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As a teenager, Samantha Doran hated her lanky legs and broad shoulders. They’d spend hours wishing they were petite and being embarrassed about how tall they were.

Today, the features they once hated in school make her a formidable competitor in the fierce and fascinating sport that is roller derby.

“All of a sudden when I started playing I was like, ‘Hell yeah, I’m a giant!’,” Samantha, 22, laughs.

“And I can just bowl people over and step right through a whole group of people.”

A person wearing a helmet looks forward as they compete in roller derby in Denman Prospect, Molonglo Valley, Canberra.

Samantha Doran aka Geralt.

If you’ve never heard of flat track roller derby, it’s a little bit like Xanadu meets gridiron. Every competitor wears roller skates and players hustle to get through a pretty daunting defensive pack.

The action takes place on a flat oval track, mapped out on a basketball court. Play is broken up into two 30-minute periods, and within those periods, into units of play called ‘Jams’ which last up to two minutes.

Each team fields up to five skaters. Four of these skaters are called ‘Blockers’ and one is called a ‘Jammer’. The two Jammers (one from each team) start each Jam behind the pack, and score a point for every opposing Blocker they lap, each lap. Because they start behind the pack, they must get through the pack, then all the way around the track to be eligible to score points on opposing Blockers.

A group of people participate in roller derby in Denman Prospect, Molonglo Valley, Canberra

Roller derby is a full-contact sport; players often tumble while defending and attacking.

More than100 Canberrans are members of the Canberra Roller Derby League and play each week at venues across Canberra. Training is held in Denman Prospect.

Samantha Doran, aka Geralt (each player has a roller derby name) is a chronic pain sufferer and initially worried about the toll the sport would take on her body.

“But so far so good,” they say.

“It’s been unbelievably good for my mental health which in turn helps me manage my physical health.”

A group of people participate in roller derby in Denman Prospect, Molonglo Valley, Canberra

While Samantha excels in jamming, former lawyer turned physiotherapy student Sarah Avery is an intimidating blocker. Sarah, aka Sunset Claws, joined the roller derby league mostly because, “I didn’t think I could do it.”

“I saw it as something I would never be able to do, and so naturally that spurred me on,” they say.

“It didn’t come easy. It took me a long time to become match fit. I had to go through our beginner programs a number of times before I got there.

“Persistence really pays off – if you’re determined and you spend enough time on skates, even if you’re very uncoordinated like me, you can get there. It’s really fun.”

A person wearing a helmet looks forward as they compete in roller derby in Denman Prospect, Molonglo Valley, Canberra.

Sarah Avery aka Sunset Claws.

When you join the Canberra Roller Derby League you join an “incredible family” Sarah says.

“It’s absolutely a sport for everyone, you don’t need to have a certain body type or anything like that,” they say.

“You don’t need to be athletic or to have played team sports before. Our league is very supportive and will take the time to help you get your skills up.”

Canberra Roller Derby League would love to see Denman Prospect residents – and any other Canberran, really – learn how to roller skate.

“Some people put on skates at their first session, some don’t,” Samantha says.

“Even if you’re unsure, we are here every step of the way for you and you’ll make amazing friends through the whole process.

“Just come and have a roll and have a great time.”

If you’re keen to join Canberra Roller Derby League visit https://www.crdl.com.au/freshies