HE’S six foot four, 14 stone, and they call him Stuntman Psyk.
“Basically,” he says after a moment’s thought, “if you don’t like the thought of getting injured, don’t get involved.
“We teach you how to reduce the risk but, at best, you’re going to come away battered and bruised. Someone broke their collar bone on Saturday. It’s a full contact sport. Injuries happen.”
Welcome, reader, to the mad bad world of Sheffield’s first ever – and the UK’s fifth – all-male roller derby team.
They call themselves The Inhuman League and, in front of more than 500 spectators at Ponds Forge on Saturday, the 14-man side played their inaugural game.
“It was against Newcastle’s Tyne and Fear,” says Stuntman, aka 24-year-old Andrew Morley, a film maker of Hackthorn Road, Woodseats. “We lost but it was great to get the first bout under our belt. It was fast and furious.”
Indeed. As sports go, Roller Derby isn’t quite cricket.
We’ll not go into detail about the exact rules – mainly because it’s American and, therefore, your diarist doesn’t really understand them – but the need to know is 10 players on two teams race around an oval track in roller skates while trying to block an opposing player, known as the jammer, overtaking them.
Essentially, there’s a lot of people hitting both each other and the ground at high speeds. Points come into it somewhere or other.
“It sounds bizarre but it’s amazing fun,” says club chairman Mike Smart, derby name Jarvis Blocker. “Once you’ve played, you’re hooked. When my friends see the sort of punishment I take they think I’m insane but I love it.”
Safe to also say, it’s not for girls.
Except, actually, it is. Roller derby was founded as a predominantly female sport in the 1940s.
Indeed, The Inhuman League formed because of the growing male interest in the city’s already established women’s team, Sheffield Steel Roller Girls.
The lasses have been doing it three years and have more than 80 members.
“Why do I enjoy it?” shrugs Nether Edge lass Freyja Gillard, 26, and known as Run Roller Run. “It’s girls, in hotpants, on roller skates, hitting into each other – what’s not to love? I’ve lost two stone since I started. And you can always tell a roller girl because she has awesome thighs.”
It was perhaps such enthusiasm that attracted the boys.
“My sister plays and she knew I was looking for a new hobby so she suggested I train as a referee,” explains Mike again. “I gave it a go and loved it, so at the next recruitment drive for the girls it was suggested we try to form a male team.”
That was last summer and the resulting squad has been developing since.
“We needed to get to a minimum safety standard before we could bout other teams,” says Mike, a 30-year-old software programmer of Artisan View, Heeley. “That means you have to learn to fall safely – small and compact, and so you land on your pads reducing the chance of injury.”
Now, having reached that standard, they are organising more games against the likes of London’s Southern Discomfort and Manchester’s New Wheeled Order. Next up, though, is a closed-doors game against Huddersfield’s Hot Wheels girls team before a trip to Toulouse to take on the town’s Quad Guards in June.
Training sessions at Hillsborough Leisure Centre, 6pm on Sundays. New members welcome. Details at www.theinhumanleague.co.uk