Tied game. 37 seconds left. Final jam. Kozmic Bruise takes lead for Paris Rollergirls. Jack Attack maybe six feet behind, on her tail. Kozmic hits the London Rockin’ Rollers pack on the outside of turn four and calls it. Looks like two points for Paris, maybe three. Didn’t look like Jack caught anyone when the PRG jammer called it, but by the fourth whistle who knows? Could barely hear it above all the stamping feet of the ever rowdy London fans. We are high up on the bleachers at the opposite corner of the hall from the action, and our heads have been shredded by something like a dozen lead changes in the last 15 minutes. What are the refs going to give? 2-0 to LRR for the jam. 137-135. Unofficial final. Screaming home fans rushing down to trackside, squashing up sardine-like for the victory laps and slaps.
Paris have challenged the score for the final jam, though. Official time out. A long one. Nearly ten minutes. Crowd ushered back outside the ref lane. The two teams filling the time with a dance-off, cartwheels on skates and such like. Decision made. Two points each. Tied game still. 137-137. Overtime jam. Referees struggling to hold back the crowd, keep the ref lane clear. Now every seat is a suicide seat, and no-one can sit at a time like this. Kozmic back in for Paris, well rested after the long ref huddle. Jessica Rammit in the star for London. Full two minutes to play. No lead jammer. Both starheads having to be ultra careful when they pass through the pack – a jammer penalty would kill the game for their side – but then so too are the blockers, can’t give away numerical advantage now. Cleanest derby jam ever, as well as the most intense. Both teams scoring four for four. Kozmic taken down but back up super fast. Another four for four. Jess down and quickly back up. Another four for four. The London jammer has gained an extra burst of energy from somewhere, three maybe four feet ahead of her French opponent, five seconds left on the clock, will she make it past a blocker before the jam timer blows? Not sure anyone’s nerves in the crowd – let alone on track – could survive a further overtime jam. Whistles ring out. 150-149. London. Bedlam.
We’ve been asked at the last two Brighton Rockers after parties whether the bout we’d just come from was the best we’ve ever seen. Both times we’ve had to say no. Not the epic game against Central City in Haywards Heath in November, where the Rockers clawed back a 60-point deficit, then rode a 15-minute wave of lead changes and tied scores, before triumphing in the final minutes? Nope. Then what about the match against Rainy City last month – more of the same, but arguably even more resilient a Rockers resurgence, even more nail-bitten a climax? Nope. Those were definitely the second and third best bouts we’ve been to, but first place goes to… see those paragraphs in italics above.
So, as you can expect, when we heard that Paris were coming to play Brighton, we circled the date – SATURDAY 15TH MARCH, 3PM – with an even thicker marker pen than we usually do when Rockers bouts are announced. We don’t know how laws of probability work, but we’ve come to this conclusion: The league who hosted our second/third most favourite (most awesome, most nail-biting, most battling, most breathtaking) bouts ever are hosts. The league who were the visiting side in our first most favourite (most awesome, most nail-biting, most battling, most breathtaking) bout ever are the visitors. Therefore this match-up is going to be so many levels of amazing that they’re going to have to extend the Richter Scale just to measure the excitement. Jeepers!
Coming up in this preview, we’ll hear from both teams – as well as from others – about the bout, but first let’s see what the nerdy derby stats sites have to say about it…
RANKINGS AND PREDICTIONS
The two ranking websites both expect this match-up to be less of a challenge for Brighton than the recent home bouts against Rainy and Central City. This might come as a surprise, given the strength of the Paris roster. For instance, nine of the twenty who turned out for 7th placed Team France in the 2011 World Cup were from PRG. Even though the current French training squad draws from a far wider selection of teams, there’s still going on for a dozen Paris players in the 40. The league’s variable results and ever changing squad make-ups, together with a diffusion of talent throughout France (Toulouse now usually rank higher than Paris, with the likes of Nantes and Bordeaux not too far behind the capital) has kept PRG’s ranking points lower than their performances would seem to deserve.
Brighton, meanwhile, rank slightly higher amidst UK leagues in the Euro Rankings than they do in the official UKRDA table itself. This is partly due to recent home bouts not qualifying as official sanctioned bouts for the latter, but still providing ranking benefits for the former. (For example, Brighton were ranked above Newcastle and Windsor in Europe, but below them in UKRDA… although Windsor’s heavy defeat at Rainy City at the weekend has seen them drop in the latter this morning, lifting Brighton to ninth.)
Flattrackstats place the Rockers 16th in Europe and Paris 28th, the teams having 661.7 and 637.8 ranking points respectively. Their online predictor gives Brighton 79% chance of the win, compared to 21% for Paris, with the Rockers expected to pick up 17 points for every 12 (not 14 as wrongly stated in Saturday’s fanzine) that PRG score. This would equate to a typical derby result in the region of 187-132 in Brighton’s favour. Over at Derbydataeurope, the Rockers place 15th (361.02 points) and Paris 26th (238.69). This site hasn’t put up their score prediction for Saturday’s game yet, but we’ll add it in here if and when they do.
THOUGHTS ON THE BOUT
We caught up with members of both teams, along with some other folk, for their thoughts ahead of Saturday’s contest. You’ll find further quotes from these people (plus a four page bout preview, star interviews and more) in the next issue of our Turn Left fanzine – pick up your free copy on the door at Haywards Heath on Saturday.
“I don’t like to think about expectations for a game too much. I just go into it with the aim of playing my best, though there is no doubt it will be a tough game. A lot of them are Team France players and very experienced.”
RACEY SLAMHARD, Brighton Rockers captain
“I must confess we do not know any Brighton players. First rendez-vous! I will not predict the result because we have had many surprises before when trying to estimate results. We are just going to play our game, do the best we can, focus and enjoy.”
ROXY BAT GIRL, Paris Rollergirls captain
“Don’t be surprised to see PRG choose to skate short, as they have done each time I’ve seen them play so far. If they’re on hand – and on skates – keep your eyes on Butch Shan, Sally Broyeur, Roxy Bat Girl, Meryl Strip-Her, Crapule and Bully Bunker, to name just a few. In fact, don’t take your eyes off any of PRG. They have a habit of turning a massive loss into a victory, even if the points don’t truly reflect that.”
EL TOUPÉE, Saturday’s bout announcer
“PRG have ten or more French internationals to choose from, so whatever permutation of players makes the trip over it will be a tough visiting side. Brighton seem to have cured their pre-2013 habit of second half dips, and now come out battling stronger in the final period. You can probably gauge the toughness of the contest by how many jammers they field when scores are close. If it drops to just two or three alternating in the Brighton star, it’s extra feisty out there!”
MISTER ADAM, Turn Left editor
“Our game against the Rockers was, to my memory, defined by Brighton’s very strong defensive walls, which called for effective offence on our part to get our jammers through. Paris, on the other hand, liked to keep the packs quick and were forever nipping around the front to speed things up a little to disjoint our walls. The strong slow defence of Brighton versus the fast packs of Paris should be an interesting clash of styles and test of adaptability.”
BOOTS MANUVA, Central City Rollergirls
WHERE AND WHEN
The Brighton Rockers v Paris Rollergirls bout takes place this Saturday 15th March at the Dolphin leisure centre in Haywards Heath. Doors open at 2.30pm, with first whistle at 3pm. The Dolphin is about five minutes walk from the train station – turn left on exiting the station and follow the roller derby signs stuck to things. There’s a bar, a café-bar, vending machines, etc. The sports hall features bleacher seating, vendors and the slipperiest skating surface known to humanity. (“It’s not slippery, it’s just smooth,” insists our skating teacher – pfft.) The after party will take place at the Rockers home pub, the Cornerstone in Brighton, and features the league’s own beer – Downlands Off Your Rocker – which comes in an unfined/vegan incarnation for the first time this weekend.
Whilst some refs, NSOs, photographers and others may have been kidnapped by a thing involving blokes on skates that’s happening in Birmingham this weekend (blokes on skates, what fresh madness is this?) a lively crowd is expected for this long awaited match-up. It’s Brighton’s first ever home game against continental opponents, and you’re advised to snap up tickets online asap. These are only £8 each (two pounds cheaper than previous bouts), £7 for students and free for under 12s. You can also get four for the price of three, so bring along a derby virgin or two and it works it out at only £6 each. See the links below [tickets for May’s bout v Middlesbrough are also now on sale] and be ready to witness all kinds of awesomeness.
[Photos by John Hesse and Jason Ruffell/Roller Derby On Film]
BUY TICKETS: http://www.brightonrockers.com/#!tickets/cttr
FACEBOOK EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/291347387682129/
BRIGHTON ROCKERS: http://www.brightonrockers.com/
PARIS ROLLERGIRLS: http://www.parisrollergirls.com/