This year IWRDL has been part of a tournament called the 5x5 championship. Basically derby isn't like soccer or AFL, we don't have the setup of many games between leagues that lead to some sort of grand final. It's more like a series of hosted bouts that are one offs and for some leagues this is a rarity. So some of the leagues that live within the greater Sydney area decided to work together and once a month play off against each other in a tournament. IWRDL went into it being the youngest and least experienced league and were just feeling honoured to be asked to be a part of it.
Our first bout was against the Blue Mountains Roller Derby League (BMRDL). These girls were agile and quick. It was like we were hamsters trying to keep up with twitchy little super powered mice. We lost. But we always lose. And we were so proud of some of the things that had come together on the track and of each others stamina.
Our second bout was against the South Side Derby Dolls (S2D2). We had scrimmed against them many times but knew that their training had taken them from being our big sisters to a heavily tactical team. We lost. But we always lose. And we learnt so much about the sort of tactics that are coming into the game. About ourselves as derby players, our strengths and our weaknesses, and the fact that after a year we can still come together and be proud of each other even as we get completely slaughtered.
Our third bout was against Central Coast Roller Girls (CCRG). These girls had not been beaten by anyone else in the tournament. They have an amazing combination of all of the skills of the leagues competing. They are agile, strong, fast, hard hitters and generally amazing. They also reminded me of us though. They are kind and funny and they play because they love the game. They wanted us to dance with them as we waited for jams to start, they cuddled us before the match, and after we lost they laughed with us and cuddled us again.
I was terrified, my team were all actually wondering if we could win this one. But as far as I was concerned ... we don't win. And for me knowing that felt ok. We don't win on points but I'll challenge anyone to win on spirit and enthusiasm more than we do. In my opinion we are so young and fresh that I don't feel ready to win.
But ............................... we won. Ok it was by a very teeny 8 points, and it could have easily gone the other way, but we did win.
I stood there in the silence of my team, watching the score board making sure there weren't any last minute changes (I mean 8 points can be 1 mistake in 1 jam) and I felt sick .... and then those final whistles signalled that the score on the board was the final score and IWRDL had won their first every official bout.
My reaction surprised me. I cried, big fat non stop tears that rolled down my face uncontrollably for at least 10 minutes. But yet I didn't feel prouder or stronger than I had when we had lost with other games so why the heck was I crying. And then I realised ... look at these faces, look at how much my team revelled in winning something! And yes we may have only won the right to fight for 3rd or 4th place. But we won something. And as a league we needed to win something. To see the pay off of the hours of work, the pain in our joints and the bruises we are constantly bearing, the time we spend away from our family and the passion we have given this game. I wasn't crying from the joy of winning, I was crying from the joy of watching all of these woman that I sweat and bleed with, that I love so much feeling so joyous.
Next time someone asks "Do you win?" I can say "Sometimes we have more points that the other team. Most of the time we don't. But in the way that matters most, yes, we always win!"
Photography by Richard Rayment