Brighton v Leeds bout report

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Hi. My name’s Brian and I’m a roller derby penalty box. People sometimes don’t appreciate how much of an important role I can play in the outcome of bouts I’m involved in. That’s why people rarely ask for my view on a game. How many times have you seen a vlogger or announcer interviewing the penalty box (the box itself, that is, not people in it) during or after a derby bout? Never, I bet. It’s not like that in other sports, of course. Karen, a tennis net I used to go out with, is barely off the telly in Wimbledon fortnight, arguing with John McEnroe in the studio on the majority of highlights shows. And don’t get me started about Julian Johnson, that football goalmouth who thinks he’s the bee’s knees ever since the Mail on Sunday gave him a weekly column, gadnammit.

So I’m sure you can understand how delighted I was when unofficial Brighton Rockers fans’ group BRATS asked me to cover Pump Up The Jam, the Sussex league’s hip hop themed home bout against the Leeds Roller Dolls Rebel Roses. Of course, it’s going to be tricky. I don’t want any of the players to know I’m covering the bout, so I’ll have to quickly hide my notes, blu-tacking them to the back of one of my chairs, when someone comes skating over to serve out their minute. Anyway, here’s my report. I hope you like it, and I hope that if you run a roller derby blog or magazine of your own you’ll give someone like myself, Salim (a pivot line in Scotland) or Camille (a Belgian turn one apex) a chance to write for you in future.

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I’m bored. I really didn’t expect to be this bored. Thing is, it’s been four jams now and no-one’s come to visit me. I have these six seats here, all dusted down and ready, and none of the players – from either team – have dropped by yet. Yeah, I’ve got a trio of NSOs sitting behind, but to be honest they’re not the liveliest of company. So darned serious most of the time. Plus having them back there makes me a bit nervous, like they’re going to look over my shoulder (rhetorically speaking of course, us penalty boxes don’t have shoulders, that would be ridiculous) when I’m scrawling notes for the bout report. These opening jams have all been pretty short to be honest, a zero-zero opener followed by a trio of single pass 3 or 4-pointers. Leeds 6-3 up in a very closely matched start. Oh yay! A visitor!

Bruise ‘Em Banshee in the Leeds star takes a seat. I like it when the jammers come to visit, especially when they both arrive in quick succession, swapping over in the box for a few seconds chair time each. It gives a real sense of excitement to things, knowing that I – the penalty box – am the centre of attention at such times. No sign of a Brighton jammer taking a pew alongside Banshee any time soon, though. A battling pass through the burly Yorkshire pack and Racey Slamhard calls it. Kapow next up in the star for Brighton; one of the nippiest jammers in their rotation, toughening up with every bout, but finding it heavy going against a solid Leeds defence. The seventh jam is a biggie for Brighton as another lady in red (Livid Doll) occupies one of my starred seats and Rose Bleed power jams some daylight between the sides, 28-6. Hairy Fairy lines up to jam next. Brighton using a large rotation here, but of the six to take the star across the opening dozen jams, not one has the decency to pop by and visit me. Since when did Brighton turn so penalty shy? I’m confused.

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For the remainder of the first period, Leeds rarely have their jammer on track for both the start and end of any jam. A rousing series of jumping passes from Bash in the tenth has given Brighton a somewhat surprising 57-7 cushion. Perceived wisdom going into this bout was that Leeds would take the win by anywhere from a dozen to 60 points, but it doesn’t look to be panning out that way at present. The lack of penalties for the Sussex side is surely a big factor in that. Remarkably, unless I missed one while I was scrawling my notes or surreptitiously tying my NSOs’ shoelaces together, it’s not until Jam 13 that someone from Brighton drops by. Whilst the fact it took so long to happen is a surprise, the identity of the miscreant isn’t. Shambolic usually spends half the bout in my chairs, or so it sometimes seems. She’s not wearing the star this time so the effect on Brighton’s points tally won’t be so great. In fact, her star-clad outings will be kept to a bare minimum today. A couple of my chairs get chatting to some of the home bench chairs at half time. They reckon Sham was carrying a slight knock going into the bout, hence limited star time, but any knock doesn’t prevent her from popping up all over the track as a commanding pivot and blocker.

Out on track, Chariot Sophia runs good interference on the Leeds defence as Rose chalks up another hefty haul of points. Super tough blocker Charisse Chapman gets a rare turn in the star for the Yorkshire outfit, with the likes of Livid Doll, Magic 8-Brawl, Feral Fairy, Banshee and a very pacy R.I.Punzel heading up the Leeds rotation. Bash puts up a towering last line of defence performance in many of these jams, as the frustration of getting constantly felled and recycled translates into various Rebel Roses paying me a visit. Leeds have finally starting getting lead status more regularly, but sprightly Rockers starheads like Racey and Sophia are catching them and forcing the call before they can do much damage. Brighton starting to pick up a few more penalties now, and a visit from Bash plays part in a mini-revival as the last few first period jams see the Rebel Roses pull it back from a 93-19 deficit to 100-33.

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I’m hoping to be busier in the second half, and a cutting call against Sham in Jam 2 sees my first star pantied guest from Brighton. Lead jammer call offs in quick succession see her sit out most of the next three jams as Leeds pull it back to 104-50. Feistier play from the Yorkshirewomen now – they’re chipping away at Brighton’s differential, but will there be enough time to overturn the first period deficit? Hairy Fairy drops by to say hi in Jam 6, a star atop her helmet, and Brighton are now suffering from the Rebel Roses’ first half affliction of rarely starting and finishing a jam with their jammer on track. She’s with me again after a few seconds back in action as a very physical Leeds wall start drawing Brighton players towards more penalty risky play. Livid Doll and Fuzzin’ Boots are proving particularly tricky to get past. Business is much better for me this half, and the majority of it’s coming from the Sussex league now. 107-69. 107-78. Nearly twenty minutes left on the clock and Leeds know the way those numbers are stacking up, they have a good chance of turning this result around.

Jam 9 and my chairs are empty. Boo, I want the company. Sophia single pass and call. Track cut brings Kapow my way, but Bash is sending R.I.Punzel to the floor again and again as Brighton repeatedly recycle her like the city’s Green-led council are watching. Leeds power jam comes to nothing, team timeout Rockers, Mother Trucker holding Banshee back solidly and legally as Kapow takes lead, Brighton have taken ten points in the past three jams, Leeds none. Gap widening but Sophia’s in one of my star seats now and the Rebel Roses have split the pack, Emma the Condemner held back as Leeds take control, Banshee juking them into triple figures. Jam 14 and I’m all empty again. Sad face. Lead to R.I.P. but Bash is suddenly on her shoulder, forcing the call. Feral making more appearances in the star for Leeds now, a lot of very physical Team England on Team England action between her and Bash, gap down to 121-107. Mass Janeycide calls Brighton’s last team timeout. Announcer El Toupée struggles to hide his Leeds bias as his bassy tones reverberate around the hall. Bash and Feral in the star, pivot line start, Sham expertly edging Feral off track as Bash chalks up a couple of passes. That was an important jam, the clock ticking down on the Rebel Roses’ chances now.

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Leeds pack on the pivot line, Brighton on the jammer line, Sophia takes lead, could put some distance on the scoreline, but a few seconds later she’s sat in one of my seats. Banshee’s being well hustled and bustled by the Rockers pack, but’s Racey off now – ouch! Coming in too fast, she crashes right into me, sending a couple of my chairs flying. Grrr. Last time something like that happened to me, the perpetrator (London Rockin’ Roller Jack Attack) got expelled from the game, but this time the authorities let it pass. Jam ends with Brighton leading 142-127, about five minutes left, this one could be going to the wire. Rose off next jam, the chance Leeds were looking for, but R.I.P. gets punted too, the duo swapping over in my star seats as Brighton edge it up. 151-130. Jam 21 and I’m empty again. It might be quiet here, but it’s all happening out on track. Sophia v Banshee, 160-134, team timeout Leeds with scant seconds left on the clock, Sophia back in to jam again. Feral takes lead for Leeds, but the Rockers pack are double tough and Sophia is flying around. Feral can’t call it or the game will end, has to hope and pray the Brighton jammer pays me a visit and she can take advantage of the power jam, but it’s not happening. Final whistle: Brighton Rockers 176 – Leeds Roller Dolls 142.

As the players take their handslaps from the crowd, and Rockers staff start removing the stuff they’ve decorated me with – a brightly coloured illustration of a boom box, speech bubbles and all – I get a quick moment to reflect on the bout before people fold up my chairs and pack me away until November 23rd. Back in April, the Rockers were soundly beaten in Glasgow at a bout my mate Salim was pivot line in. He told me it was a bit of a mauling, something that must have come as a shock to a side that had only ever lost one bout at that stage in their history. (That loss was a 3-point closed door reversal by London Brawl Saints, at the time the best performance any UK league had managed against the Londoners, thus felt like a victory anyway.)

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Maybe it took them a few months to come to terms with the aftermath of Glasgow, get their morale back, develop new tactics, blood some rookies, etc; but today, with an under-strength squad­ (minus honeymooners and the recently injured) the Rockers were 93-19 up after 16 jams against the higher ranked A-team of a full WFTDA member league who have been in existence for twice as long as Brighton. Just as impressively, when Leeds dug in and fought back so well and so hard – when the Rebel Roses started turning the tide and seemed to have the momentum behind them – Brighton held firm, held strong, held on. Next up for the Sussex warriors is a tough away trip to face Auld Reekie, the UK’s second best league, followed by the showdown with Central City many expected to see at May’s UKRDA Southern Tournament. Two bouts that seem less intimidating a proposition than they might have done before today. Because if the Rockers can continue to play as solidly and as penalty light, with all the resilience, teamwork and tactical nous they displayed today, then there’s not a team in Europe (well, except Brawling, obvs) that they can’t beat. But what do I know? I’m just a penalty box called Brian.

[Photos by John Hesse]

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Turn Left Issue 2 now online

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Did you miss out on a hard copy of issue two of our fanzine ‘Turn Left’ given out at yesterday’s Brighton Rockers v Leeds Roller Dolls bout? Not to worry, here’s the next best thing: an online viewable (and downloadable if you join Issuu) version. Just click the image above or visit http://issuu.com/turnleftmag/docs/turnleft_issue2. And if that’s not enough, you’ll also find further images from Bash and Racey’s fashion shoot (for Dig for Victory’s ad in the mag) right here: http://www.roachphotography.co.uk/portfolio/#3545. Yay!

Brighton v Leeds bout preview

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This weekend sees the mighty Rockers back on home turf for the first time in more than six months. They take on Leeds Roller Dolls’ A-team Rebel Roses on Saturday (21st September) at the Dolphin Leisure Centre, a few minutes walk from Haywards Heath station. Doors are at 2.30pm with first whistle at 3pm, and you’ll find links to the FB event and tickets page at the end of this preview – online tickets are just £10 (free to under 12s) and will likely be taken off sale at some point on Friday, so get in there quick if you haven’t already.

THE RANKINGS
We’ve been looking forward to this bout since it first popped up on LRD’s website calendar a few months ago, as we’re expecting it to be a bit EPIC. There are various ranking sites that rate different derby leagues based on complicated algorithms, but the one we’ve always found the most reliable (and the one the UK Roller Derby Association itself is involved with) is that at flattrackstats.com. They currently rank Leeds as the 7th best league in the UK and Brighton 10th. Given Brighton’s home advantage, that suggests this should be a close one.

Rival rankings site derbydataeurope has more disparity. Although there’s a similar placing differential – Leeds 6th and Brighton 9th – their system gives the Yorkshire league far more rankings points than the Sussex side (426 v 303) compared to the wafer-thin margin on flattrackstats (681 v 661). Prediction wise, both sites favour Leeds. FTS give them a 59% chance of taking the win (so 41% Brighton for those that can’t do the maths!) and, whilst not predicting a specific score, they expect Leeds to score 11 points for every 10 Brighton make, which would equate to a typical derby scoreline of say 200-182. DDE call it 200-142 to Leeds, but both these predictions are well within the huge margin of error such formula-based guesswork entails, so the actual result could – and likely will – differ quite considerably. (The third rankings site, euroderby.org, is currently offline for maintenance incidentally.)

THE QUOTES
You’ll find interviews with two Brighton skaters (Racey Slamhard, Shambolic) alongside bench duo Mass Janeycide and Maude Fondeo and ref LaserHammer, as well as Leeds skaters Bruise ‘Em Banshee and R.I.Punzel, in our fanzine ‘Turn Left’ available to pick up at the bout. Here are snippets from some of those interviews by way of a bout preview. Knowing that teams taking part rarely offer much more than “we’ll give it our best shot” by way of a prediction, we also got in touch with the five derby leagues who have played both Brighton and Leeds to gauge their thoughts on this match-up. (Not everyone has yet replied, and we’ll be adding any further responses to this piece as and when they arrive.)

“We have our own tactics and game play, but this obviously has to change for various opponents. We always want to work to our strength and play our game, but it’s important to understand the other team’s way of playing too. We may watch other teams, but it’s all done casually and we like to talk about other teams even if we are not playing them. We’re not looking to ‘catch them out’. Leeds are a great team and we are really looking forward to hosting them. As for tricks, we hope to dazzle them with mine and Janeycide’s infamous boutfits. They won’t know what’s hit them.”
MAUDE FONDEO, BRIGHTON ROCKERS

“We have some awesome double threats in LRD, so you might see few of us jamming and making an impact in the pack. Let us know who was your favourite. We won’t be giving away our tactics pre-game though! We like to enter every bout focused on playing our game and working the game to our advantage.  We won’t be predicting scores, but you can be certain we will be fighting for points to the last whistle whatever the scoreline.”
BRUISE ‘EM BANSHEE, LEEDS ROLLER DOLLS

“Having played against both Brighton and Leeds I can say that they are both formidable opponents. Particular players to watch out for include double threat Charisse Chapman from the Rebel Roses Leeds A-team. Skating since 2009, she is both a skilled jammer and hard hitting blocker. Bruise ’em Banshee from Leeds is another smart player to watch both in the pack and with the star. Of course Leeds will have their work cut out for them coming up against The Mighty Mighty Bash from Brighton Rockers, a real force to reckon with who has also skated for Team England. Rose Bleed is a nippy jammer to keep your eye out for, she is so quick at juking through the pack she makes it look easy. With such talent on both sides it is hard to determine who will come out on top in their upcoming bout, so it is set to be an interesting match up.”
SARAH OATES, LRG BRAWL SAINTS

“Both teams are amazing, the pack work between them will be out standing and they have both been building in strength for a long time. Players to watch are The Mighty Mighty Bash (Brighton) for her bone shaking blocking and CeCee Slammer (Leeds) for her slippery jamming!”
FONDA CHAOS, LONDON ROCKIN’ ROLLERS

“Two teams GO-GO Gent enjoyed bouting against, two teams with fierce blockers (we all remember The Mighty Mighty Bash) and amazing jammers and unbeatable team spirit. Giving a prediction is hard, so let the best one win! GO-GO ladies!”
GENT GO-GO ROLLER GIRLS

THE VENUE
For those yet to experience the delights of the Dolphin Haywards Heath, first be careful which map you use to find the place. A medical centre and pub (whose name has now changed) also appear as The Dolphin on many online maps. The leisure centre is located on Pasture Hill Road, roughly five minutes walk from the train station (10-20 mins journey time from Brighton, 40-50 mins from Central London). Turn left and follow the roller derby arrows stuck to lampposts. The pub opposite the station (the Burrell Arms) isn’t too bad for a station sports pub if you have time to kill. The leisure centre itself is blessed with two bars; a cafe style place also doing bites to eat in the main foyer (with limited outdoor seating for cigarette types) and a small bottle and can bar a few corridor turns past the sports hall.

There will be the usual selection of derby delights in the hall, and the designated charity for the bout is Tree of Hope. The event’s name PUMP UP THE JAM gives away the theme, so wear your finest 80s/90s style hip hop gear if you’re into dressing up and that. As well as the official bout programme, issue two of our unofficial fan magazine will be available to pick up on the day. The after party is back in central Brighton in the legendary Rockers-favoured Marwood coffee shop. Coffee shop? Don’t panic – it has an alcohol licence, as well as a gnarly ‘secret garden’.

THE EVENT
FB PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/events/605594646138851/
BUY TICKETS: http://brightonrockers.com/tickets/
VENUE: http://www.freedom-leisure.co.uk/centres.asp?section=237
CHARITY: http://www.treeofhope.org.uk/

COMPETITORS
BRIGHTON: http://brightonrockers.com/
LEEDS: http://leedsrollerdolls.com/

THANKS FOR QUOTES
LRG BRAWL SAINTS: http://www.londonrollergirls.com/
GENT GO-GO: http://www.gogogent.be/GGGRG/