My first bout. Their first bout.

I continued to pop back to the occasional practice throughout 2009. Seeing the team evolve. New people joining, some leaving, until there was a stable core of skaters.

The team announced that they had their first public bout pencilled in on the 22nd August against Leeds Roller Dolls. I was eager to see how these things worked, knowing that teams were entirely self funded. I wondered what sort of spectacle could be achieved on such a limited budget.

Mid morning on the 22nd we all met outside the Queens Head public house in Sheffield. Team members arrived singularly or in small groups, apprehensive as to what the day had in store. Leeds Roller Dolls were a more established team. This was going to be a difficult test. We piled on to the coach and headed north.

I remember arriving early. Time for the team to grab some lunch and relax as best they could while Leeds set up the hall. The venue was Savile's Hall at the Royal Armouries. Not what I expected. But then again I didn't know what to expect. When we could finally get in to the hall the team went off to get prepared. Sheffield didn't have enough skaters to make up a full roster and so the line up also included such notable reprobates as Germaine Leer (MMR now CCR), Rita Von Sleaze (MMR now NRG) and Darcey Hustle (MMR).

For me this was going to be a challenge. I checked out the hall, took some light readings and thought, shit, how the hell is this going to work. Looking back at those early photos it was clear it didn't, well, not for me.
When asked, what I thought of a bout, I find it difficult to give a good answer. With my eye to the viewfinder I see very little apart from the area I'm concentrating on. I can give a good description of tactics that worked, or didn't within this context, but never see the bigger picture.

Sheffield were rolled over, Leeds being the much stronger team took full advantage of their strength to post a convincing win. To be honest I know little more about it. I was on an equal learning curve with Sheffield. The thing I do remember however is the camaraderie between the rival teams at the after party. It was something I hadn't been expecting at the time. I don't know why, but reflecting on it, it seemed obvious. Roller Derby was the common thread that brought all these people together. Utilising all their different skills and abilities to put on a sporting event with no funding apart from that which they could raise themselves. It struck how dedicated they were and what had been achieved.  It was a breath of fresh air, unlike many of the sports that I had had contact with.

As the players boarded the coach for the trip back to Sheffield it was clear that despite the loss everyone had had a great day. For myself it had clarified what I wanted to achieve. It would just take a bit more investment in time and money to get there.


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