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…
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…
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!
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!
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.
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