive in Adelaide replete with fuzzy bee hoodies, passing the time before our vans arrive by having an impromptu 8:00am sidewalk dance party, the party tunes pumping from a portable speaker. After a few minutes we notice a rotund, middle-age taxi driver making his way over to us from the taxi rank about 20 metres away. We murmur amongst ourselves, sure we’re about to be told off for being too noisy or making a scene. When he reaches us, however, he begins to bust out some of the most bangingest dance moves I’ve seen to this day. Happiness ensues and the dance party recommences, now with 100% more sassy cab driver. Oh Adelaide, we are off on the right foot.

The co-dependants (read: all of us) track each other down across the city and hug for a bit longer than is probably necessary. The first of many visits to friend-of-the-Adelaidies cafe Horner and Pratt is made, and it is every bit as wondrous as I remember. The rest of the day is spent sitting down, eating, reading, and napping, before the Team Australia kids head off to a training session with Sausage Rolls (more on this to follow!).

Day Two: It Begins

I’m equal parts excited and terrified as we depart Sun State Headquarters with the task of playing two leagues we never have before. We’re grouped with Newcastle and Convict City, who both turn out, as I might have guessed, to be totally excellent. What pleases me most about roller derby is the consistently fantastic people we are all presented with year in and year out.

We’re incredibly fortunate this season to have inherited our very own derby-specific trainer, Zac Buckley, and his legendary warm up session gets us reluctantly moving on this cold Adelaide morning. We begin peer pressuring him to call hip flexor warm ups “opening the buffet” but he resists. He’ll come around; we just need time.

I rarely get to actually cheer for my team, so having the opportunity to be a Beer Squad member in our second game is like an actual dream come true (although the ever-present TGSS Death Flu and a very real fear of losing my voice mean any cheering must be pretty chilled). To be honest, I am mostly grateful purely for the opportunity to spend more time in my bee hoodie. Both Newcastle and Convict City play fierce and smart games, attacking with gusto and never slowing down.

As the victor in our pool, Sun State progress to play Northside from Melbourne this evening. With a few hours up our sleeve, we retire to SSRGHQ to eat and nap, and people who aren’t me casually chat about life, the universe and everything. I, on the other hand, sit and pretended to listen, an unconvincing smile on my face, as waves of nausea wash over me - the prospect of playing a team I’d never even clapped eyes on before is not one I relish. I stare blankly at the group, radiating with panic inside, as the perfectly normal conversation swirls around me. I can hear laughter, though it’s only upon hearing my name that I actually become fully conscious.

“[mumbling, words, talking sounds] just like you, hey, Blockie?” someone says; people laugh. Coming back to Earth, I stare at them, eyes wide, unsure of what I’m being asked and/or told.

“HA HA HA,” I respond like a car-sick robot. “Yes, I agree with what was said,” I manage before immediately resuming my zoned-out panic.

Little did I know, by the end of the night, Northside would become my favourite humans on the planet. Not only did they play a hard and ever-evolving game, but their beautiful attitudes and positivity just made me fall so hard for them. After our game, Sun State stood on the side of the road waiting for the party vans to collect us, as car after car of Northside skaters poured out of the car park to head home. Their farewell convoy of beeping horns and maniacal cheers out their windows is by far one of my favourite memories from the weekend.

Day Three: We did a bit of work; time to rest and play.

Slawta Dawta had a birthday! And as we love both her and breakfast, we had a Slawta Birthday Breakfast. It was lovely, but she didn’t even cry; I am reasonably convinced it was not actually her, but in fact some kind of Slawta-like robot. The jury is still out.

We visit Horner and Pratt again; lovely employee jokes about how she will never get rid of us and we solemnly nod in agreement. While fully aware of the inherent danger, I take my credit card on a trip to the Dangerfield store (I’m unsure where my assigned adult was to ensure I made good choices, but I did an okay job nonetheless). I meet a husky puppy so offensively cute it makes my eyes water, and harass another gentleman walking his three dogs. Against all our better judgement, we visit boutique chocolate store Cocolat. I regret nothing.

The rest of this day is a hazy grey area; I have to assume I was asleep. That definitely sounds like something I would have done.

Day Four: It’s the Final Countdown (Please Google an image of GOB dancing to this song for full effect)

Sun State is fast becoming BFFs with Canberra, this morning’s game being the third time we’ve met on the track in the last six months alone. If I thought I was nervous yesterday, that was only because I hadn’t properly thought about the fact that we might meet Canberra in the semi-finals yet.

At this point I’m verging on tiredness-induced delirium. Skid Vicious volunteers as my own sentient coffee table, delivering caffeine between bouts of limb flailing (normally known as warm up, but this morning it’s looking pretty rough). Zac tells us we will now warm up our hip flexors; we bellow “open the buffet!” in response. He mumbles something under his breath and averts his eyes.

What follows is 60 minutes of the most tight-chested, high intensity, super-serious-business derby I’ve ever had the privilege of playing. The supporters in the crowd from both teams bring with them a level of enthusiasm that ought to be commended in this 9:00am timeslot. We very literally eked out a win, which meant going on to meet Victoria this evening in the grand final game.

Getting ready for the Victoria game feels a bit like deja vu, but at the same time, it feels completely different. I’m a different skater and Sun State is a different team, as VRDL no doubt are, too. We begin the familiar routine of warming up when Zac announces, “And for one last last time...let’s open the buffet.” We clap and cheer, excited beyond reason, and begin to throw our legs about with gay abandon. Tonight is already great!

I’m not sure I know enough words to possibly describe the grand final of TGSS14. This is, without a doubt, the biggest crowd I’ve played for to date. Over a thousand people have sardined themselves into the pavillion grandstands and they are ready. I can still hear the thunderous rumble of the crowd counting down from ten seconds to the first whistle, and it still gives me chills. As many times as I have daydreamed about this very moment over the last couple of years,  it’s somehow even more incredible than I have ever imagined. No matter how the score looks in sixty minutes time, this evening has already gone straight to the poolroom. This is where Australian derby meets, and while we’re competitors, we’re all in it together - for a common goal, for the betterment of our sport within Australia and for the growth of Australia in the grand scheme of our sport. Being surrounded by my peers, by supporters of either team and of derby itself, the atmosphere is indescribable.

I went to the after party wearing a full-length leotard and did something that was a bit like a sad puppet dancing, because my belly was uncomfortably full of Indian food that really did seem like a good idea at the time. We made one final trip to Horner and Pratt the next day, and I entered cafe rehab shortly after.

Thank you, Adelaide and TGSS. Can we do it again soon?

Thanks to Richard Tompsett for allowing the use of his images on the RDA website! For more click here!

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