The sport where you roll with the punches

WOLLONGONG ILLAWARRA ROLLER DERBY FINAL

VIPERS vs VIXENS

Saturday, 6.30pm

The Sports Hub, UOW

Tickets: From Dicey Riley’s or at the door

For the skaters, by the skaters. Stars, stripes, passes, jammers, blockers, alter egos, colour and fun galore. Welcome to the tribal world of roller derby.

The resurgence of the contact sport has seen women in the Illawarra roll on down to their nearest track to get involved.

Roller derby is now one of the fastest-growing sports in the world, and Illawarra roller derby veteran and representative player, Courtney Dennelly, can see why.

"Derby is such a great sport," the Unanderra woman says.

"The game has evolved a lot in the last little while, it's much more athletic focused now. It's quite a technical, strategic game.

"There are so many benefits to getting involved too. When I started I couldn't even skate … but the level of fitness and athleticism you develop from training and playing, it's the best work out I've ever had. And you don't even notice because it's so much fun."

The 27-year-old, who goes by derby-name "Courtney Lovebite", says the sport is unique in its accessibility and inclusiveness of women of all body types.

"Through derby you really learn to respect and love your body," she says.

"The game has positions to suit all body types, and teams can use those differences to their advantage.

"Where being big might normally be seen as bad, in derby it means having a strong player on the team which is good.

"I'm one of tallest players in the state for example, and I feel just as much as an important part of the team as the next player.

"It also really helped my confidence. When I started I was quite shy, but since derby I've become more assertive and more confident in my abilities and leadership. It's helped my self-esteem in leaps and bounds."

Dennelly says her experience is typical of women playing in a sport that is based on effort and reward.

"In roller derby, anyone can play, anyone can give it go."

The Illawarra Wollongong Roller Derby has a core of 30 to 40 skaters, and Dennelly says this is growing - in awareness and participation.

"Being on the track is an absolute buzz, it's massive adrenaline rush. More people should experience it, there's no better feeling.

"I'd really strongly encourage everyone to come along, have a look and even get involved.

"It's a sport like no other."

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