After three years at the heart of Wellington's successful Richter City Roller Derby, Merryn McAulay - aka Tuff Bikkies - is on her way to the big leagues.
McAulay, 30, and fellow Wellingtonian Michelle "Perky Nah Nah" Jackson, are part of the 20-strong New Zealand team heading to the Roller Derby World Cup in Toronto.
Thirteen countries are fronting up to contest the cup, which begins with an exhibition match by the US team on December 1.
"It's Team America versus Team America - because they're just so much better than everyone else," McAulay says.
McAulay had been crossing her fingers the Kiwi team would get a chance to go up against the US and on Friday her wish was granted when the pool draw was announced.
New Zealand will meet Scotland and the US in their first two bouts. All teams then play through each round to determine rankings from 1-13.
The New Zealand team members have been training hard, travelling to Hamilton every month for full-team practices.
They also have their own haka. "We're not sure if we'll do it at every bout or just at the opening ceremony," McAulay says.
She is a founding member of Wellington's Richter City Roller Derby league, which has just finished an exciting away season playing other centres, including Auckland and Christchurch.
"We've had three seasons now and I was one of the people that first started in Wellington.
"We saw them starting up in Auckland and thought it looked really cool, but that first game, we had no idea whether anyone would turn up to watch - and then it sold out."
Subsequent matches at the TSB Bank Arena have continued to draw big crowds and the league is now well known in Wellington.
McAulay says her workmates from Alexander Turnbull Library, where she is a librarian, have come along to support her.
Roller derby is not recognised by Sparc as an official sport, so the team is unable to qualify for Sparc funding, or help from other sport funding institutes.
The team has been fundraising for months, holding events and selling merchandise to raise about $100,000 needed to get the members to Canada.
With more roller derby leagues popping up every year, Team New Zealand includes players from Mt Maunganui, Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Wellington and Christchurch.
- The Dominion Post
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