For my second go at announcing derby, I travelled to Moncton to shill both games of a double-header. That evening I worked under the wing of four announcers, one of whom was LaManna Cornuda. He mentioned at one point that his wife was in the current game. I asked, “Which one is she?” Then Liz Nail’er cleanly laid out an opposing blocker right in front of us. “That one,” the happy husband replied.
As an original member of the MRR league, a former team captain, a competitor at the national tournament, and a wonderful illustration of the term “derby community,” I wanted to highlight Moncton’s #12XU, Liz Nail’er.
Pepe LePunch: How did you get into roller derby?
Liz Nail’er: My best friend had been trying to convince me to start a league with her. I researched it and it was far too daunting a task for me to undertake with two small children. They were four and seven at the time I think. [Daughter] Sophie was in therapy for 20-plus hours a week. When we heard Carole [Burn’N RubHer] was starting one we jumped at it. I have been all in ever since.
PLP: What’s your athletic background?
LN: I have none really. I was a majorette for years. Is that a sport? I was a baton twirling fool. When it came to team sports I was that fat kid who gets picked last for teams in gym class. I rode the bench on the soccer team for a couple of years.
PLP: Whenever I see letters added to a jersey number, I’m always curious. What’s your “12XU” mean?
PLP: So, it’s “one-two,” not “twelve.”
LN: All numbers have to be called like that. “111” should be called “one-one-one.” Still, refs call me “twelve.” If letters are the same size as the numbers, they are part of your number; if they are smaller, they are not.
PLP: Tell me a little about your Daughters of Anarchy team.
LN: We joke that we are Team Fertility. Over the last three years we have had, I think, five “Babies of Anarchy.” We are expecting two more at the moment. Needless to say, we have a lot of turnover; we constantly seem to be trying to find our footing. We had to cancel our game scheduled for last night because we currently have seven contact-cleared members on skates.
PLP: You were DoA’s captain last year. During a bout, what’s a derby captain’s role?
LN: During a game you are a liaison between your team and the ref team. You call for timeouts and official reviews. If your team has issues with the way things are being called, you get to address them along with the alternate captain. Calling timeouts gets strategic in close games. It is best to have someone on the bench with the A [alternate captain]; it is easier to see everything from the bench.
PLP: Outside of a bout, what else does the captain do?
LN: In MRR, the captains are part of the training committee. They plan and run practices along with the coaches, decide who will play each game, who to put together on lines, things like that.
PLP: I’ve witnessed the commitment you inspire from others: your husband, your brother Adrian, players from all teams. What characteristics do people enjoy about you?
LN: That’s hard to answer. I am pretty straightforward, sometimes to a fault. People either love that or hate it. I am very loyal. I stick up for what I think is right. I have blind enthusiasm for new things. And I am pretty fun. If you ask those people they might say something different, though.
PLP: How’d you come to settle in Moncton with your American husband and derby announcer LaManna Cornuda?
LN: In 2003, we were newlyweds, living in Vancouver with a new baby. We were having a hard time with Brian’s landed immigrant paperwork. We were broke. All of my family is in the Maritimes, and Brian’s is in New Jersey. When someone offered him a (not entirely above the table) job here, we decided to move. This way Gabe & Sophia get know some grandparents and extended family. Brian’s family are much closer, too.
PLP: I’ve seen you at every bout I’ve been to. You, your husband and often your children travel to games outside of Moncton, sometimes just to watch. In a given week, how much of your time goes into derby planning, practicing and playing?
LN: It really depends on the week. 20-plus, easily. The derby girl motto is: “I can’t. I have derby.” Between two teams [Daughters of Anarchy and Lumbersmacks], the board of directors, events committee, fundraisers, emails… It is something I am trying to cut back on, honestly. I have been VP since almost the start and I don’t plan on running again in October. I think we need a bit more of a life/derby balance at Casa LaManna.
PLP: You’re also part of the league’s travel team, the Lumbersmacks, which has really been the dominant team in Atlantic Canada since the New Brunswick leagues started up in 2010. What are you doing that makes you so successful?
LN: I don’t really know. We’ve had a lot of outside guidance from the start. Dr. Johnny Capote [Canuck Derby TV], Georgia W. Tush [of Montreal’s New Skids on the Block and owner of Neon Skates] and Lime have all been instrumental in helping us find our way from the start. We work hard. Burn’N, the ‘Smacks captain and league founder, is really a driving force, too. She is always striving for the next thing and that is inspiring. We go to training camps when we can. We’ve hosted training camps. We watch derby. We try to bring stuff in from all over and see what works for us. We don’t want to lose our spot on top, so all the other teams in the Atlantic region really help motivate us; they are all working hard and it shows. It’s getting harder to be the dominant team, that’s for sure.
PLP: Can you describe how your team practices? I hear Moncton even has “rules nights.”
LN: We do have rules nights. They are more frequent after rule changes. Lots of leagues do them; we are not breaking new ground here. We change things up often. Last season we had separate team practices but this year we do all the league together, followed by Lumbersmacks. We have scrimmage 101 for newer skaters on Sundays. Practice typically lasts about three hours. What we work on is always changing. Evolve or die.
PLP: I assume a lot of people feel roller derby is a chance for women to get together and have a good time. But are these Atlantic Canadian leagues aiming for fun or competition?
LN: That is different for each player. I am in it for fun, but I am not a very competitive person. Also, I am pretty old in the derby world. I have teammates who are the exact opposite of me. I think in our region right now there are some growing pains. If you want to be on a travel team, just showing up at practice is no longer enough. You have to work out, eat right, be an actual athlete. Derby everywhere is struggling to be accepted as a sport so it’s not as much for the misfits and the punks anymore. It is much more for the straight-up athletes, and that’s not how it was three years ago.
PLP: What is your favorite derby memory?
LN: A bunch of us went to the first Roller Derby World Cup [Toronto, December 2011]. It was an amazing experience. Watching the best in the world play, I felt like I got better just watching. The derby love was palpable.
Also, the Lumbersmacks got to play The New Skids this winter. I really look up to each one of them as skaters, and their league as a whole. So, to play them and actually score 100 points was awesome, super fun.
PLP: Okay, to end off, here’s my “5 in 25.”
• 5 in 25 •
Questions? 5. Answers ≤ 25 words.
PLP: (#1) If someone were looking for a vacation destination, where would you recommend?
LZ: Brian [husband] and I went to the ice hotel [Hôtel de Glace] in Quebec. It was beautiful, like being in a fairy tale. I highly recommend it.
PLP: (#2) If someone came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare?
LZ: If my guests are vegetarian, I make a mean chana masala. If not, my pulled pork is divine.
PLP: (#3) What is your plan for a fantastic afternoon or evening?
LZ: Good friends, good food, good drinks and good conversation. I am an extrovert so I live for that stuff.
PLP: (#4) What’s a favourite song or album?
LZ: I really love Exile on Main Street by the Rolling Stones. Late night party or Sunday drive, it works for everything.
PLP: (#5) Do you have a motto?
LZ: “Why not?” It goes well with blind enthusiasm.
PLP: Thanks, Liz. I enjoyed your straightforward answers, just as you promised. See you soon for some pulled pork and chana masala!