One Man’s Journey From Roller Derby Widow to Blocker, Jammer and Super Fan

Nick Fordham. Photo by Sarah Clarke

 

“I became a Roller Derby Widow,” he said.

Oh, no. That’s not something you hear every day.

But Nick Fordham’s story is not one of sadness and tragedy at all. Rather, his “widowhood” was actually the beginning of a wild, eight-wheeled adventure involving rollers and blockers and jammers and blammers, and where the thrills are as real as the bruises.

Roller Derby.

Photo courtesy Gippsland Lakes Roller Derby.

Nick, who in his other life is a Business Analyst here at BRHS, is a member of Gippsland Lakes Roller Derby, a sport which many Australians may not be too familiar with.

For the uninitiated, here’s roughly how it goes down.

There’s two teams, each with five members on the track at a time. The action starts with the two teams roller-skating counter clockwise around a track.

On each team there is one “jammer,” a fast, agile skater whose task is to lap as many members of the opposite team as they can. For each person they lap, they get a point.

Sounds easy. Except for those brutal “blockers.”

The other four members of the team are called blockers and their job is to stop the jammers. That’s where the bruises come in.

Nick’s introduction to the sport came through his wife, whose growing passion for the sport saw her spend many hours on local rinks and helping organise and promote the local club.

“So, yeah, I became a Roller Derby Widow,” he recalls. “I basically had to join up so I could see more of my wife.”

Nick describes it is one of the best decisions he’s made. Having played a lot of competitive sport, he says Gippsland Lakes Roller Derby is “the most supportive team I’ve ever been a part of.”

“It’s very much like a community,” he says. “Teammates and competitors alike value and support each other. Hugs and high-fives immediately follow hard knocks.”

BRHS’ Nick Fordham and Mel Rice get ready to start the “jam.” Photo courtesy Gippsland Lakes Roller Derby.

That sense of community spread to BRHS when he arrived at training one day to see BRHS’ Medical Imaging Senior Manager Mel Rice lacing up the skates, herself new to the sport and keen to give it a try.

The father of three girls, two of which also play, Nick says that one thing he especially appreciates about the sport is its culture of inclusivity and of empowering women and girls to compete with and against men.

“The women are every bit as fierce as the men,” he says, adding that the women’s World Champion Victorian Roller Derby League All Stars have beaten their male counterparts and are regarded as the best team in the world, regardless of gender.

The Roller Derby bug has well and truly bitten Nick, and he now spends many hours on the road and in the rink to train and play with several leagues around the state.

If you’re keen to give Roller Derby a try, or are just looking for a new way to stay fit and have fun, Gippsland Lakes Roller Derby is about to start “Sunday Skate Club” at the Bairnsdale Aquatic and Recreation Centre (BARC).

Skate Club goes for just one hour on a Sunday morning for the duration of each school term.

Gippsland Lakes Roller Derby also runs junior programs for kids and more ‘derby focussed’ classes at Sale and Bairnsdale during the week for those that can’t get enough.

More info at www.facebook.com/pg/GippslandLakesRollerDerby/events/