People and Places
Learning how to fall By Liz Rogers

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Get ready to rumble, folks. And don’t forget your panties in the ‘scrim’. Or your mouthguards, knee, elbow, wrist pads and helmets ‘cause the ‘bout’ could get hairy.  

There’s safety in numbers. Just ask Drew Barrymore and Ellen Page as they Whip It (2009) or the cast of ‘70s flicks Kansas City Bomber or Unholy Rollers. Roller derby has been on the rush-injecting radar since 1935 as a sport that conjures up images of spunky ‘broads’ who bring it. Johannah ‘Tomb Raider’ Bigas, from Mount Martha, is hooked on the thrill of this caper where women — and yes, that includes mums — seem to find a place where grace, strength, comradeship and adrenalin connect with the crowd and pumping music that spurs them on.

Johannah has been ‘jamming’ it for about nine months. She trains twice a week in Carrum Downs with her South Sea Roller Derby pals, bouts every Sunday in her own league and travels once a month farther afield. Her legs are like stone, and when she talks about the game her eyes light up like meteorites.

“The first time I went I got a bit scared and left. It was so full-on. But I went back and thought why not give it a go? It was the best thing I did. I was very sore the first few weeks because I kept falling down. I’d never been on skates before, but once you learn how to fall and get back up, it’s exciting. You feel fierce, fit and tough. The rush is awesome.”

So here’s the drill. Some girls like to get dressed up. There’s tutus, long socks, short shorts and team colours to be worn when playing away from home. Two teams of five bout for two minutes at a time. There’s jammers, blockers, pivots and a brace. Captains, ‘benchies’ (coaches) and lots of shouting out to each other.

Johannah continues. “There’s lots strategy and communication involved and great support from family and friends. Everyone has an on-track name (think Titasaurus, Scooby Doom and Butcher Bird). It’s fun to see how far you can push yourself physically,” says this gently-spoken eldest of four beachside 20-year-old women.

Never judge a book by its cover.

And panties? Helmet pantie sets including a star helmet cover for jammers and a stripe cover for pivots. Blockers go pantie-free.

Enough said. More at and on Instagram @southsearollerderby

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