Norfolk roller derby team seeks new players who don’t mind bumps and bruises

The East Anglo Smacksons roller derby team during training. From left, front, Nick Kirman (Chronick)

The East Anglo Smacksons roller derby team during training. From left, front, Nick Kirman (Chronick). Middle row, Jarnan Bowie (Jarnageddon); Simon Brock; Swiss Robinson (Johnny Crash); Richard Nicolson (Alfred Hitchblock) and Dave Collinson (Cupcake). Back row, Gary Kiddell (Kid Hell); and Joe McEnaney (JayOhhEmm). - Credit: copyright: Archant 2013

The sport of roller derby, with its high octane and bruising collisions, may not be well known in the UK, but it is growing in popularity and even has a niche following in Norfolk.

The East Anglo Smacksons roller derby team, which practises at the Open Academy, Sprowston High School and Funky Monkeys in Norwich, is putting out an appeal for men who do not mind being shoulder charged, or experiencing the occasional tumble, to come and join them as they seek to compete against other teams from across the country.

By day, Richard Nicolson, 34, of Esdelle Street, Norwich, is a hard working employee at insurance giant Aviva, but by night he becomes Alfred Hitchblock, a player for the East Anglo Smacksons.

And he is not alone in having an alter ego – the other members of the team include teachers and care workers who all have a roller derby alias.

He said: 'I used to skate when I was younger, but I had not skated for a number of years and I went to watch the Norfolk Brawds women's team and I thought I would quite like to get involved in it.'


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However, so far the Smacksons, brother team to the Brawds, only have 10 players and want to attract more so they can compete against other teams, including the Quads of War from Milton Keynes.

Currently, the Smacksons are being trained by the women's team and Mr Nicolson said it was a big sport for women.

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A roller derby bout involves two teams of five members who simultaneously skate counter-clockwise on a circuit track.

Each team designates a scoring player, known as the jammer, while the other four members are blockers. The jammer wears a helmet bearing two stars while the rest of the players' helmets are uncovered.

Each bout is played in two periods of 30 minutes and point scoring happens during 'jams,' plays that last up to two minutes. During a jam, points are scored when a jammer on a scoring pass laps members of the opposing team.

However, each team's blockers will use tactics, including body contact and changing positions to assist their own jammer, while hindering the opposing team's jammer.

Only certain types of blocks are permitted and referees can award penalties for violations or require violators to serve time in a penalty box.

But Mr Nicolson said these restrictions did not always prevent competitors from picking up minor injuries, though they were well protected by their equipment, which included helmets, knee and elbow pads.

He added: 'You are quite well protected. You don't normally get many major injuries, though there have been people who play who have had broken ribs.'

Mr Nicolson added that the sport, played predominantly by women and particularly popular in North America, required a lot of dedication.

'I think it is a great way to meet new people. You gain a new family. Everybody's just so friendly and so inclusive. People from all walks of life can come along. You don't have to be a certain body type, all shapes and sizes take part.'

The Smacksons train at Funky Monkeys in Spar Road on Mondays from 7pm to 10pm, the Open Academy on Saturdays at 11am and Sprowston High School on Wednesdays from 8pm until 10pm.

For more information or to join the East Anglo Smacksons, visit www.eastanglosmacksons.co.uk or phone 07800 501790.

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