Inline hockey star Jorja Rosser is like a comic book hero with an alter ego. At home and school, the New Plymouth teenager is quiet, shy and studious, with dreams of becoming an astrophysicist. But on a skating rink she turns into a young warrior. When she’s on skates, a hockey stick in hand, Jorja becomes highly competitive and fearless. She’s even undaunted when playing in mixed grades against bigger boys or in tournaments where some female players have been four years older than her.
Her mum, Carol-Moana Rosser, says Jorja isn’t someone to cross in hockey. “On the rink she’s another person.” Jorja quietly agrees. “I don’t do anything against the rules, but I don’t let anybody push me around either.” That determination has led to the 15-year-old defender being named in national teams three years in a row. In 2016, she was in the 14-and-under junior women New Zealand team, which won the club and international divisions at the Amateur Athletic Union Inline Hockey Junior Olympics in Hawaii.
Last year, she was in the same team, which gained second place at the Oceania champs in Hamilton. This year, Jorja went to Italy with the under-18 team, which was sixth at the Federation International Roller Sports world champs for inline hockey. For the European trip, she received a $1500 individual grant from the TSB Community Trust. Now she has dreams of making the Inline Ferns, which is the name for the senior women’s team. Even if she makes the top side, she will still be eligible for the under-18s. Both teams will be competing in the world roller games in Barcelona next year.
While she’s a first-class player now, Jorja’s first time on skates wasn’t so great. Those first hesitant steps were made at a children’s birthday party when she was seven or eight. “I wouldn’t let go of the wall because I was so scared.” Not long after, she had her introduction to inline hockey through a friend. “I went round to her place and she forgot she had training, so I joined in.” Jorja enjoyed it, so kept going back. “It’s just fast and fun. You can’t go anywhere else to get the same excitement and adrenalin. When you are on wheels it makes it way more intense than running around.”
While Jorja enjoys the thrills, she’s also had some spills. She has had concussion, broken ribs, a torn shoulder ligament, groin strain, a broken front tooth and has broken both arms, but all have been fixed or healed. On top of that, the teen also gets asthma. While the cold weather can be a struggle for her, she keeps on top of the condition that affects airways and breathing.
The sport keeps the Sacred Heart Girls’ College Year 11 student focused and fit. When named in a national rep side, players attend three training camps and are given individual fitness programmes. Each week, she completes separate sessions aimed at agility, cardio and strength, plus she has regular inline hockey training four times a week with the New Plymouth Ravens.
Playing the sport has also helped her open up. “I don’t talk that much, but when you are with a team you have to.” Carol-Moana says that because the New Plymouth team has to travel away to play, then spend all day at the rink, the competitors and parents meet people and make friends. “They are like your inline hockey family.” Even Jorja’s brother Dakota, aged 13, has been to Hawaii with the Kiwi development team and represented New Zealand in the under-12s.
Not only does Jorja play, she also coaches and refs. She has her level one referee’s certificate, so gets in the rink, whistle at the ready. “It’s cool to watch the game instead of just playing it and it’s a better view than in the stands.” Sharing her knowledge with younger players is another interest and she has just been appointed the under-10s regional coach. As well as playing for the NP Ravens, Jorja herself is a regional rep. She’s in the under-16 mixed team and the under-14 junior women’s side.
Jorja recommends having a go at inline hockey. “It will seem impossible at first, but once you get used to it, you will never stop playing.”