Featured League: Richter City Roller Derby

All eyes will be on Australasian roller derby this month as our featured league, Richter City Roller Derby, organizes New Zealand’s first WFTDA-sanctioned tournament from Oct. 14–15: Quake, Battle & Roll.

Formed a decade ago in the city of Wellington, Richter City has worked hard to strengthen New Zealand’s roller derby community, often coaching other leagues in their country. Read on to learn about their creative fundraising, why they don’t believe in star skaters, and what this tournament means for New Zealand roller derby. 

Where are you located?
Wellington, New Zealand.

When was your league formed?
First meetings in 2007, first annual general meeting in 2008, first games played in 2009.

When did you join the Apprentice Program?
July 2012.

When did you join the WFTDA?
We graduated from the then-18-month, e-learning-based AP in December 2013.

How does your season run?
We start training in late January to early December. Our travel season currently runs from April to November with a home season later in the year, from August to December. Our season changes each year depending on tournaments and fresh meat intake.

How many skaters/teams do you have?
Currently 33 full skating members with a fresh meat course underway. We also have Unicorn Membership for skaters who still want to be involved with the league and skate non-contact. We have two travel teams: the All Stars and our development team, The Convicts. We have three home teams: Brutal Pageant, Comic Slams, and Smash Malice.

Photo by Emma Wade

How is your league structured (home teams, travel team, management)?
We have a management board of between three and five elected members handling league oversight and seven committees with heads who sit alongside the management board as the admin committee, which meets once a month to vote on costs and league business. Our travel and home team captains are voted in after each tryout/selection (twice a year for travel and once a year for home teams).

How many days a week do you practice? How are your practices divided/organized among your teams/skaters?
We have five training opportunities a week: on Mondays, we have a scrimmage night (travel or home team depending on what’s coming up on the calendar); on Tuesdays, we train intermediate skills for newer skaters; Thursday are dedicated to advanced skills and travel teams hour; Saturdays are for team training (travel or home); and on Sundays, we train intermediate skills and fresh meat.

Photo by Emma Wade

Tell us about your training facilities.
All of our trainings are held at a community cultural center/basketball venue, except on Sundays, when we practice at Wellington’s skating recreation center that accommodates roller hockey and other roller sports, and is also where we host our games.

Where do you hold your public games?
Our public games are held at one of our Recreation Centers (we train there once a week too), but this venue is not big enough to accommodate two tracks, so we’re hosting Quake, Battle & Roll at a larger venue in the Wellington suburbs.

What are your biggest training challenges?
Venue availability is a big one. Until recently we have been unable to train at the venue where we play our games (and which has a totally different floor!) Luckily we now have one session there per week.

Otherwise, our biggest challenge is balancing the frequency and level of training sessions to suit the ever-widening range of skill and commitment levels in our membership, which has been between 30 and 50 full skating members since 2010. We have two skaters in their ninth season and several in their eighth or seventh, and have done two fresh meat intakes for the past couple of years. It’s always a challenge to cater to everyone, and to cater to both home and travel team training.

Photo by Emma Wade

What are the closest WFTDA leagues to you?
Whakatane Roller Derby League is the closest geographically. Auckland Roller Derby League and Pirate City Rollers are the other North Island leagues, with Dunedin Derby and Dead End Derby in the South Island.

Who is your biggest rival? And have you had any outstanding, memorable moments when you’ve played them?
Pirate City Rollers in Auckland were New Zealand’s first league as well as the first WFTDA league. We played them a few times starting in 2009, losing by very large margins at first, learning from each game, and finally beating them in a mock-sanctioned game in 2013. Our team dogpiled on each other when the final four whistles blew and several of us cried because we were so proud of that achievement. Since then we’ve gone back and forth on wins. Most recently we beat them in the semi-final of the New Zealand Top Ten (national) Tournament last year.

What are some of the unique challenges of your home town?
Well, apart from being on the other side of the world in relation to most of the derby community, Wellington has a small number of training venues with limited availability, and many of these assume that we will damage their floors. Quake, Battle & Roll will be a great opportunity to show other venues that we look after the floors and hopefully get a letter of recommendation that will allow us to approach others.

This month you’ll be hosting the first WFTDA-sanctioned tournament in New Zealand, Quake Battle and Roll. What can you tell us about this tournament and its significance for roller derby in New Zealand?
It’s hard to describe how incredible this is for New Zealand, being so geographically isolated and with a huge disparity in WFTDA rankings between New Zealand teams that does not accurately reflect how competitive we are with each other and in general. In the past we’ve had to travel to Australia to get sanctioning opportunities.

We are so proud to be hosting this tournament for so many reasons, but first and foremost to share the opportunity to sanction games with other WFTDA leagues from New Zealand. We are also incredibly grateful to the Australian leagues who are travelling to play in Quake, Battle & Roll. We can’t thank Sun State and Northern Brisbane enough for making the trip over!

Who are some of your star skaters on the track, and why?
We don’t really believe in star skaters. Our selection process recognises skating, blocking, and jamming skills, but also attendance, commitment to development, derby smarts, and being a team player.

Our All Stars are our most experienced skaters. However, we recently made the decision as a league to make our full charter team available for any All Stars game roster. This has helped us upskill developing skaters in game situations. We do have a Richter skater, Tuff Bikkies, who will skate for Team Aotearoa at the World Cup in Manchester and we’re super proud of her representing New Zealand.

Who are some “behind the scenes” skaters/members who really help your league run?
Our management board does so much work — even just answering the league email could be someone’s job and it doesn’t stop at 5 p.m.! Elected officers and committee heads also handle big workloads. And of course we couldn’t do any of it without our awesome officials.

What are some of your league’s biggest accomplishments?
We’re proud of lots of things, but our biggest accomplishment is that we have survived and continue to thrive as one league ten years down the track — whereas other New Zealand leagues have split — and we’ve attracted transfers from other New Zealand leagues and even a couple of overseas leagues along the way.

We’re also proud that we’ve chosen to rise with the rest of Australasia in the WFTDA, and our All Stars have attended several Australian tournaments since we became members, including The Great Southern Slam, Quad Save The Queen, the VRDL Invitational at Ultimate Sports Expo, and Royal Rumble. Our Convicts went to The Great Southern Slam last year and showed that our development squad is a force to be reckoned with too.

Photo by Emma Wade

Being part of a self-governed sport often means having to raise funds to keep leagues rolling, and you seem to have some really unique ideas! Tell us about some fundraising events you’ve hosted lately.
We do a real range of activities: from selling sausages outside local hardware stores on weekends, to selling chocolate, soap, and Frooze Balls (a New Zealand snack) at our workplaces, and hosting quiz nights. We also have amazing sponsors who donate to raffles at our games, give us discounts on their services, and help cover our printing costs. Thunderpants made our travel uniforms last year and they do such a rad job of promoting us on social media.

We are super stoked that Wellington’s hugely successful brewery Garage Project has recently come on as an official sponsor and is hosting a fundraiser for us at the end of September where skaters from around the North Island will face off in beer-themed teams and fight it out to be crowned the winning brew. All proceeds will go towards covering our costs for hosting Quake, Battle & Roll. It’s a unique and awesome way to support us and we are so grateful.

Some of our other favorite sponsors are JAM Hairdressing, Tiki Wine & Vineyards, and Te Aro Physiotherapy.

Photo by Emma Wade

Richter City also offers coaching services! What kind of training do you offer and what can you share about your experiences coaching other leagues in New Zealand?
We do! We have six coaches and are happy to cater sessions to the needs of each league or team. We’ve had individual coaches travel within our region to do sessions during a league’s normal training slot, and even two coaches flying to the South Island to run a full weekend bootcamp. Contact us at coaching.richtercity@gmail.com. We’d love to hear from you.

Do you have any big games and/or other tournaments coming up that you are looking forward to in 2017?
We’re really excited about the New Zealand Top Ten (national) tournament semi and final coming up on 25–26 November in Tauranga. Two pools of five have played each other in games all over New Zealand throughout the year to determine who goes into the top four, and we’re looking to win it for the second year — but we’ve got our work cut out for us! We hosted the Top Four tournament last year and the games were hard-fought and really close, especially our win over Dead End Derby from Christchurch in the final. DED have recently become full WFTDA members; they moved up to first place in the New Zealand rankings, and are looking really strong.

Photo by Emma Wade

Do you have any video footage from games or other events that you would like to share?
-Garage Project promo video
-Our live-stream channel with RCRD home games and last year’s New Zealand Top Ten Finals
-Take a trip down memory lane  

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
We’re always looking for new members to join our fantastic crew of dedicated officials. We have been really lucky to have some of the best officials in New Zealand, with officials travelling with teams to most tournaments, including two NSOs being asked to be CHNSO at Australian tournaments. Get in touch via richtercity@gmail.com