British Champs UKRDA National South Day Two REPORT: Rockers v Sirens, LRR v Bristol

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There is a chance (albeit slim) that the Brighton Rockers could win this, their first British Championships game, 300-0. Considering that their much stronger than predicted opponents, Southend’s feisty Seaside Sirens, took a 98-68 lead into half time, this might seem mathematically impossible, but that’s not necessarily the case. Are the Rockers themselves aware of this potential outcome? We can’t help but notice several Brighton players, led by captain Swann, spending a few minutes in the half time break studying the penalty tracker boards. Is it their own accumulated trips to the naughty seats they’re looking at? Or Southend’s?
    If it’s the latter this would echo our own scrawled summary of the first period: “Sirens not playing clean enough for a team that has only rostered ten players.” That’s not to say the Essex side are playing a particularly penalty heavy game, just that these offences become much more of an issue when playing short. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, everyone on the roster plays an equal number of jams and picks up an equal number of penalties. For a team that has a squad of ten rather than fourteen players, average trips to the penalty box for each player go up by 40%. That means the chances of fouling out (for seven penalties) are 40% higher too.
    As it happens the Brighton Rockers are skating short today also, although their roster of twelve only equates to 16.66% above average penalty acquisition. The other important thing to note about a roster of ten, of course, is that this is only enough for two alternating line-ups. The first foul out means skaters will have to start regularly playing consecutive jams. This in turn increases the chances of them picking up more penalties, not just due to the extra track time but also increased tiredness. The net effect – as we’ve often seen when teams skate short – is ‘foul out dominoes’ as each consecutive departure increases the chance of another. So when, halfway through the second period, the Sirens’ imposing captain (and most effective blocker) Frocky Balboa takes the “walk of shame” into the crowd, we’re not expecting this to be Southend’s only foul out of the day…

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Sure enough, a few jams later, Tiny Temper joins her in the bleachers – well, actually, in the queue for the bar, but you know what we mean. A couple of jams further down the line and two more Sirens, Force Ten Gail and Bazooka Salt, foul out within seconds of each other. Like we said: dominoes. The six remaining Southend players will now be accumulating (even ignoring extra tiredness, etc) penalties at more than 2.3 times the rate of a squad of fourteen player. It will only take one more foul out from the Sirens to trigger WFTDA rule 8.2.7: “The Head Ref may declare a forfeit if a team has five or less players still eligible to participate in the game.”
    And what’s the British Champs tournament policy on a team forfeiting? As we understand it, the game is awarded to the opponents by a scoreline of 300-0, or if said opponent is already leading by more than 300, by that differential to nil. So, yes, it *is* technically possible that Brighton could win this game 300-0, even though the Southend league now have around 170 on the scoreboard. Or is it? As it happens, there’s only enough time left for one more jam, and the Sirens will finish with a squad of six, but would the possible forfeit have actually been enforced anyway? We check in with one of the referees the next day. He thinks the Head Ref would only really have imposed that (discretionary) WFTDA rulebook forfeit “if it became a safety issue, such as the remaining skaters being so tired they were causing a hazard to themselves or the other team.”
    We also check with Champs head office re the 300-0 rule. They confirm this is the case where a team elects to forfeit but they “will check” if it applies to an enforced forfeit. “It may not be something they’ve actually considered,” another referee suggests. One thing’s for certain: The Sirens are the latest in a long line of teams (including Brighton themselves on a few occasions) who should be grateful that UK derby is governed under the ruleset of WFTDA rather than its rival organisation, USARS. The rulebook of the latter states that a Head Ref MUST enforce a forfeit when a team is reduced to EIGHT players. Jeebers!

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After a somewhat smaller than expected crowd for the first UKRDA National South division game day (four weeks ago in Windsor), it’s reassuring to see that Newham Leisure Centre is packed to the gunnels for today’s action. Indeed, the crowd is a sold out capacity 300 and – despite LRR’s best efforts to publicise this fact via social media – many ticketless people will be turned away at the door. Technical problems are a common feature of roller derby events, but today’s are mostly related to the announcer’s radio mic giving up for large swathes of the opening game. It also takes us a while to spot the scoreboard, projected as it is at a jaunty angle above the bar, which is itself horrifyingly closed! Said bar’s eventual opening, during Brighton’s first team time out, raises one of the biggest cheers of the day, despite the initial 15-minute long booze queues.
    Out on track, some super tough defending from the cyan Sirens blockers sees the Southenders build up an early lead. A power jam nine for Force Ten Gail, followed by two five point passes for Pegasus as Dr Whooligan wrestles with the Essex walls, puts the Sirens 19-0 up early doors. Brighton sneak a couple of points on the board through ever sneaking (through packs) Kapow, but Southend are giving away very little here. Whooligan struggling to get past the forceful Gail, as Pegasus sits in the box, before she eventually makes it through for three passes. Big jam for Brighton there. 26-20 to the cyans as the bar opens and Mass Janeycide orders that black ‘T’.
    A recent addition to the Rockers jammer roster, Emma the Condemner is up against Ella Gnaw next, with both starheads spending much of the jam being dragged back around the track. Swann taking advantage of a short delay in proceedings to point out the number on her back and ‘C’ on her arm to the announcers, who have been under the impression that Kapow was captaining Brighton today. The Rockers cap taking heavy hits from her Southend counterpart now, on what is a very slippy track. The granite tough Frocky Balboa is proving a tough obstacle for all the Sussex starheads here, with the likes of Hairy Fairy and Emma having to run regular offence against her to help them through.

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Tiny Temper, Gail and Hell de Jour are amongst the standout blockers in these sturdy Sirens packs, with jammers Ella, Gail, Temper and Pegasus edging up the lead for the Essex league. Possibly more photographers here than we’ve ever seen at a domestic derby game, or maybe LRR’s hi-vis media tabards just makes them stand out more? Still, there’s a good eight or nine here, supping on their teas in the half time break. What is the collective noun for a group of photographers anyway? An “exposure of…”? A “composition of…”? Back in the bleachers, the atmosphere is fairly flat for this opening game, with the exception of a small cluster of Sirens fans and a similarly sized cluster of Rockers fans (largely Brighton rookies) in the bleachers.
    One of the Sussex fans gets told off for being too loud by someone sat nearby. She’s not being loud, she’s being Canadian – admittedly this is largely the same thing. Ironically, the complainant will be far louder himself during his team Bristol’s game. Other noisy support for Brighton coming from the Rockers merch table, which includes one Gin Atomic among its staff. She can’t play today for red tape reasons, but should be joining the Sussex roster for the rest of their Champs campaign. The Rockers get off to a flyer at the start of the second period, with Chariot Sophia jamming in 27 points versus 12 from Gail to cut the deficit in half. 95-110 now. Swann, Whooligan and Emma all follow this with scoring jams of their own to trigger the game’s first lead change. It’s 125-122 in Brighton’s favour now as a knock to Swann sees a short pause in the action.
    The Rockers are bagging lead jammer status far more often in this half, having only managed a handful in the first period. Hairy, Swann, Emma, Whooligan and Sophia amongst those putting in good defensive stints for the Sussex side, but a jamming penalty call on the last of these sees Southend regain the initiative to go 131-125 ahead. Kapow then Whooligan as the lead switches back to Brighton. 141-135, 150-149 now. Rockers time out and the Sussex squad are building up a head of steam. Slippery starhead Sophia looks to have taken lead, but she’s off for an elbow instead. Gail against Swann, the former taking the points. Lead change again! The crowd would probably be getting more excited by all this epicness if the announcer’s mic was working. Sirens now 156-150 ahead and there’s an official time out. Refs and NSOs confer. Look at the penalty board. Frocky Balboa leaves the box… and the game.

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It’s difficult to ascertain exactly what impact their captain’s departure has on the Southend league’s play. What we do know for sure is that the ever impressive Dr Whooligan (BRATS 2014 Player of the Year) racks up a whopping 27 points for Brighton in the next jam, as the game’s fifth and final lead change sees the Rockers go 177-160 ahead. Sirens still not giving up. Feisty jamming from Gail, followed by a penalty box switcheroo with Emma. Swann side-surfing her way both into and out of trouble. The Essex side aren’t just playing roller derby now, though. They’re also playing FOD (foul out dominoes) and the resulting procession of departures is accompanied by a widening points gap, with the final whistle sounding on a 253-175 Sussex victory.
    The numerically disadvantaged Southend side certainly shouldn’t be downhearted by such a result though. They fared around thirty points better than the pre-game predictions suggested. Both these sides are at transitional points in their history, with the Sirens having lost a number of players – some to the newly bouting Killa Hurtz of Chelmsford – over the past year or so. Similarly, the Rockers line-up in today’s programme differs greatly from the players Brighton actually have available at present, with at least three of these currently on a break from derby. Said programme also suggests that Bexorcist was line-up manager for both these teams, and that a penalty box visit still lasts one minute, which certainly explains a few puzzled looks at wristwatches from derby virgins in the crowd today.
    Still, these are very small niggles for what is a typically well organised LRR game day, which even features awards (Crowd Favourite) voted for by the fans in attendance. Swann picks this up for Brighton, with the Sirens gong going to Hell de Jour. The Rockers select Force Ten Gail as Southend’s best jammer, with Tiny Temper best blocker and Ella Gnaw as MVP. The Essex side dole out their awards to Brighton’s Kapow (jammer), Hairy Fairy (blocker) and Chariot Sophia (MVP). We barely have chance to get our breath back before hosts London Rockin’ Rollers and opponents Bristol Roller Derby take to track for the day’s second game…

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We weren’t expecting their fans to be quite so loud. Sure, LRR have something of a reputation for rowdy supporters, and their fans do form the majority of those in the hall today. The thing is, we’re not talking about the LRR fans here, but Bristol’s. A cluster of a thirty or more who are waving signs, shouting encouragement and puncturing the air with rousing chants of “BRD” for much of this second game. The announcers are trying to rally the local support, telling them they can’t remember LRR being out-sung like this at home before, but as loud as the London fans get, the very vocal Bristol contingent “take it up to eleven” (to paraphrase Spinal Tap). As away fans in any sport go, they’re pretty damn awesome.
    This support is even more impressive given that BRD are in the lead for approximately two minutes of the entire game. This is from the point Delta Strike (up against Jack Attack in the opening jam) takes a single pass and call, until roughly halfway through jam three, which sees a typically blistering-paced charge from Beat Girl, whose 19 point haul gives the Londoners a 22-10 lead. “BRD, BRD, BRD…!” Jacks, Beat and captain Rammit form the core of the LRR Allstars’ small but highly experienced jammer rotation, and the Bristol side are finding them difficult to contain. Long-time Harbour Harlots captain Black Thorn is at the heart of a tough BRD defence – sending Beat to ground on the inside of the track, then seconds later on the outside – but the LRR starheads are an ever resilient bunch.
    Raven Lunatic, Ophelia Pain, Lil Miss Bloodlust, Delta and Til Thrillster forming the major part of the Harlots rotation here. Or the Bristol Roller Derby A-team rotation, that is to say, with the Harbour Harlots name seemingly soon retired, along with the accompanying kit, which is being worn for the last time today. Thrillster pulls it back to 53-64 for BRD as the South Westerners call a team time out. There’s solid blocking here from the likes of The Blizzard, E-Z Roller, Gremilyn, Vile Shadow and others for Bristol. The home team have plenty of super tough blockers of their own on show, though, such as Rebel Rebel, Flash Bang Wallop, Betty Swollox and the ever terrifying Von Bitch.

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Delta puts in a single pass to take BRD within five points of the Allstars. 80-75 to the latter in points scored. 11-8 to the former in lead jammer statuses gained. LRR jammers chasing Bristol’s down too quickly for them to gain much advantage from those extra leads though. Home pack holding Ophelia back really well as the rampant Rammit spins in three passes without reply. A penalty call at the whistle sees the visiting jammer start the next one in the box, with Jack Attack putting 17 points on the board as the Londoners build some breathing space. It’s 111-77 (which must equate to something brutal in the roller derby drinking game) at half time.
    Two jammer penalties in the first jam of the second period against Delta, and the Somerset (or Gloucestershire or Avon or Wessex or Unitary Authority, depending on what year your map was made) side are starting to slip further behind now. Beat Girl takes fifteen without reply to put LRR up 151-86. Both teams rostering a full fourteen here, so even if the penalties pick up – as they are starting to now, with both teams beginning the next jam with two blockers seated – the risk of foul out dominoes is pretty low here. Rammit dancing through on the outside line, jamming in twenty without reply, as Von Bitch repeatedly introduces Bloodlust to her shoulder.
    Bristol fans chanting Delta’s name, then E-Z’s. Jacks spectacularly taken out mid apex jump by one of the BRD blockers, but the home side are picking up LJ status with more consistency now. Rebel Rebel struggles with some extra tough defending from the Bristolians, passing the star to Obnoxious Li now as the clock ticks down. The London pivot passes through the pack with star in hand rather than on head, and BRD take the jam 8-0. The crowd has thinned out considerably now, as often happens at double headers – some people have homes to go to, apparently. 18-15 to LRR in lead jammer statuses (statii?) currently as Demolition Darcy and Swollox chip in with great defence for Jacks to crank it up to 224-150. Home side one shy of 50% more points than their opponents with only enough time for one more jam now. Can Bristol keep it below that 50%? Beat v Ophelia. Ophelia takes lead. Passes the star to Black Thorn to cheers from the Brizzle crowd. Black Thorn on a scoring pass. Then another. Beat Girl is scoring too though. The final whistle sounds.

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LRR have taken the win 235-164. We make that 43% more points than Bristol. Certainly less than the 50% we’re sure no-one but us was hunched over a calculator watching out for at the end. It’s considerably less than the predicted margin of victory, which suggested around a 2:1 differential in favour of the Londoners, so BRD have much to be proud of from their opening game in British Champs. Til Thrillster takes the Crowd Favourite award for them, with Beat Girl picking up the one for LRR’s Allstars. The Bristol side pick out Jack Attack as the home team’s best jammer, with Betty Swollox as best blocker and Rebel Rebel MVP. LRR give their awards to Bristol’s Thrillster (jammer), Black Thorn (blocker) and Blizzard (MVP).
    In a controversial move, we BRATS swerve today’s official after party. Largely because it’s a roller disco. Even three months of lessons from the head coach of Team GB’s national figure [roller] skating squad have left us unable to skate a single stride (“talk to your doctor about flat feet” was his parting shot) so donning wheels now, after ten cans of beer, would be a huge recipe for disaster. Instead we jump on a bus and hold our own unofficial after party in LRR’s usual venue, a former local of ours, the King Eddy in Stratford. There is much Jägermeister drunk and indecipherable notes are stared at, whilst grumpy pet owners refuse to let us attempt a “human pyramid of dogs”.
    So where next for the Tier 2 UKRDA National South Division then? Geographically speaking, this show moves 32 miles down the A13 to a leisure centre near Southend. Royal Windsor take on the hosting Sirens on March 21st, knowing that a big win (by 160+ points) will see Windsor leapfrog LRR to top the table, whilst the Essex side will be hoping for a first Champs win of their own. The day’s other game sees the mighty Brighton Rockers (who currently place third, not far behind RWRG on points difference) taking on today’s impressive Bristol team in what we feel will be one of the best match-ups of the tournament. We’ll have a full preview of said National South Day Three online in a couple of weeks, and we hope to see as many Rockers fans as possible there on the day – if only to tell that bloke from Bristol to keep his voice down!

[Photos by John Hesse]

THINGS YOU CAN CLICK ON:
FB PAGE FOR DAY THREE @ SOUTHEND MAR 21ST
TICKETS FOR DAY THREE @ SOUTHEND MAR 21ST
BRITISH CHAMPIONSHIPS WEBSITE
BRITISH CHAMPIONSHIPS FB PAGE

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British Champs UKRDA National South Day Two Preview: LRR v Bristol & Rockers v Sirens

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February 2015 is dominated by three important Saturdays in a row for the mighty Brighton Rockers roller derby league. On the Saturday before last (7th) they staged their first home double header in two years, with half a dozen Brighton players making their public debuts as part of a mixed opener, before the A-team All-Stars took on a Team Dragon side bolstered by a number of international derby stars. You can find our full report on those events in a clickable link at the bottom of this preview.
    The following Saturday was more symbolic than participatory, with 14th February 2015 marking the official Fifth Birthday of the Brighton league, who were founded on Valentine’s Day 2010 in the Lion & Lobster pub. It’s perhaps in keeping with the notion of half a decade’s derby history that this Saturday coming (21st) sees the Rockers take on the Seaside Sirens. Brighton’s first ever public bout/game was away to this Southend league back in 2011, and the result that day remains the Rockers’ biggest margin of victory to date.
    Saturday’s game is all the more symbolic for marking Brighton’s first appearance in British Championships. This tournament makes its debut in 2015, having grown out of the largely regional Heartland Series tournies. A whopping 72 women’s leagues are taking part, divided into thirteen divisions in four tiers. (There’s also a three division men’s tournament.) The Rockers are competing in the chunkily named ‘Tier 2 UKRDA National South’. This is one of two divisions that form the second tier, its members all hoping for promotion to the very top Premier Division above.
    You’ll find links at the end of this piece to a brief preview of all seven Nat South game days (from the online version of our fanzine) as well as a full report on Game Day One. This took place on the 24th January. Brighton and Bristol sat the day out, with hosts Royal Windsor beating Portsmouth (those two sides are sitting out this Saturday) before the London Rockin’ Rollers took a big win over the Seaside Sirens. LRR are hosting this Saturday’s event, which is taking place at Newham Leisure Centre in East London.
    Doors are at 2pm, with Brighton v Sirens at 2.30pm and LRR v Bristol around 4.30pm. The games are followed by a roller disco after party (free entry and skate hire to Champs attendees) that goes on to a very nocturnal 2am. Tickets are £12 in advance or £15 on the door, with cheaper tickets for children and family groups – see the links below to buy online. Travel wise, the District line is closed east of Aldgate. Thameslink trains have resumed stopping at London Bridge at weekends though, so people travelling up from Brighton by public transport are advised to change there for the Jubilee Line to Canning Town, from whence a 300 bus will ‘whisk’ you to the venue.
    The leisure centre is sandwiched between schools, parkland, a hospital and the A13. Although there are a couple of shops and a caff, the nearest pubs are a good mile away along the Barking Road, off New Barn Street or back in Canning Town. These tend to be a little rough ‘n’ ready, and the pubs we’d especially recommend lie even further afield (eg in Stratford or East Ham) thus too far from the venue to really be practical. Therefore we suggest making full use of the bar in the sports hall itself instead. Hell yeah! OK, time to fire up the statsometer…

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RANKINGS AND PREDICTIONS
The London Rockin’ Rollers kicked off their Champs campaign with a big win over the Sirens last month. LRR currently place 12th in UKRDA on 634.3 ranking points. Saturday’s opponents Bristol Roller Derby haven’t played an open door A-team game since winning at Liverpool in November. The Harbour Harlots lie in 25th place (the lowest ranked side in the division, for what it’s worth) with 571.2 points. These two sides haven’t met on track before, and the predictometer at flattrackstats gives the home side a whopping 94% chance of taking the win here. The expected differential of 44:21 in the Londoners’ favour would equate to a typical derby scoreline in the region of 264-126.
    Whilst using UKRDA rankings for a UKRDA sanctioned tournament seems logical, we’ve run these match-ups through the prediction machine using the European rankings too. Here LRR rank 21st on 663.5 points, whilst Bristol are 44th on 605.0. (Brighton, meanwhile, place 27th – below several teams they rank higher than in UKRDA – on 649.1, with the Seaside Sirens 53rd on 592.9.) The Euro prediction for this game is a tiny bit kinder to the Bristol side, giving the Rockin’ Rollers Allstars a 93% victory chance on a 2:1 differential, eg a 250-125 LRR win. Bristol will be looking to prove the prediction computer wrong on all counts here.
    Moving on to the day’s opening game, the Sirens dropped a few places after last month’s Champs defeat. They currently sit 23rd in UKRDA with 643.6 points. Brighton’s only game so far this year was the recent home defeat to Team Dragon. The Dragons included one Tiny Temper in their ranks, and she’ll be facing the Rockers again just two weeks later in the colours of Southend. Will meeting Brighton with the Dragons have helped her recce the Sussex jammers for the Sirens? Or will the Rockers take advantage of gaining insight into one of SSRG’s top blockers? Hmmm…
    Either way, Brighton currently place 10th in UKRDA on 643.3 points. Splitting the difference between home and away predictions (as there’s no neutral option) gives them 90% chance of the win, with a 51:27 differential equating to something like a 255-135 Brighton win. A prediction based on European rankings is slightly less emphatic, giving Brighton 87% chance and a 56:33 (eg 224-132) differential. Given the current transitional nature of the Rockers squad, a result that differs from these predictions wouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Still, that’s enough of the confusing statistics. Now let’s hear from players from all four of the teams taking part on Saturday…

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2.30PM: BRIGHTON ROCKERS V SEASIDE SIREN ROLLER GIRLS

DR WHOOLIGAN & DERBY McGEE – BRIGHTON ROCKERS

Are the Rockers looking forward to the challenge of taking part in the first ever British Championships? What are you hoping for from the season?
We’re looking forward to it a lot. We know that every paper or magazine we’ve spoken to about derby always asks where we are in the league, so it will be nice to finally have an answer! It’s also a great excuse to get to know the other Southern teams better on and off the track. We’re obviously hoping for straight wins across the board, but failing that, we hope that every game is hard fought and helps us improve the skills and plays we are working towards perfecting.

Your only previously experience of tournament play was at the UKRDA Southern tournament at Alexandra Palace in 2013. Obviously these are very different tournaments – that one was over a weekend, this one’s over a year – but is there anything you learned from Ally Pally that you’ll carry over to Champs?

Work on your fitness! I (Whooligan) personally only played one day of that Southern tournament and that was enough. We are all working hard to up our endurance for the Champs season.

You kick off your Champs campaign against the Seaside Sirens in Newham on Saturday. Last time you played the Southend side you won by 265 points. What are your expectations this time around?
The previous Sirens match was a great early game for us. We played with a squad of nine and won. However, that was a long time ago and a lot has changed for both teams. Champs is a really exciting tournament which we’re proud to be in. As we’ve just entered the WFTDA Apprentice Program, we’re planning ahead for the whole year – so we won’t be focusing on this game as an individual match, but as the start of how we develop as a team over 2015.

This month’s game against Team Dragon featured a much changed Brighton side. Care to predict the result of the Sirens game or that of the following LRR v Bristol match?
Playing the Dragons was a great way to start 2015 and turning five years old was a big achievement we’re really proud of. The Sirens are an awesome league and we love those ladies. It’s gonna be a cracking game. They’ve got a lot of really talented, experienced players, and plenty of big personalities. We’re also looking forward to the LRR v Bristol game afterwards. We’ve played both recently and will be rooting for some great derby, as well as obviously scoping out two upcoming opponents!

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ELLA GNAW – SEASIDE SIREN ROLLER GIRLS

Your first British Champs game saw defeat to LRR. Are there any particular things you feel you learnt from that game that will be useful for the rest of the tournament? What are your hopes and aims for the Champs season?
Taking on LRR again so soon after playing and beating them by a mere three points was always going to be fun and a challenge! But as Sirens we went in knowing that we would fight for every point that we put on the scoreboard. It was a very fun game to play. The LRR team are brilliant opponents and it will be great to see them taking to the track against Bristol on Saturday. The Sirens have grown from strength to strength throughout the last two years and fought hard last year to climb the rankings thanks to the hard coaching from our team members. So for us, entering the Champs was just the next step and a new goal to strive towards. It’s exciting taking part in a tournament and watching all the competing teams grow and adjust as it progresses.

You’re up against the Brighton Rockers on Saturday. We believe you’ve only played them once before and that was almost four years ago. Presumably a lot has changed since then?
When we played the Rockers in Southend all them years ago it was our second open door bout and, if I remember correctly, their first ever open door. What a game, it was an eye opener for the team! The play was fast, so fast, and this rematch will be very interesting. Generally speaking, the game of roller derby has slowed down since then and become about taking off speed in order to control the jammer. There has been that complete shift in gameplay, and also both leagues’ rosters have changed too. We will do what we always do; keep our heads up, keep calm and fight for every point we put on the board!

Finally, the day’s other game sees hosts LRR take on Bristol Roller Derby. Any players people should keep an eye out for in that game?
Well, for Game Day One we gave our awards to LRR’s Deadly Devito (best blocker), Jessica Rammit (best jammer) and Jack Attack (MVP). They were all brilliant on the day!

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4.30PM: LONDON ROCKIN’ ROLLERS v BRISTOL ROLLER DERBY

JESSICA RAMMIT & BEAT GIRL – LRR ALLSTARS

This weekend sees the London Rockin’ Rollers hosting a British Champs double header. What encouraged you as a league to take part in this tournament?
We were approached by the organisers last year and were very interested in an event that would unify UK roller derby. Usually we have to organise several bouts throughout the year to play against UK teams and this event gave us the huge opportunity to play against several similarly ranked UK teams and gain further tournament experience in the process. As it’s also UKRDA recognised that’s another bonus. The London Rockin’ Rollers Allstars are aiming high and want to move up more in the rankings in 2015. This will help pave the way for our bigger plans in 2016.

You got off to a flyer against the Seaside Sirens on Jan 24th and now sit strongly on top of the table with +210 points differential. What do you attribute that big win too? Do you think your experience of tournaments in general (more than most other UK sides) was a factor? Who stood out for the Sirens?

Our last tournament was at SKOD in May 2014 and we have played a lot more games since then. We are attributing this win to training really hard. It was a re-match since we last played the Sirens in September 2014. SSRG won that one 150-147, so we were determined to come out on top this time. The Rockers need to look out for captain Frocky Balboa, who is a solid player at the centre of every Sirens wall, and Tiny Temper for her speedy drag backs.

Your Game Day Two opponents are Bristol Roller Derby. Are we right in thinking you’ve never played them before? What do you know about the Bristol side? Any particular players or tactics people should look out for?
The London Rockin’ Rollers B-team, the Badasses, recently faced the Bristol Bees in a closed door bout, but you’re right, our A-teams have never played each other before. From what we know about Bristol we are expecting it to be a close match. We might have the odd trick up our sleeve, but we don’t want to spoil any surprises before the day.

Finally, for the benefit of those travelling up to the event, can you tell us a bit about your venue? What can we expect from the roller disco after party? And is it true that LRR have the rowdiest home fans in UK derby?

The audience at Newham Leisure Centre can choose between sitting on the raised bleachers for a great view of the track or get close to the action on the floor in the suicide seating area. Bring cash if you plan to buy tickets on the door, shop the merch stalls or buy food and drink at the venue as there are no card facilities available. The bar at the venue sells tinned beer, cider, soft drinks and snacks. There are a couple of newsagents nearby in case the audience manage to drink the bar dry! For the after party we have partnered with Skating Haven who hold regular roller discos at the leisure centre. Skate hire is included in the Championships ticket price, so we hope lots of the audience will be staying to party with us. Yes, our fans never fail to cheer the loudest! An after party rarely passes without a gravity defying human pyramid from the LRR fans.

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RAVEN LUNATIC – BRISTOL HARBOUR HARLOTS

What aspects of British Champs encouraged Bristol to take part in the tournament? What are your hopes, expectations and aims for this 2015 Champs season?
The great city of Bristol had to be represented in Britain’s first nationwide roller derby tournament and we actually have two teams in the competition; our women’s A-team and our men’s team, Vice Quad. The Championships have given us a real focus as a league and we are all really excited to be taking part. In 2014, our A-team went through some fairly big changes, with some old favourites retiring or producing the next generation of derby talent. Our new A-team has been together a few months now and we’ve a great balance of experienced players, alongside some newer (but really strong and developing) skaters. Competing in Tier 2 South of the Championships is a huge privilege. We’ll be up against some of the best teams in the South, so we are expecting it to be tough, but it will be an amazing experience and will really help develop us as team.

Your first Champs game is away to the current divisional leaders LRR. Do you know much about the London side? Any particular players or tactics the crowd should look out for?
LRR is a huge game for us to open with, but we are fully prepared and ready for the challenge. We’ve never met on the track before but our B-team have played their Bs a couple of times, so we have an idea of their style of play. We’re obviously aware that the Allstars have some outstanding players who we will be keeping a close eye on. But Bristol can also boast a couple of skaters who attended the World Cup in Dallas in December so keep an eye out for The Blizzard (Team Finland) and Da Silva Surfer (Team Portugal). Other crowd pleasers are team captain, Black Thorn, and the understated but immensely fierce EZ Roller.

Finally, the day’s other game sees the Brighton Rockers take on the Seaside Sirens. How do you see that one going?
We played the Sirens a few years ago but we’re guessing that the team looks very different now, so we don’t have much insight into their game. We’ve obviously had the enormous pleasure of lining up against the Rockers on a couple of occasions and so are more familiar with the strength and tenacity of the Brighton athletes. Although we understand their current squad is much changed too, so anything could happen!

[Brighton v Bristol photos by John Hesse. LRR v Sirens photos by Mindy Cherry Photography.]

THINGS YOU CAN CLICK ON:
FACEBOOK PAGE FOR SATURDAY’S CHAMPS EVENT

BUY TICKETS FOR SATURDAY’S CHAMPS EVENT
READ OUR REPORT ON T2 SOUTH GAME DAY ONE
READ OUR REPORT ON BRIGHTON V TEAM DRAGON
CHECK OUT OUR FULL CHAMPS PREVIEW (PAGES 16-18)
BRITISH CHAMPIONSHIPS WEBSITE

SKATING HAVEN ROLLER DISCO
MINDY CHERRY PHOTOGRAPHY

Rockers v Dragons. Magicians v Clowns. Fifth Birthday Bash report.

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The University of London’s Dragonology Department lies in one of the dustiest corners of Senate House. Two small rooms – one packed with drawings and photographs of fossils, the other with yellowing hardback books. All around is an overwhelming smell that can best be described as “the rotting carcasses of a long dead civilisation”. This turns out to be from a beef and tomato Pot Noodle the Department’s sole member of staff, Professor Frankentube Ocelot, is chomping on. What can the professor tell us about dragons, we wonder.
    “Ghmmpt mutthy dumphtfg gruwttgd,” he says. We wait for him to finish eating before we ask again, but it turns out he was speaking Welsh. “The language of dragons,” he tells us, “or at least it was until they died out in the early 14th Century.” Wait a minute, is he saying that dragons are real? He certainly is. “What did you want to ask?” he asks.
    “Well,” we begin nervously, “let’s say for example you knew some people, and those people were going to go up against some dragons, and those dragons they were up against were going to be on skates, what are good tactics to use against them?”
    “Hmmm…” The professor thinks for a minute, strokes his chin – filling his beard with pungent noodles in the process – and flicks through a couple of hefty books before replying. He’s acting as if this is isn’t the strangest question he’s been asked today. “If you were battling dragons on rollerblades-”
    “Quad skates,” we correct.
    “-whatever. The thing about dragons is they are, generally speaking, solitary creatures. Although you might sometimes encounter three or four in formation… due to their large wing spans and so forth, they always leave a lot of space between each other. If you can somehow use that space to your advantage, pick them off one by one, that’s the way to do it. Dragons may be terrifying, but they don’t have that pack mentality. Dragons never swarm.”

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He’s wrong, you know, is old noodle chin. As wrong as it’s possible to be. They do swarm. God, do they swarm. Every time one of the would-be dragon slayers in black and cyan looks like posing even the smallest of threats, a whole cluster of Dragons surrounds, corals, marshals, traps, snares, bumps and cajoles them. It’s some of the most instinctive, most reactive pack work we’ve witnessed, and is a major reason why Team Dragon sit on the fat side of an ever increasing points differential. It had started off so brightly for the Brighton Rockers. 23-7 up after the first few jams. One big jam from TD and suddenly it’s 24-23 to the visitors.
    The Rockers battle back to lead 36-33. Good play from Gin Atomic up next in the star. She’s facing a full Dragon pack, with just one blocker to call upon for good chunks of the jam, but still takes it 19 points to nil. The fifth birthday girls are now on ‘all the fives’ 55 points. Chariot Sophia back in Brighton colours after a few months off and doing well. Power jam start to Kapow, but the Dragon swarm hits. She’s surrounded. No way forward. No way to get the star out from the scrum to her pivot. TD’s star pass recipient from the previous jam, Lola Vulkano, is out of the penalty box to take lead. Team Dragon regaining the initiative. 68-66 to the visitors, and that’s when they start to turn the screw. The points gap is only heading in one direction now…
    “I don’t know what I was expecting,” one of the Rockers tells us at a very low-key after party, “but I wasn’t expecting that.” Nor were we. The Dragon’s core being skaters from LRG Rec League, we thought Brighton would be clear favourites here, but closer examination of the rosters during the skate outs clouds the issue somewhat. The Rockers are without probably their three best known triple threats – Shambolic is off worrying sheep in Australia, and Rose Bleed and The Mighty Mighty Bash are also absent today. Whilst 2014 transfers Swann (now captain) and Gin Atomic (vice captain making her home debut) have plugged some of the gaps, Brighton are skating short today. Only twelve Rockers on the roster, whilst the Dragons are bolstered here by a number of guest skaters. Two of them, Lisa Wright and Juicy Lucy, are from the 2014 Team England training squad; indeed, Lucy played for England in the 2011 World Cup. Then there’s Spanish WC star Lola Vulkano, along with eight foot tall Belgian international Aline Decat. The latter has travelled over from the land of waffles just for this game, so obviously isn’t about to give any less than 100%.
    Announcer Polka Dotty called it right a few days ago when she told us: “You don’t put players of that quality and experience in your line-up if you aren’t going to make full use of them.” Sure enough, Lucy is an integral part of the TD jammer rotation, chasing down the Brighton starheads whenever any has the gall to take lead against her. Lola, meanwhile, is a regular feature in the pivot panty; part of the bustling, physical, fast moving defence that will have Rockers discovering new bruises throughout the week ahead. For now, Brighton need a miracle. Maybe they need a magician?

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London University’s Department of Magic is proving hard to locate. Several times we encounter a door in Birkbeck College bearing that title, but as we go to turn the handle the door disappears. We end up asking for help from a passing Professor of Wicca, who utilises a cauldron, some herbs, half a bat and two teaspoons of our nose hair to make the Magic Department’s door stay put. Inside we find Abdul Cadabra, Visiting Lecturer in Paranormalcy, munching on a chow mein Super Noodles To Go. We explain the situation; endure a confusing few minutes when we’re not sure if he’s speaking Welsh, Arabic, in tongues, or with his mouth full; then listen intently as he responds to our enquiry.
    “You’re looking for a way to use magic to defeat skateboarding dragons?”
    “Roller skating,” we clarify, “quads not inlines, obvs.”
    “Hmmm… you do know that dragons aren’t real?”
    “Well, nor is magic.”
    We realise we’re now standing in an empty room. We hear a hissing sound and look up. Abdul is spread-eagled across a pentangle on the ceiling. His hair seems to be made of snakes. “If dragons actually were real, what makes you think magicians could help?” he asks, climbing back down. What we thought was a pentangle was actually a skylight. What we thought were snakes were Super Noodles.
    “Merlin,” we reply confidently. “He fought dragons, didn’t he? Also Gandalf.”
    “Merlin is mere legend, a work of fiction,” Abdul solemnly intones, “and it was Bard the Bowman not Gandalf who defeated Smaug. Still, the idea of going into battle against rollerblading dragons intrigues me. Let me talk to my colleagues. We may be able to help.”

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Hairy Fairy v Juicy Lucy – more rhyming jammer pairings in derby please – with the latter taking lead but picking up a penalty. HF battling hard to get through the Dragons pack. Lisa Wright, Dee I Why, Vulkano, Decat and Rusty Stiletto amongst the standout blockers for Team Dragon today, but there are no weak links anywhere in this draconine defence. Hairy starting the next jam in the box. Nacho Problem on a PJ start, being held up brilliantly by Hyde ‘N’ Shriek and Sophia, but she breaks through. Swann takes lead against I Eat, has to call it on the floor. Chaka Carnage, Dr Whooligan, Cake Or Death, Derby McGee and others battling hard in the Rockers packs, but these relentless TD jammers – pacy petite I Eat, bustling Van Hustling, bruisey Juicy Lucy, can’t find a rhyme for Nacho Problem – are proving as slippery as a bouncy castle made of mozzarella balls. Half time score (or a few seconds before half time, as we’ve rushed off to beat the queues at the bar) is 103-78 to the Dragons.
    The Rockers have come back from far bigger midway deficits than this one, but it often involved reshuffling the line-ups and throwing in the ‘power players’ more. Many of those players – particularly the super tough Bash – aren’t playing today, so any chances of a resurgence look a whole lot trickier. We’re finding it tough going ourselves as the bar ran out of bottles of London Pride during the first game. We’ve just nabbed their last two cans of John Smith’s. From here on in it’s Bacardi Breezers all the way, God help us. Guess the Dolphin weren’t expecting today’s crowd to be quite this big – roughly double what recent Rockers games have attracted are in the packed hall today – or quite this thirsty.
    Central jammer rotation for Brighton here of Swann, Kapow, Sophia, Gin and Dr Whooligan. Gin getting some of the best of the Rockers’ second half chances, but she’s often up against the hard-hitting Lucy, with the two starheads quick to chase each other down. Halfway through the second period and things are getting pretty penalty heavy for Brighton out there; indeed, it looks like Hairy Fairy may have just fouled out after seven visits to the box. Rockers are down to a squad of eleven now. By our calculations, there must be a fair few other BRRD players (Dr W and Sophia, for example) who aren’t far off joining Hairy in the bleachers.
    The audience has thinned out quite a bit now. Chatting to fans in the pub by Haywards Heath station during the break between games, it seems many didn’t anticipate quite how long today’s event would last – this is, after all, the first home double header in almost two years – and have evening plans to pursue. Chaka putting in some hard hits on the ever impressive I Eat now. Score in the region of 125-219. Guess Brighton’s aim now, with mere minutes left on the clock, is to try and keep the differential down to double figures. Perhaps they need some kind of a distraction? Something to take the Dragons’ minds off the game. Something funny, perhaps? A clown, maybe?

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Whilst scouring the corridors of Queen Mary College for London Uni’s Faculty of Clowning, you’ll know when you’ve found the right place. Not from the sign on the door, but from the custard pie that emerges from an unseen flap to hit you in the face a few seconds after you knock. We enter, spluttering, pulling chunks of shaving cream (not custard, apparently) from our ears and hair. Professor Hardboard Jackanory helps clean it off with a few strong squirts of water from the giant plastic flower attached to his brightly coloured jacket. “Hello,” he says, the white, black and red of his facepaint cracking slightly as he smiles. We go to shake his hand, but he’s holding a chip shop curry flavoured Golden Wonder Nation’s Noodle in it. He looks down at the plastic pot, before instinctively throwing it into our just de-custarded face.
    “Ow, ow, it’s hot,” we wail as strips of sauce-sodden wheat flour drip from our nose and eyebrows.
    “It is quite spicy, yes,” says Hardboard, “but you should try the inferno chilli flavour. Wowsers! Anyway, what can I do for you?”
    Patiently we explain the predicament we are facing and the help we require from the professor’s faculty. “So you need some clownish tricks,” he says, “to distract these dragons on mini scooters-”
    “Roller skates.”
    “-whatever. And you want me and my colleagues to provide them. Standing at the side of the track nearest to the dragons. Custard pies, trousers falling down, balloon animals, exploding cars, that sort of thing. To put them off. I think we can arrange that…”
    “Brilliant,” we bluster. “That would be so useful. We’ve spoken to the Department of Magic and they’re going to help too.”
    “Magicians? You’ve asked magicians! Oh no no no, we clowns hate magicians, with their stupid outfits and their ridiculous behaviour. We couldn’t possibly work alongside them. No way. We’ll need to hold some kind of contest before the dragons arrive. Us against the magicians. The winners help you against the dragons, the losers get lost.”
    “A contest you say?” we reply. “Hmm, we’ve got an idea actually. How about an oval track with you and the magicians battling each other-”
    “-on space hoppers!”
    “…we were thinking, maybe, roller skates?”

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Clowns v Magicians. Magicians v Clowns. A mixed opener, with a handful of slightly more experienced skaters amidst plenty who are making their public debut today. In many ways those rostered onto the clownish side of this contest have struck it lucky; they get a perfect excuse to bedeck themselves in a variety of facepainted clown visages, although none are quite as terrifying as bench coach Polka Dotty’s. To be fair, her tie is even more frightening than her face. For the magicians, the odd sparkly thing or top hat aside, fancy dress options are more limited. Still, on the other hand, it’s perhaps better to be able to tell people you were a ‘magician’ in your first game than a ‘clown’ – they might think you’re referring to the quality of your play rather than team name.
    There are Rockers rookies amidst both the white clown and black magician ranks today, alongside numerous skaters from several other South East leagues. Many of these have other members of their league in attendance, cheering on their teamies. Plenty of Bourne Bombshells here on the back straight, members of Brighton’s new league the B-Town Brawlers acting as a buffer between them and a similarly purple cluster of noisy Croydon fans. At the back is a throng of typically rowdy London Rockin’ Rollers types. On track, Kent Roller Girls’ Tenacious is making an early impression in the clowns star – very speedy and points hungry, she’s arguably the most effective jammer out there today. Brighton’s Chloe Colossus and Streets Of Rage from LRG Rec League are among the other stand outs in the white star.
    The Magicians’ packs are battling to contain the clownish starheads in the early stages. Valkyrie Pain is probably team black’s most powerful blocker here, and her experience with Portsmouth’s strong B-team could prove invaluable. Croydon’s Dirty Dancer, LRR’s Ginger Snaps, Brighton’s Skate Bush and Southampton’s White Lightning amongst the other tough blocking options for the Magicians. Their own jammers, such as Groundskeeper Willie (Croydon), Kickasso (LRR) and Sutherland (Brighton) are putting points on the board, but the Clowns are keeping their – red plastic – noses in front. Berry Naughty (Pompey) battling hard. Basha (Soton) and FloRideHer (LRR) teaming up for some big hits on Willie, who hops through on the inside line before being taken down. The most experienced Rocker on show, Irish Mist, helping marshal the white packs, tussling now with Bombshells Magician Von Stackit. A great spinning pass through the pack by Valkyrie sends the crowd wild. People queuing up at the penalty box now though. Games such as this are typically penalty heavy, and players from both sides, including the commanding Valkyrie, will foul out before this game is done.
    Magicians’ bench coach Mistress giving the team talk as the second half begins. They’re trailing 135-90 at present, battling hard to keep the differential from expanding. “Call it, call it, call it!” a regular cry from both benches. People going down left, right and centre. Having been on wheels here once ourselves (once was enough) we know how hellishly slippy the surface is. Everyone falling small well. Magicians have pulled it back to 197-172 as they call a team timeout. The walls here (the ones made of bricks, not the ones made of blockers) are covered in baby photos of the Rockers A-team – this is, as the second game’s party hat and streamer infested skate out will remind us, the Brighton league’s fifth birthday. Geek fact: Your fifth birthday is the day you can first legally drink alcohol in the UK. That’s only at home when supervised by a parent/guardian, by the way, so don’t go rushing off down the pub quite yet, pre-schoolers. Willie gets penalised for attempting a star pass on the floor. Final jam. Sutherland calls. Clowns take the win 250-180.

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Fast forward two hours. As the second game draws towards a close, we gaze over at the clowns and magicians in the crowd. All too shattered from their own contest earlier this afternoon to come to the Rockers’ rescue with exploding trousers or magic wands. Photographers in the centre track clicking their shutters as the seconds count down. One was hedging his bets here by wearing both Rockers and Team Dragon T-shirts, but it’s the latter on display now as the visiting winged beasts break the 100 point gap. 132-238. Only enough time left for one more jam. Brighton need to take seven more points than the visitors to get that differential back below a century. Gin Atomic lining up in the hometown star. Nacho jamming for the Dragons. Lead to Gin. Brighton pack working double hard to keep TD’s number 88 pegged back. First scoring pass to Gin, five points including one for passing the opposing jammer, 137-138. So close, but still over the century. Doesn’t call it as Nacho breaks out of the Sussex pack. Another pass for Gin. Nacho picking up points now too, but the Rockers defence is slowing her down.
    Whistles ring out, including the long swirly one that signals the end of the match. Waiting now for the scoreboard to update. Final score coming in. 242 to Team Dragon, 145 to the Brighton Rockers. It’s possible we were the only people here that had decided we’d treat a less than triple figures gap as a victory of sorts. Indeed, several Rockers will talk at the after party about being beaten by more than a hundred. “It was only ninety-seven,” we’ll scream with increasing ferocity as the night progresses. Gin picks up best jammer for Brighton, with Hairy Fairy as best blocker and the tireless Swann as MVP. For the Dragons, I Eat picks up the starclad prize, Lisa Wright is best blocker and Lola Vulkano grabs Most Valuable Player. Awards for the opener go to Clowns’ Basha (blocker), Tenacious (jammer) and Berry Naughty (MVP), along with Magicians’ Dirty Dancer (blocker), Kickasso (jammer) and Valkyrie Pain (MVP).
    The mighty Brighton Rockers’ fifth birthday then. “I don’t know what I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting that.” A tough game like that is probably exactly what the transitional Sussex squad needed. If they were expecting a friendly exhibition style game from TD, they were disavowed of that expectation fairly soon on. That the Rockers have a packed 2015 ahead is clear from the fact that they will be back at training the Monday after the game. Usually the first session after a game is replaced by a debrief in a pub, but Brighton are mere days away from kicking off their British Championships campaign. That all gets underway this coming Saturday (Feb 21st) at Newham Leisure Centre in East London, against Southend’s Seaside Sirens. They’ll likely still have some of the bruises from the Dragons game then, but will be itching to kick off Champs with a win. We’re hoping to see as many Rockers fans as possible there to cheer them on.

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    In preparation, we make the journey to London University’s Egham outpost, where we follow the smell of brine and the trails of seaweed to a rotten wooden door. Professor Scurvy Parsnips opens it, his eyepatch glinting as the parrot on his shoulder squawks annoyingly. The Professor waves a cutlass in one hand and a chicken Itsu Noodle Cup in the other. “Arrgh! Royal Holloway College Department of Pirate Studies, what can we be doing for ye?” he asks.
    Well,” we begin, “there are these sirens, right…”

[Photos by John Hesse]

THINGS TO CLICK ON:
CHECK OUT OUR FANZINE FROM THE TEAM DRAGON GAME HERE
CHECK OUT THE FB PAGE FOR SATURDAY’S CHAMPS GAMES HERE
BUY TICKETS FOR SATURDAY’S CHAMPS GAMES IN LONDON HERE

Turn Left Issue 9 Now Online

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This weekend saw an awesome double header of roller derby in Haywards Heath. There was a Clowns v Magicians mixed rookie opener, then the Brighton Rockers took on a star-studded Team Dragon in a bruising encounter. We’ll have a report on both games up on this site in the next few days. In the meantime, if you missed out on a copy of our fanzine from the event, click on the image above to read the online version. (There was a big crowd on Saturday, so all the physical copies were snapped up on the day and there are no spares in pubs this time around. Sorry.)

Here there be Dragons: Brighton Rockers double header preview

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It’s been a busy few days here at BRATS HQ. In the build up to this Saturday’s festival of awesomes, we’ve been hurling loads of articles on this here website. In case you missed them, check out these three pieces:

B-TOWN BRAWLERS: We caught up with a brand new second Brighton based roller derby league to find out how they came into being and what their plans are. A potential future local rival for the Rockers? CHECK OUT OUR INTERVIEW HERE.

BRITISH CHAMPIONSHIPS: The mighty Rockers are taking part in this year’s inaugural British Champs, a national tournament featuring 72 women’s teams. We went along to the first National South Division game day to check out four of their upcoming opponents. CHECK OUT OUR REPORT HERE.

WFTDA APPRENTICE LEAGUE:
A couple of weeks ago it was announced that the Rockers have been accepted on to the Apprentice Program of world governing body WFTDA, something less than twenty UK leagues have ever achieved. What does that mean though? CHECK OUT OUR ARTICLE HERE.

Now we turn our attention to this weekend when Brighton celebrate their Fifth Birthday by taking on Team Dragon. This challenge side, which originated from London recreational skaters, has put together a special roster to take on the Rockers. They’ll be fielding England 2011 World Cup star Lucy, 2014 England training squad member Lisa Wright, plus Lola Vulkano (Spain) and Aline Decat (Belgium) both of whom featured for their nations in last December’s World Cup. Yowsers! We’d best write a preview then…

ALL THE INFO
The Birthday double header takes place this Saturday (7th Feb) at the Dolphin leisure centre in Haywards Heath. Doors are at 2pm, with the mixed opener at 3pm, followed by the Rockers v Dragon game at 5.35pm. Tickets are £10 for adults, £8 students and free for under-12s. There’s also a special 4 for the price of 3 deal. These tickets are selling fast – this will be the biggest crowd for a Rockers event in quite a while – and are available online until some point tomorrow (Friday 6th). Although we do expect there to be a few left on the door, you’re strongly advised to nab yours via the internet asap. You’ll find a link at the bottom of this piece.

The venue has a decent sized car park and is approximately seven minutes walk from Haywards Heath train station. Turn left outside the station and follow the handmade ‘roller derby’ signs. If you arrive early, the pub opposite the station (the Burrell Arms) is not too bad for a sporty bar and cheaper than most Brighton pubs. It also has a large beer garden with giant Connect 4. If you need to stock up on supplies, there’s a Sainsbury’s superstore halfway between the station and leisure centre. The centre itself is modern, and unlike many UK leisure centres, it sells booze! There used to be two bars in fact, but now there’s only one – a cafe bar in the foyer that does various bottled beers, ales, wines, etc. It probably also sells food, soft and hot drinks, for weirdos that like that sort of thing. There’s a decent break between the two games, so a run to Sainsbury’s for munchies is also an option.

Be sure to pick up a copy of our fanzine ‘Turn Left’ on the door. We had to add an extra four pages to this issue as there was so much to fit in. You’ll find previews of both games, a review of 2014, who won what in our awards for the year, a preview of Brighton’s upcoming British Champs games, and loads of interviews. There are also a few more typos than usual as our printing company’s website was on the blink, so we didn’t get to properly proof it. There’s a prize of a BRATS baseball cap for whoever can find the most mistakes.

Events in the hall finish around 7pm and the after party is at the Wick Inn. This is fairly close to both Brighton and Hove train stations; about 18 minutes walk from Brighton, 15 from Hove (yes, we walked both routes yesterday to check, we’re that nerdy), both of which are a short hop from Haywards Heath. There should be loads of buses from both stations to the pub – it’s on the corner of Palmeira Square, one of the City’s main bus thoroughfares. It’s a private party in the pub’s (swanky prohibition era themed) cocktail lounge, and there’s a good real ale selection for those who don’t want to drink something with strawberries floating in. Grab yourself a brew and reminisce about the awesome day of derby you just viewed. Liked the sport so much you fancy giving it a try yourself? The Rockers have two free taster sessions coming up on the 23rd of this month. Drop them a line at info@brightonrockers.com for more details.

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MIXED OPENER: MAGICIANS V CLOWNS (3PM)

“The opener has seven Rockers represented in total: Irish Mist (who fans may have seen skating previously) will be taking part, as well as Sutherland, Lab Wrath, Chloe Colossus, Van Hayley, Skate Bush and Polly Darting, who are all popping their bout cherries. All the South East leagues are well represented. We have skaters from the Bourne Bombshells, Portsmouth Roller Wenches, Southampton City Rollers, Croydon Roller Derby, London Rockin’ Rollers and Kent Roller Girls, as well as some rogue representatives from Wolverhampton Honour Rollers and the Evolution Rollergirls.”
SWANN, BRIGHTON ROCKERS

“I’ve never played in a game so this is my cherry popper, but I have scrimmed a few times with lots of skaters from both teams today. I’m hoping that I learn a few things, get to practice a few new moves, not let my team or the crowd down, and escape relatively injury free. We’ve got a lot of tactics and tricks up our sleeves. Of course we have, we’re magicians!”
SKATE BUSH, ROCKERS MAGICIAN

“We normally scrim for a bit at the end of each practice, so I’ve been doing that roughly once or twice a week since my Fresh Meat course finished. This’ll be my third proper full length scrim, and even though it will be more challenging than previous rookie scrims, I’m fully expecting to score a whole bunch of points against the Magicians – and maybe knock a few over! Skate Bush has a habit of taking you by surprise, so I’m gonna get in her way and keep an eye on her as much as possible. She’s not pulling any disappearing tricks on me!”
CHLOE COLOSSUS, ROCKERS CLOWN

MAIN EVENT: BRIGHTON ROCKERS V TEAM DRAGON (5.35PM)

“Brighton are taking on a very strong roster from Team Dragon, with some familiar faces from London Rollergirls, such as Lucy who is a very nippy jammer, and Lola Vulkano who is a double threat to watch out for. I saw Aline Decat play at Eastbourne Extreme last year, and she really impressed me. I Eat is a fast and agile jammer and Rusty Stiletto can give some big hits. Brighton will have an advantage – in that the team are used to playing together – but Dragon will certainly give them a tough game. I think the score will be quite close.”
THE PHILOSOFEAR, TEAM NO FUSS

“I never care to predict the result. You just don’t know how each team is going to play on the day. Today we will play hard to win. We have a couple of our usual ‘standout’ players not playing, which should make room for some different players to take the lead, and also you may see a few new faces.”
THE MIGHTY MIGHTY BASH, BRIGHTON ROCKERS

“We are happy to have some very well respected players in the roster. It’s great to have Lisa Wright in the team; she started her derby life in the LRG Rec League, before rising to the Team England training squad. She retired last year but is back on skates for Team Dragon. She’ll be joining Lola and Lucy in bringing some big game experience to today’s team. I wouldn’t want to predict a result. Brighton are the clear favourites and they’re on home soil but we’re here to play and surprise people. We’re amped for this!”
MOTHER, TEAM DRAGON

[Photo by John Hesse]

LINKS

BRIGHTON ROCKERS: http://www.brightonrockers.com/
TEAM DRAGON: http://teamdragonrollerderby.tumblr.com/
FB EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/705098602921263/
TICKETS: http://www.brightonrockers.com/#!shop/cttr

“You’re Fired Up!” …Brighton Rockers are taking part in The Apprentice (Program)

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There was an exciting and long-awaited announcement on January 19th. The list of WFTDA’s latest batch of apprentice leagues was released to the world, and in amongst the 25 teams – between the Beach Brawl SK8R Dolls of Fort Walton, Florida and the Capital City Crushers of Topeka, Kansas – was the name “Brighton Rockers Roller Derby”. It’s no secret that Brighton have been hoping for a while to be accepted onto the WFTDA Apprentice Program. Here at BRATS we had a sneaky feeling it was imminent when a random crawl of the internet in early December revealed the Rockers had formed a limited by guarantee company on 27/11/14. Although initially concerned by the Coventry address (was the Rockers franchise moving to the West Midlands?) this turned out to be that of the processing solicitor. Being an entity such as this is an essential stepping stone towards joining WFTDA. It was on!

So who are WFTDA? Their mission statement tells us they were “founded in 2005” to “promote and foster the sport of women’s flat track roller derby by facilitating the development of athletic ability, sportswomanship and goodwill among members leagues. The governing philosophy of the WFTDA is ‘by the skaters, for the skaters’. Female skaters are primary owners, managers, and/or operators of each member league and of the association. Operational tasks include setting standards for rules, seasons and safety, and determining guidelines for the national and international athletic competitions of member leagues. All WFTDA member leagues have a voice in the decision-making process, and agree to comply with the governing body’s policies.”

In less wordy terms, they’re the equivalent of football’s FIFA for women’s roller derby. They govern the sport worldwide, organising major ranking tournaments, setting Minimum Skills requirements and issuing the ever-changing rulebook which every league (even non-members) plays by. Well, that’s not 100% true. There are a few rival organisations (USARS, MADE and others) but WFTDA dominates a good 95% of the women’s game worldwide. Not unnaturally, given the sport’s origins, it’s very much an American organisation. Of the current 301 full member leagues, a whopping 238 (79%) are from the USA. There are 16 from the UK, just ahead of Canada (15) with others from Australia (9), Germany (4), France and Japan (both 3), Belgium, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand and Norway (all 2), plus single leagues from Denmark, Ireland and Colombia. Please note: We worked this out by counting tiny flags on their website whilst a bit drunk, so we’ve almost certainly miscounted some of it.

Whilst that’s a decent enough global spread, a look at the 92 leagues currently in the Apprentice Program shows just how much that global spread is increasing as time progresses. There are 51 (55%) from the USA, joined by eight from Canada, five from Oz, and four each from Sweden and France. Belgium, Germany and the UK have three apiece, Brazil two, and there are single leagues from Austria, Spain, Switzerland, Finland, Chile, Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa and Puerto Rico. Wowsers! So how long does the apprentice process last? Well, there is one league who was accepted into it in Nov 2009 who have yet to graduate to full membership, but generally speaking a year or so is the norm. The Brighton Rockers join Birmingham Blitz Dames (Oct 2014) and this month’s British Champs opponents Seaside Sirens (Oct 2013) as current UK apprentices. But that’s enough about numbers and dates – let’s hear from one of the key figures behind Brighton’s WFTDA application…

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DERBY McGEE (BRIGHTON ROCKERS) ON WFTDA APPRENTICESHIP

How long (and through what processes) has it taken for you to get to the stage of being accepted as an apprentice league?
It has taken us ages to get our application in to join the WFTDA Apprentice Program. It’s a rigorous application process and we soon realised that we needed a better organisational structure before we could join. Like most derby leagues, we suddenly came into being and made it all up as we went along. Having to explain how we run the league made us examine it more ourselves and change things. The result is we are now a not-for-profit company, with a sound and sustainable structure, that is accountable to its members. So, although it’s been a slow process for the Rockers, we’ve already benefited from our application. Once we made sure our league was set up in line with the principles of WFTDA as an organisation, we needed to write essays, provide stats from bouts we’ve hosted, plus a lot of paperwork… It’s a hell of a thing!

Why did you decide you wanted to become a WFTDA league?
We decided to join WFTDA as we had a couple of leagues refuse to play us as we weren’t members. We have always been a highly competitive league and wanted to be able to play those teams, as well as hoping that one day we’d be successful enough to play in the big WFTDA European tournaments. It seemed liked the natural direction for Brighton, although the benefits to the league so far have been off the track.

What happens next?
We only just found out last month that we had been accepted into the apprentice scheme, so it’s early days. We’ll keep you posted on our progress over the months ahead.

You can catch the UK’s newest WFTDA apprentice league in action this Saturday (7th Feb) at the Dolphin Leisure Centre in Haywards Heath. As a warm up for this year’s British Championships campaign, the mighty Brighton Rockers will be taking on Team Dragon, a mixed league challenge side that includes players with World Cup experience from Teams England, Spain and Belgium. There will also be a mixed opener, featuring upcoming skaters – most of whom have never played in public before – from several derby leagues including Brighton, Eastbourne, Portsmouth, Croydon, LRR, Kent and many more. Doors are at 2pm, with the first game at 3pm. Tickets are selling very fast – this is going to be the biggest Rockers crowd in quite a while – and priced £10 for adults, £8 students, free for under-12s, with a special 4-for-3 deal. Get yours from the ticket link below. We’ll have a full preview of this exciting event on this website very soon.

[Photos by John Hesse]

LINKS
WFTDA: http://wftda.com/
ROCKERS: http://www.brightonrockers.com/
FEB 7TH FB PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/events/705098602921263/
FEB 7TH TICKETS: http://www.brightonrockers.com/#!shop/cttr

British Championships UKRDA National South Division: Game Day One report

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This year sees the launch of the UK’s first nationwide roller derby tournament. British Champs features a total of 72 women’s teams split into a pyramid of thirteen divisions. (There’s also a twelve team men’s tournament.) The mighty Brighton Rockers are competing one tier below the very top division, in what’s called the UKRDA National South. The first of their seven divisional game days took place a few days ago (Sat 24th Jan) in Windsor, and BRATS were there to watch the tournament get underway. The Rockers themselves – along with Bristol Roller Derby – weren’t taking part in this first game day, but it presented a great opportunity to check out four of Brighton’s upcoming opponents, as well as to to get an early taste of Champs in general…

Windsor is posh. Very posh. From the moment we detrain – and yeah, we’re quite posh ourselves, we use words like ‘detrain’ – at Riverside station until the moment we depart, we’re forever expecting someone to tap us on the shoulder and say: “now now, you really shouldn’t be here should you?” Nobody does. Instead they seek to disconcert us by being almost obsequiously polite. Hammering back pre-derby Jägermeisters in the Wetherspoons opposite the Castle, the bar staff insist on constantly referring to us as ‘Sir’. Back in Brighton, the only time anyone calls us ‘sir’ is when we’re being arrested. We’re on more familiar ground when we reach the derby venue itself. The suburban leisure centres that host this awesome sport – from Reykjavik to Rio, Wellington to Windsor – are all reassuringly much of a muchness inside. Wherever you encounter a left-open turnstile, a paper sign taped to it shouting out ‘roller derby’ in 120-point Impact font above an arrow; the semi-distant sound of clacking wheels, the semi-distant smell of cupcakes… you know you’re on safe ground.

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The Royal Windsor Roller Girls have hosted both the most chaotic and the most low-key derby events we’ve ever been to. The former being those Sur5al all-dayers where fifteen different sets of garishly coloured skaters and fans flit in and around every corner of the hall, like dayglo mosquitoes at an 80s beach party. The latter was an RWRG intraleague in Staines where we were amongst just four [£2] paying customers. Today’s event, not unnaturally, lies somewhere between the two extremes. Perhaps a smaller crowd at the moment than we might have been expecting, but there was a fairly late change of hosts for what [alongside today’s Tier 3 event in Halifax] is the first day of the whole women’s tournament. Of course the calendar year itself is still in its early stages, and much of the UK derby community sees January (events wise) the same way BRATS see midday on a Sunday. Yeah, we know it exists – for other people.

A few things suggest this event may have come a little early in the year for the hosts. There are photocopied rather than printed programmes, replete with white borders and hand folding. The projector screen scoreboard is notably small, although it’s supplemented by a delightfully old school (cricket pavilion-esque) numbers on cards version. Most gallingly of all, there doesn’t seem to be a bar here, nor any form of after party. Or at least they’re not telling *us* where the bar or after party are. [Heck, someone was going to act on that memo eventually.] Everything’s fully and awesomely present and correct on track though, and the hosts are up first against Portsmouth Roller Wenches. Not many skaters from the second game in the crowd as the opener gets underway – there are a bunch of London Rockin’ Rollers around, but it seems most of Southend’s Seaside Sirens will be arriving fashionably late today.

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There’s a star pass in the very first jam for the Wenches. Recipient RIP McMurphy is likely to be a key player for Pompey today, with Royal Windsor very much the favourites in this game. (The hosts currently rank 10th in the UKRDA, whilst defeat to Manchester at Tattoo Freeze has seen PRW drop to 19th.) Fairly evenly matched in the early stages though, with Cle-Blam-O, Vix and the rangy Sutton starclad for Windsor; Psyclone DestroyHer, Nina Nunchucks and RIP taking early jamming opportunities for the Wenches. First few jams have been incredibly light on penalties, but now McMurphy and pivot Awesome Wells are both off for Portsmouth. Cle-Blam-O making the most of the opportunity to give Windsor a foothold on the game. 38-5 to the hosts. Wenches clawing some back now, but the Berkshire pack is proving resilient. Trashbag in particular has the navy blue jammers pegged well back. The granite strong RWRG blocker was recently called up as a reserve netminder for Team GB ice hockey, the announcers announce. If three inch rubber pucks can’t get past her, what chance do the Pompey starheads have?

Both teams employing very fast packs for much of this game, although things turn completely stationary for a long 15 seconds as McMurphy and the off-track Sutton stare each other down in a recycling standoff. An official time out shortly afterwards sees the PRW line-up challenge Windsor’s to a Cotton Eye Joe hoedown-off. Portsmouth win this, but the game itself is slipping away from them a little here. Great on-the-whistle apex jump of pretty much the entire left side of track from Psyclone, but the Wenches are picking up the majority of an increasing tally of penalty calls. It’s 115-68 to Windsor at the half time break. Having been unable to find a bar on site, we decide to see if it’s possible to run the length of Alexandra Park, neck a pint and shot in Wetherspoons, and make it back through the park in time for the second half. Short answer: No. The scoreboard reads 146-77 on our return. PoiSin Cherry is on a power jam for Windsor now. She has more experience of a tournament like this than most on track – having featured prominently for Basingstoke Bullets in last year’s Heartland Series – and must be relishing making her RWRG debut against fellow Hampshirians.

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Portsmouth captain the Duchess of Crutches battling to hold the Wenches packs together as Windsor’s strong jammer rotation continue to edge up the lead. Halcyon Daze, T-Wrecks and Wheelma Flintstone amongst the standout blockers for the navy blues, but the home town defence – particularly Riley Cyrus, Melvin, Muscle Crowe and the ever terrifying Trashbag – are giving it back with interest. The strength of the RWRG packs forcing a number of star passes and jammer penalties from the navy blues, but Pompey hit the ton mark with Windsor around 75 ahead. The Royals react in the best way possible, with the likes of Vix, Cherry and captain Cle chalking up 50 without reply. 230-104. About six minutes left. Wenches try to take advantage of a PJ but the Windsor pack are giving away very few points here. A few (mostly short) jams and a final whistle follow. Windsor’s 252-130 win roughly matches pre-game expectations – the differential is a little smaller than a prediction based on UKRDA rankings, but a little bigger than the Euro prediction – and RWRG top the table after the first game of National South. There’s still another fourteen divisional games to go, of course, with the first of those in just 30 minutes time…

It turns out that what wasn’t possible during half time *is* possible during the break between games, and we get back from ‘spoons suitably refreshed in time for the second game’s skateouts. The sizable and stylish London Rockin’ Rollers travelling support seem equally refreshed, but don’t they always? Seaside Sirens 3-0 ahead after a quick hit-and-quit first jam. A relentless tide of scoring passes from the LRR starclads follows, with Jack Attack, Beat Girl and captain Rammit building up a hefty London lead. It’s 54-4 with less than ten minutes gone as the steaming Rollers flatten their Essex opposition. Von Bitch and Betty Swollox particularly effective in the red packs, both rocking in a lot of offence to sweep Sirens out of the London starheads’ way. Killer Bite is probably Southend’s most threatening jammer at the moment, but she – along with the likes of Ella Gnaw, Force Ten Gail and Pegasus – is finding it punishing going against the LRR packs. 114-7 says the scoreboard now. A far cry from the previous time these two teams met, four months ago in Southend, when the Essex side edged the game 150-147.

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The Rockin’ Rollers have a lot more experience of tournaments (albeit weekend ones) than the vast majority of UK leagues, and they’re clearly aiming to get off to a flyer in British Champs. Despite the best defensive efforts of Sirens captain Frocky Balboa, WhoRae, Hell De Jour, Gail, Gnaw and more, the LRR jammers bag almost every lead status and continue wreaking havoc… Jacks grinning to the Rockin’ Rollers fans on scoring passes, as is her way… Rammit going jammer on jammer to edge off rival starheads… Beat Girl, arguably London’s most effective starclad in this first half, proving as sprightly as a truck full of Sprite… Rebel Rebel starring up to good effect too… With 216-65 on the board at the interval, the Sirens will need a miracle to pull this one back, and it’s not to be. Southend do actually fare a bit better in the second period, but whilst Pegasus, Bite and Gnaw are bagging a fair few leads, tough blocking from Flash Bang Wallop, Deadly Devito, VB and others keeps the Essex jammers from profiting much. Final score: London Rockin’ Rollers 372, Seaside Sirens 162. Slightly more than double the predicted differential.

So LRR sit atop the table after the first National South game day, their +210 differential putting them above fellow victors Windsor on +122. The Rockin’ Rollers have a great chance to further cement their top spot later this month. Not only are LRR hosting the event on Saturday 21st February, but they’re taking on Bristol Roller Derby – the lowest ranked side in the division – whilst second place Windsor don’t have a game. The day’s other match-up sees the mighty Brighton Rockers kick off their own campaign. The Sussex side will be hoping to take a leaf out of LRR’s book as they face off against the Seaside Sirens. All this awesome action is taking place at Newham Leisure Centre, a short bus ride from Plaistow tube (easily accessible from Sussex by jumping the District line at Victoria or Blackfriars). Tickets are £12 in advance (£6 kids) from the link below, with doors at 2pm, derby from 2.30-6pm and a roller disco after party to follow. ‘Bring it!’ as they say.

[Photos by Mindy Cherry Photography]

LINKS
BRITISH CHAMPS: http://www.britishchamps.com/
CHAMPS FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/BritishRollerDerbyChamps
CHAMPS TWITTER: https://twitter.com/BritChampsLIVE
21ST FEB FB EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/1376880975944236/
21ST FEB TICKETS: http://www.wegottickets.com/event/306219
MINDY CHERRY PHOTOGRAPHY: https://www.facebook.com/mindycherryphotography

NATIONAL SOUTH TEAMS
BRIGHTON ROCKERS: http://www.brightonrockers.com/
ROCKIN’ ROLLERS: http://londonrockinrollers.co.uk/
SEASIDE SIRENS: http://www.seasidesirenrollergirls.com/
BRISTOL RD: http://www.bristolrollerderby.com/
PORTSMOUTH: http://www.portsmouthrollerwenches.com/
ROYAL WINDSOR: http://windsorrollergirls.com/