September 2015 Featured League: Sun State Roller Girls

September 1, 2015


The Sun State Roller Girls, located on the east coast of Australia, have been working on a five-year plan that is seeing big pay offs in 2015! With geographic isolation making the league's competitive game play limited, Sun State has focused heavily on training and research on their opponents, a formula that has been successful enough to land them their first trip to D1 Playoffs! Learn more about this tenacious team and what their continued plans for growth and success are for the future.

Where are you located?
We skate in sunny Brisbane, Australia.

How does your season run?
Our season has undergone a massive overhaul this year. Our two B teams participate in a local round robin tournament called Open Season that runs over about six months. There’s a full day of games every month or so, then a grand final to determine an overall winner. Our charter team will normally play a couple of tournaments and game or two every year. We don’t really have a set season - being so isolated, we have to take what we can get! Most of our charter skaters haven’t had an off season for a couple of years - we had the chance to play some games in Texas in December, and the New York Shock Exchange in January, so we’ve been training pretty much non-stop.

What are the closest WFTDA leagues to you?
Paradise City are based on the Gold Coast, about an hour from us. Northern Brisbane Rollers are based on the other side of town to us, and they’ve recently joined the Apprentice program.

How many skaters/teams do you have?
We have three teams - The Swarm, our charter, and our two local B teams, The Rumble Bees and the Zombees. Between our three teams, plus our freshies and up-and-coming bouters, we have between 50 and 60 skaters.

How is your league structured (home teams, travel team, management)?
For all of Sun State’s history, we have had home teams as well as a travel team comprised of skaters from those teams. This year, however, we moved to an all-travel team model and now have a WFTDA charter and two interleague B teams. We created two equally balanced B teams instead of a B and a C team to facilitate growth and better dissemination of skill and knowledge, since the teams were being entered in the Open Season tournament. We have an Executive Committee comprised of our President, Treasurer and Secretary, as well as a representative of each of our three teams and of the non-bouting members.

Who is your biggest rival? And have you had any outstanding, memorable moments when you've played them?
Our rivalry with Victoria spans back to the very early days of Australian roller derby - our leagues were the first two in the country. Every time we meet is outstanding and memorable. At the first Great Southern Slam (TGSS) in Adelaide in 2010, the grand final saw Sun State come up against Victoria. It was neck-and-neck the whole game, with Victoria ultimately beating us by two points. In 2012, VRDL flew up to play our Apprenticeships games - along with Gotham Girls Roller Derby. That was pretty dang memorable! Most recently, we played VRDL at the 2014 TGSS final, and it was indescribable. The 2000-strong audience counted down the ten seconds till the first whistle and let out an ear-splitting, floor-rumbling cry when we were awarded the first lead jammer status. The atmosphere in that game was unlike any other we’ve played. We lost that game by 29 points, but it felt as good as a win.

Do you have any sister leagues you’d like to give a shout out to?
Paradise City are of course our local WFTDA buddies, and we have to give a shout out to our BFFs across the sea, Houston Roller Derby!

What are the individual challenges of your city?
It’s a challenge of our country, really. At the time we became WFTDA members, Victoria were the only other member league in the country. Now, before you say, “Cool, you could nip down and play them every weekend!” - at 20 hours’ driving, it’s a long nip down there. It took us two years from becoming full members to becoming ranked purely because of the lack of other member teams around us. We are so excited by all the leagues becoming members and apprentices, and what that means for the future of Australian derby.

What are your biggest training challenges?
For the Swarm at least, it can be very challenging to keep pushing forward and continually improving when you’re not playing games all the time. We play a couple of tournaments every year, and we might play a handful of games for the season on top of that. Unlike in America where you’re playing a game every month or more, we don’t get to test out and hone our strategies in games every month. We have to stay really vigilant to ensure that we’re picking up on areas of weakness and always improving, which can be hard when you don’t get to put your game to the test against other teams very often.

What kind of training/bouting facilities do you have?
We are one of the few lucky cities around that still has a functioning skating rink - we practice at Digi Skate in Browns Plains.

How many days a week do you practice? How are your practices divided/organized among your teams/skaters?
The league has a skills practice on Thursdays and a scrimmage on Sunday, which we play with our teams. The Swarm also trains Monday, Thursday and Friday nights.

Who are some “behind the scenes” skaters/members who really help your league run?
Truly, every single member is integral in keeping our league going. We know that sounds sappy, but it’s true. Our executive committee keeps things running smoothly, each member does a League Activity every month - this could be promotions, fundraising, coaching, or any number of other things, all our bouting skaters do a Helper Shift every other month where they help out at our non-bouting skaters’ training, our non-bouting skaters NSO the Sunday scrimmage, we have a dedicated ref crew who officiate scrim every week. It really is one big team effort.

Who are some of your star skaters on the track, and why?
Watch us in Dallas and find out!

You recently competed in the largest International Roller Derby Tournament in the world, "the Great Southern Slam." You were just edged out by top Australia team and fierce competitor Victorian Roller Derby League by a mere 29 points in the final half. How do you feel this tournament, in particular, helped you prepare for the WFTDA D1 Playoffs this month?
For once, we think that rarely playing games will work in our favour! More often than not, The Swarm plays in tournaments - because teams are so spread out and Australia is such a huge country, we tend to make the most of it when everyone comes together. As a result we are very comfortable backing up games, and we’re familiar with fast recovery strategies for those quick turnaround games. It’s all about knowing your opponent. We knew going into TGSS last year that, if we made it to the final, we’d probably be playing VRDL, and that we’d need a lot of gas in the tank. This meant playing smart, managing fatigue over our first four games, and recovering well and fast. To this day, this is one of the best games the Swarm has played together.

Sun State has been, year-by-year, setting their sights on larger and tougher tournaments. How does it feel to make it into the WFTDA D1 Playoffs this year after so many seasons of hard work?
We’re still pinching ourselves. In 2013 we built a five year plan as a league, and attending playoffs was one of our goals. Truth be told, it happened a lot sooner than we thought it would. Never having played a sanctioned game at that point, we had no idea where we might stand in the WFTDA rankings. However, when we did our tour of Texas last December and debuted at #20, we quickly realised we’d have to be ready much sooner than we anticipated.

Aside from Playoffs, do you have any big bouts coming up that you're really looking forward to? Why?
We actually have our Queensland state tournament, Tropicarnage Cup, the first weekend in October. We love Tropicarnage because leagues we don’t often see fly in from all over the state, and every year they’re even more amazing than they were before. This is the fourth year it’s been held, and the competition is more and more fierce every year. We can’t wait to see the kind of games played at this year’s Cup.

How does your league give back to the community?
One of our most exciting charity events each year is our Halloween bout, where we support the Brisbane Zombie Walk and donate a portion of proceeds to brain cancer research. We also have volunteers dressed up in awesome costumes who collect donations throughout the evening. We don’t celebrate Halloween in Australia, so people here don’t really get the opportunity to participate in spooky events like ours.

Can you share with your fans any upcoming fundraisers or opportunities to help the league on their trip to Dallas, Texas, September 11-13th?
We’ve been fundraising like crazy all year, and will have the last run of our limited edition 2015 “Sting Like A Bee” shirts and Swarm snapbacks with us at Playoffs. Come visit us at our merch desk and say g’day!

Who are some of your favorite sponsors?
One of our biggest sponsors is Digi Skate. Digi has been donating rink time to the Swarm all year, and increased their donation when Playoffs invites went out.

Do you have a special message for your fans?
You guys give us life! When we see your messages of support on Facebook it fires us up so much. We can’t wait for you all to come along on this next big adventure with us! And remember, for those of you joining us on the sidelines - get your lungs warmed up to “SUN STATE DOMINATE!”

Real. Strong. Athletic. Revolutionary.