DCSIMG

Auld Reekie girls are ready to roll with the punches

MONDAY to Friday, nine to five, Kirsty Greer's life revolves around the office.

"Fortunately I've never been too badly hurt, but I have seen a couple of leg breaks during practice" Kirsty Greer

Come weekends though, and the pension administrator trades her office heels for a pair of wheels, her sensible work clothes for a skimpy tartan-trimmed ensemble and becomes The Tartan Tearaway, a rollerskating, elbow jabbing, points chasing, injury defying member of one of the toughest all-girl sports teams in town.

Alongside her are teachers, various office workers like her, mums and ordinary young women of all shapes and sizes who, until they opted to join Auld Reekie Roller Girls had probably never been strapped into a pair of roller skates since their eighth birthday.

And today many of them will, like Kirsty, shed their day-to-day personas to become feisty queens of the track, they'll slip into fishnets and paint their faces, backcomb their locks and hunt in sportsbags for vital gumshields.

For this is the day the Edinburgh roller girls go to war. And it doesn't get any messier – or potentially dangerous – than a showdown with their Glasgow rivals.

"We are really looking forward to it, it's going to be brilliant," giggles Kirsty, 23, who joined Edinburgh's all-girl roller derby squad last July and is now a regular in the league's A team, the Twisted Thistles.

"Yes people can get hurt – it gets pretty fast and furious out there – but it's also loads of fun."

Dubbed British Bulldogs on wheels, the sport involves two teams of roller skate-wearing daredevils who push, elbow, shove and jab opponents to make way for their team 'jammer' – their fastest player – to career around the track at breakneck speed and pick up points on the way.

This may be an all-female sport, but, agrees Kirsty, one of 70 young women to sign up with the Auld Reekie league since it's launch 18 months ago, it's not for little girls. "Fortunately I've never been too badly hurt, but I have seen a couple of leg breaks during practice. Not nice at all. Some accidents can look really horrendous, but it's not as if anyone goes out to deliberately hurt anyone else.

"But when you're on wheels, trying to avoid getting bumped or trying to bump someone else, then there's a risk of injury."

Certainly the risk of injury hasn't deterred a growing number of women, like Kirsty's teammate Cherry Fury, otherwise known as Dee Miller, from signing up.

And many, agrees Dee, 29, an account's executive at Big Mouth Media in Leith, have never been involved in a team sport before, never mind thrown themselves around on roller skates.

"I'm into my sport – I snowboard, ski, rock climb – but I was never really a team sports person," she explains. "But I love this because anyone, any shape or

"There are a lot of team tactics and it's not a free-for-all, there's a rule book that's 30 pages long" Kirsty Greer

size, any fitness can get involved. And it's different. This is a full-on contact sport

and there's plenty of bruises. I fractured my nose once when I was hit by an opponent's shoulder. My mum wasn't too pleased, but you soon heal up."

The sport is inspired by the original roller derbies of the 1930s in America which were as much about entertainment as sport.

"Back then there were men and women on the track at the same time," explains Kirsty, who works in the pensions department at Scottish Widows. "And it was a bit like WWF wrestling, quite a theatrical and almost scripted sport."

The sport faded into obscurity until the seventies when Hollywood drew on roller derbies for the film Rollerball, starring James Caan as a futuristic player who ends up the last man standing after a horrific no holds barred derby.

But it wasn't until 2003 that an all-woman extreme sport version sprung up in America. Later the trend crossed the Atlantic to England and eventually Scotland.

Today there are roller derby leagues in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen. The Auld Reekie league's regular events at the Jack Kane Centre and at Meadowbank can attract crowds of more than 400 and the sport is attracting interest from men keen to set up their own leagues.

"It's fast and physical but there's a lot of team tactics and it's not a free-for-all, there's a rule book that's 30 pages long," adds Kirsty. "You have to follow the rules – for example, you can use shoulder and hip checks, but you can't just thump someone.

"We're taught in practice how to fall properly and to execute blocks safely. We all wear elbow pads and knee pads, helmet, wrist guards and every bit of equipment goes through strict inspection."

There's something else the girls wear. For along with their Auld Reekie strip, each also customises their outfit to match their Roller Derby persona. "We want to have fun too," grins Kirsty, "So some of the girls will wear fishnets and tailor their outfits. I put a flash of tartan on mine and then paint my face with green warpaint.

"During the day we're office workers, health professionals, there are mums and so on. But for three nights a week at training and during matches, we all get to be this different character

."

Auld Reekie Roller Girls' A- team, Twisted Thistles, take on Glasgow Roller Girls Irn Bruisers today at Meadowbank Sports Centre, from 12:30pm. Adults 7, Concessions (Student, 65+) 5 and under-14s free when accompanied by an adult. To find out more about the team, click on www.arrg.co.uk

 
 
 

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