As the team of firsts for leagues in Aotearoa, Pirate City’s desire to make it to WFTDA tournaments helped them overcome various obstacles due to their location. Pirate City was established in 2006, and formed its all-star team—the All Scars—in 2009. This weekend in Pittsburgh, this team from Auckland finally gets their chance at a bracket in WFTDA postseason.
Pirate City’s All Scars played in New Zealand’s first interleague game (in 2009, against Richter City Roller Derby, now ranked WFTDA #236), and became the country’s first WFTDA Apprentice league, and first ranked team. After Beach Brawl in 2015, they entered the rankings list at #87, and from there they have been building towards a spot at WFTDA Playoffs. All Scar Captains Cutty and Karnage spoke to us about how that drive has always been there, they have just had to adapt their goals as they went along. “We had a lot to learn along the way, and every tournament we’ve had to adjust and adapt our strategies and focuses.”
Their progress since their first sanctioned games in 2014 has come with some ups and downs, but the ups came from three trips to the United States in three years. As mentioned, they went to Beach Brawl in 2015 and came back with two wins and one loss in sanctioned play. That put them in the mix, but then they drifted down a bit to start 2016 at #99.
After continuing a slight fall, they went to ECDX in June of last year and bounced back up to #87 by September. This year, they were back to #97 in January but begun a climb that resulted in +32 bump in April after their three wins at K-Town Shakedown. Sticking around in the States, they headed to the West coast and picked up three more wins and one loss at the Big O. That put them right below the D2 cutoff at #53, but by June 30th they were in the tournament bubble at #51.
Within their league, Pirate City has 70 active members that include skating and non-skating officials. They have an A and B team that travel as well as three home teams, and they just recently started a junior league called the Scallywags.
However, in a country of 4.7 million that has about 40 leagues, resources are spread thin and leagues struggle to maintain numbers. Being isolated means that the motivation to improve can be hard to keep up. “We had to become each other’s biggest competition and each other’s biggest motivation. It’s easy to stay static without external pressure. As a team, we choose to put ourselves out there to get better, even if it means flying 13,900 km!”
Thinking about the roller derby community in their corner of the world, Pirate City’s travels to the United States didn’t solely benefit them, they also wanted to bring their successes back to New Zealand to spread the ranking love. “It was part of our aim as a team to be able to bring our USA experiences and ranking back to New Zealand derby, so they don’t have to make the travel sacrifices that we did.”
They have also had coaches travel to them such as Sarah Hipel, Dual Hitizen, and Frightmare, as well as Mick Swagger coaching local and National teams. Cutty and Karnage say that the outside input has been greatly appreciated and invaluable for New Zealand roller derby. Now New Zealand has five WFTDA member leagues and one Apprentice league, with their newest member, Whakatane, taking on Pirate City in a Strength Factor Challenge Game at the end of July.
Spending weeks in the States for two different tournaments was a way for Pirate City to learn from each game and adjust for the next time they took the track. The trip itself also took a lot of planning, fundraising, logistics, and training which helped bring the team together on multiple levels. The All Scar Captains say that traveling to the States is a huge time and money commitment, and each time not everyone is able to go. “That has never stopped the skaters who weren’t attending from showing up to every training, giving their all on the track, cheering for us from home, and supporting the fundraising attempts of the team.”
Even some of Pirate City’s losses have helped them see their growth over the past few seasons. In 2015 they took losses to Emerald City (208-75) and Sydney (232-70) and this year they took two big wins against them instead. Pittsburgh will be their fourth trip to the U.S., and the second one this season, meaning they will feel the absence of some skaters who can’t attend. “That being said, if you ever think you’ve seen all that Pirate City has to offer, remember we’ve got depth to our team that hasn’t been on show yet.”
While Pirate City has been focusing on correcting some of the weaknesses that their spring trip revealed, Cutty and Karnage say that their mental preparation has been vital to their training. “Really it’s been two months of working as a unit and reminding each other that we have everything we need for success within our team on the bench, but also that our squad, league, and local community have our backs.” Financially they have had fundraisers throughout the year and recently have been seen chugging milk and squatting with dogs as they have reached certain goals. Donate to them here.
As the #10 seed, Pirate City will take on the #7 seed Boston this Friday on track two at 4:30pm (next day at 8:30am NZST). Cutty and Karnage are excited about the influx of teams from around the world making it to Playoffs and encourage people to remember the extra factors it takes for them to get there and to support them on the track. ” There’s nothing like having someone cheering for you when you’ve come across the world to play the sport we all love.”
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