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Jess Banks-Brennock Jess Banks-Brennock

Jess Banks-Brennock, president of East Coast Derby Dolls

If you back yourself, you will always back a winner ...

In Short ...

Roller derby tends to have a reputation for flashy costumes, trashy names and vicious smack downs, thanks in part to Hollywood representations. The reality, however, is somewhat different. We caught up with the president of the Gold Coast’s newest roller derby team, the Gold Coast Derby Dolls, to set the record straight and find out what keeps these ladies coming back for more.

For those who are unfamiliar, can you take us through the rules of roller derby?
Roller derby has too many rules to list but they stem from a need to keep the skaters, referees and officials safe. As a brief overview, one jammer from each team takes to the track with a panty with a star on it over their helmet to distinguish them from the other skaters. Four blockers from each team are lined up in front of the jammers. The blockers play offence and defense. The jammers score points by passing the blockers on the opposing team. The blockers use their bodies to hold back the opposition jammer and aid their own jammers in passing opposition blockers.

It’s obviously a full contact sport, have you sustained any injuries on the track?
Personally no. Everyone spends at least three months training before reaching bouting level. This is for your safety and the safety of others. In saying that, accidents can happen in any sport, but we have pads, mouth guard and a helmet to help prevent injuries.

Is there anything that’s off-limits on the track?
Yes, there is a lot of things off-limit. Movies give people the idea that you will get hit with a swinging arm or tripped over. Sometimes these things happen by accident but it will result in a skater getting a penalty. If a referee deems that the skater intended to cause harm they can be expelled from the game. Hitting a skater at the knees or below, above the shoulder or in the center of back will result in a penalty, as will tripping and using your forearms or head to impede an opposing skater.

How did you get into roller derby?
I was interested in derby ever since I saw the movie ‘Whip It’. After talking about it for 12-months I finally switched my soccer boots for quad skates.

What keeps you coming back?
I have never enjoyed anything so much in my life. The sport in itself is amazing but the people are some of the greatest you will ever meet. We are just a bunch of individuals that come together to form a community. We hit each other only to hug each other off the track.

Do you have any words for your competitors?
Who’s going to the pub after the bout? Our competitors are our friends even though things sometimes get tense on the track. At East Coast Derby Dolls we invite players from other leagues to our training sessions so that we can learn from each other. We find it beneficial for the skaters and for the sport.

Tell us about your derby name, Miss De MeanWhore?
Miss De MeanWhore was a name I picked myself. I wanted something tough but also wanted people to know that I can have a joke at my own expense too. My birthday is September 6 so the number 69 tied in perfectly.

What are the fundamental elements of a good derby name?
A derby name can be anything you like really. Some people get given a name buy their teammates other use and old nickname. Skaters sometimes like to use spin-offs of real names or phrases, the sky is the limit really. Some of my all time favorites are G-Banger, ‘El Bent and Captain Killjoy.

Roller derby is under consideration for the 2020 Olympics. Where would you like to see the sport?
I love the sport right where it is but if it were to become an Olympic sport I guess I would have to start training a lot harder. The publicity would be great for helping to grow our local leagues, which is where my real interest is.

Are there are any misconceptions about roller derby? Anything you want to set the record straight about?
You don’t have to have a tattoo or a lip piercing to join roller derby. You don’t even have to know how to skate. All you have to do is remain committed and roller derby will reward you in so many ways.

Tell us a little about East Coast Derby Dolls?
East Coast Derby Dolls is the newest league on the coast, we currently have 20 members and are looking to grow. ECDD was formed at the end of 2013 after a split from another league, this is how new leagues form and the sport grows. Our members are friends and teammates. Every skater knows how much work it takes to get to bouting level, that’s why we pride ourselves on supporting to up-and-coming skaters. We’re holding a fresh meat information evening this Friday for people who think they have what it takes.

Do you have any competitions coming up?
We are currently partaking in ‘Open Season’ which is where once every three to four weeks 11 teams gather to bout each other in Brisbane. We also have a couple of away games in the pipeline.

What can spectators expect from a game?
First time spectators should be prepared to be confused as hell! There are so many different rules and game plays, but every time you will learn something new and the game will start to look like more then a bunch of ladies skating fast and hitting each other. It may be confusing at first but it is fast, exciting and hard-hitting. “It’s like playing a game of speed chess while bricks are thrown at you.” – Oh Hell No of Northern Brisbane Rollers.

How can people get involved?
Getting involved is easy and there are many different ways to do so. East Coast is always looking for new members, whether they are non-skating officials, referees or bouting skaters. All you have to do is come down and see if you like what we do and what we are about.

Any advice for someone who might be thinking about getting involved?
If you want to get involved, give it a go. You have nothing to lose and so much to gain. If you back yourself, you will always back a winner.

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