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March 30, 2015 Blood on the concrete: welcome to roller derby

Alice Pester’s first impression of the University of Sydney Roller Derby League (USRDL) was “sheer terror… but inspiring terror”. Pester, a.k.a. ‘Pestilence’ approached the game in 2013 as “a girl who had never considered I could do anything as physical as that”.

Though at first she was intimidated by the sight of “these incredibly tough women beating the shit out of each other” she grew to love it. Pester is one of many people for whom roller derby is more than a game. As the months progressed, she felt that, “I couldn’t not play, it was a complete obsession”.

In 2014 Pester went to Las Vegas for Rollercon, a five day convention with thousands of visitors that includes games, classes, lectures, and pro-games with the best players in the world. Roller derby has become an important expression of gay culture, and Pester describes Rollercon as, “a very fun holiday for gays”.

Roller derby has existed as a sport for women since the 1930s. It’s popularity has been revived in the past decade, and there are now thousands of amateur leagues around the world. At it’s most basic, the game consists of two teams of five players skating in the same direction around a track, as the simultaneous attack and defence strategies are complex, and infamously, rough.

Kate Cole
is a journalist, content writer, and graduate of the University of Sydney.