The Wizards of Aus prepare to bring some magic to Birmingham
It may come as little surprise to hear it from a country with such a vibrant sporting culture, but men’s derby is going from strength to strength Down Under and their national side have lofty ambitions for next week’s world cup.
The first men’s interleague game in Australia took place in mid-2013, between Sydney City SMASH and Toowoomba Highland Hunters. Since then there have been five more games and the official number of men’s teams has expanded by five to eight over the past 18 months.
“What makes this impressive is the distance these skaters are willing to travel to play one another, as these teams are all in different parts of this huge country,” says Synaptic Kid of the Gold Coast’s Tweed Valley Rollers.
“There are also regular men’s exhibition bouts featuring the Dark Knights and Incredible Hulks, sometimes also known as the Handsome Fellows and Lucky Charms. These matches also feature skaters from all around the country, coming together to play with and against one another.”
This willingness to traverse great distances for bouts also extends to training camps. The first men’s boot camp, The Nut Factory in Brisbane, was held in mid-2013. “It was organised by Australia Men’s Roller Derby (AMRD) and hosted by Brisbane City Rollers,” explains SMASH’s Bohemian Slapcity. “There were 70 male skaters in attendance from each state and territory in Australia. There are now about 120 male bouting skaters in Australia and this number is growing.”
Behind every great man
Teams like Brisbane have been integral to the development of the men’s game in Australia, offering regular support and plenty of brains and experience to call on: the women’s national team finished fourth at the 2011 Blood and Thunder World Cup while Victorian Roller Derby League currently sit at 21 in the WFTDA rankings.
“We’re lucky to receive so much support from these amazing ladies, which has helped nurture the development of men’s derby in Australia,” says Synaptic Kid. “We’re given the opportunity to not only train, but skate with and against our female counterparts on a regular basis.
“This includes a Girls versus Boys feature bout that happens roughly every year, with The Moustachio Nuts versus The Pussy Whips. These bouts draw huge numbers and are always a close spectacle. Again, skaters from all over Australia travel to be a part of this.
“I feel that our men and women all share a common goal; to develop the level and popularity of roller derby in Australia. It’s a good thing to share.”
The next logical step in this development was to establish a national committee, AMRD, to facilitate the growth of men’s derby at a national level and manage the Wizards of Aus. The first ever wizards were selected by way of video submissions for their first international game against the New Zealand Black Skates in Sydney in August. The team beat their antipodean rivals by 330 to 122 points.
To select a separate world cup squad coaches IV Anarchy and Annabelle Lecter and selectors Godjilla and Sold Separately hit the road on a four date tryout trail that took in Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney.
“The selection process was more of a selection roadshow,” explains Annabelle. “Our selection panel travelled the country to find and select the skaters we wanted on the Wizards roster for the world cup. We used the same drills in each city and had a written component to obtain selection data.”
Eleven skaters were chosen to represent their country at MRDWC in England and they’ve been training intensively ahead of the tournament. Just like Team Canada the Aussies have given great thought to how to overcome the distance issue, sending players drills, exercises and diet plans to complement the training they receive with their own leagues.
“With the distance challenges we face in Australia we have also found success with longer bootcamp type training preparations compared to shorter, sporadic sessions,” says Bohemian.
The team will converge in Sydney on 7 March before travelling to Scotland together, where they will spend the week preparing as a team whose aim is to return home with one of the three trophies up for grabs and finish ahead of the other southern hemisphere teams. They also relish a draw against their pommy brothers after recent triumphs in the Ashes and rugby league World Club Challenge.
“I’m sure a number of expats will come out to support Australia and it will be a tournament highlight for us if the Wizards get drawn against England. After the summer of sport Australia has enjoyed against the English we look forward to continuing our nation’s winning streak,” boasts Synaptic.
From the sounds of it, the Aussies could certainly upset the hosts. Their work ethic and dedication to the game, with them regularly willing to travel huge distances to play together, is admirable and the sheer growth of derby in the country impressive. Could Australia be a sleeping giant that is ready to stir? Find out at the Men’s Roller Derby World Cup!
Catch the Wizards in action against Power of Scotland at the Grangemouth Sports Complex in Falkirk on Tuesday 11 March. First whistle is at 8:30pm GMT.
Who will the Wizards be watching at MRDWC?
I am personally looking forward to playing/seeing all teams at the MRDWC; each team will have a different style of gameplay which will introduce different challenges. In particular, countries with a big general skating history: USA, Canada, Germany, Finland, Sweden. I am also keen to watch Japan – I saw a video they put online a couple of weeks ago; they’ve been training hard and really developing.
I can’t wait to step on track against the Irish. As an ex-pat I’ve tried to keep an eye on what they have been doing back home, but the distance makes it so hard. I want them to do well. I’m gonna be cheering for them; even when I’m blocking their jammer with everything I’ve got, I’m still going to cheer for them.
Oh man. I have SUCH a derby crush on Team England. I can’t wait to see them bout. I’m really excited by our group as well: Ireland, Germany, France. AMAZING. We all want to see what Team USA bring to the table, I want to be in a pack on the track against them. Oh, and Japan will a surprise team to watch. SO MUCH EXCITEMENT!
Sharing the flat track with former-Aussies Flat Track Bully and Ballistic Whistle as they skate for Team England is going to be a blast – those guys skate hard. Team USA has so many skaters that blow me away – Streak, Quadzilla, Jonathan R and just the whole damn roster. And Team France – the men’s derby scene over there is really first rate. They play some tough derby and we are playing them on the first day!
Post by Beat Monkey / @jamiepotter