'A mighty force': Mad Mel Arena on Team Australia and the world cup

Cross-posted from my article on RDAU: MELBOURNE, Australia - The squad for Team Australia has been selected, one year in advance of the Blood & Thunder World Cup. Now the hard work begins!

RDAU's The Cleaner caught up with popular skater Mad Mel Arena of VRDL for her thoughts on playing for Australia and the upcoming event in general. Of primary interest was how this process for selecting and developing the squad's 27 players began: the try-outs.

'It started by detailed written application, and had to include a derby reference', she said. 'From the 'get go', the selection panel made it clear that there was (and is/will be) a lot involved in being a part of the Team (if successful).

'From there, a selection of skaters were invited to the practical/physical tryouts [which were] held in Canberra and Brisbane.' Mad Mel attended the latter try-outs up in the sunshine state, where there were 'approximately 23 of the top derby girls from around the country [participating]'.

Given the symbolic and important potential for a skater to play for the nation, no doubt the try-outs were a big deal. Mel admitted: 'I'm sure a lot of people probably went in a bit nervous, but by the end of the day (as exhausting and physically taxing as the try-outs were!) we were all just stoked to be playing and skating with each other. It was a great, positive experience and a bonus to hang out with some rad derby people. Then it was the waiting game!'

Australia is a big place, and even in 2013 there are still relatively few interstate matches between the increasing number of leagues popping up around the country. Where those leagues do meet, they do so as opponents. Asked whether this could present challenges for the team, whereby many players aren't familiar with skating on the same side, the Victorian jammer replied: 'Yes and no. It might be challenging at first, but the more we get to train with each other the more we will get to know the way each player skates' each other's nuances'.

Which raised an interesting thought: how exactly will the team, spread all over the country, train as a group?

'I've been led to believe that we'll be doing a lot of travelling throughout the year to share the load between the team", she explained. "How often I'm not too sure about just yet, but I envisage it'll be stacked as we get towards the latter end of the year!'

It might present its challenges but Mel certainly seems to be enthusiastic when reflecting about what's in store: 'Travelling around the country getting to play with some of the best derby skaters around - I'm feeling pretty lucky and excited right now!

'I've no doubt we'll be just fine - we'll learn so much from each other over the next 12 months and (with the help of our awesome 'benchies') develop a team strategy and the necessary skills to come together and kick some derby butt!'

Victoria's Flamin' Galah, who also coaches the VRDL All-Stars and plays for the mens Victorian Vanguard team, is Bench Coach for Team Australia. Slawta Dawta from Sun State Roller Girls, who have a strong contingent in the squad, is Bench Manager. Cherry Axe-Wound rounds out the group as Tour Manager, hailing from Canberra Roller Derby League.

In the first world cup, Australia played a very solid tournament, but ultimately fell short against Team USA (who went on to take the trophy). Team England then overcame the Aussies, taking out third place. It is thus no surprise that these are the two teams Mel is most looking forward to competing against in 2014:

'I think they will be our biggest challenges' and I love a good challenge!'

Yet, so much has happened in the last two to three years for Australian roller derby. Three of the represented Aussie leagues in the squad are now WFTDA apprentices and two are already full members. It's fair to say that the competitive level of Australia's best skaters is considerably higher than what the other international leagues saw last time around. The cheeky question couldn't be resisted: does Team USA really stand a chance?

'Nup - no chance against the mighty force of Team Oz!', she laughed.

'Start practising your cheers, Australia - we mean business! Aussie Aussie Aussie!'

Stay in touch for more updates from RDAU as the preparations roll on for Team Australia. Like the team's Facebook page to find out how and when you can support the country's best skaters on their journey to Dallas in December, 2014.

Photos by Roaringstorm Photography and Beeetle