BRATS Review Of 2016: PART THREE – The Road From ROCKCITY To The CENTRE of BRIGHTON!

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If you haven’t caught the previous instalments in our Review of the mighty Brighton Rockers in 2016, check out PART ONE (Jan-June) here and PART TWO (July-Oct) here. This third episode covers the absolute frenzy of events – virtually one every weekend – that marked the end of the year in Rockersland… Early NOVEMBER and it’s another double header in Haywards Heath for the hard-working Rockers. The A-team AllStars face Eindhoven’s Rockcity Rollers in a rematch, the Dutch side having beaten Brighton 167-140 in the playoffs of February’s Slip It tournament in Normandy. The visitors get off to a flying start, with jammers Dolly Deathstar and Marcie B helping to put them 22-0 up after four jams. Gin Atomic gets Brighton on the scoreboard in the fifth, but it’s not until a feisty 15-point power jam from Shambolic halfway through the period that the Rockers start closing the gap. Rockcity calling a team timeout when 46-36 up. The visitors have a small but very loud travelling support here, who cheer them on to a strong finish to the half (90-45) with Sham the only Brighton jammer to have really got the better of the Dutch defence.

The second half starts out the same as the first with Rockcity taking a couple of dozen points without reply, before Gin steps up to the plate. Brighton pack keeping Cat Galore back well as Gin puts almost 30 on the board. Cut track call on Dolly sees Kapow close the gap a bit more. The visitors only have eleven players here. Side effects of a small roster include not just increased tiredness in the later stages of the game, but also an increased risk of fouling out. Sure enough, Rockcity lose a player to the seven penalties rule. The slight disruption to their line-ups caused sees the Rockers clawing it back to 131-159. It’s a question of Brighton’s persistence v Eindhoven’s stamina now. Cake Or Death and Finn McCruel super tough in the black packs, Gogozilla and The Brickster likewise in the purple. The visitors have enough Dutch courage to keep their wheels in front and roll out 185-151 victors.

The Rockcity match is Gin Atomic’s last before being exiled to Japan, whilst today’s B-team game is a final Rockers showing for Lab Wrath who is moving to another league. The Rockerbillies’ opponents are a mixture of Southampton City Rollers and Basingstoke Bullets, with the two Hampshire teams having recently decided to join forces for scrims and games. We’ll call them Basinghampton and they prove sterling opposition for the Rockers Bs. It’s one of the closest games we’ve seen with the scoreline bouncing around the level (67-67, 84-85, 89-89) before some great jamming from Slap Dash edges Brighton into a 101-97 half time lead. The likes of Toil N Trouble, Evil Kin Evil and Billy Horroday throwing down hard in the white packs, with Noonz, Dolores Diablo and others hitting back for Brighton.

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Farmergeddon putting in the sort of performance that will result in an invitation to join A-team training before the year is out. Jager BombHer proving solid in the star for the visitors, reacting to a thirty point Brighton lead by taking the next jam 19-0. Jager will star up against Lab Wrath in the final jam of the game. Lab’s final game for the Rockers ends in the penalty box, but were enough Hampshire hips passed before the foul was called? Everyone nervously eyes the scoreboard as it updates with the official final score… the ‘billies have taken it 195-194 and the crowd goes super wilds. SQUEE! It’s an awesome end to a busy fortnight for roller derby at the Dolphin (Croydon staged a double header here last Saturday and Eastbourne the week before). For the Rockers AllStars, next weekend offers a small expeditionary force an intriguing trip to Basinghampton’s part of the world…

BRATS couldn’t make it to this next event, so Emma The Condemner has kindly supplied us with a report: “Avast! Mutiny On The Bouty! A derby sevens tournament hosted by Portsmouth Roller Wenches in Andover, Hampshire. True to Rockers style, our septet arrive slightly panicked (due to tremendous traffic diversions) without much of a clue of the format. It turns out there are two separate four team knockout tournaments – independent and advanced – with the Rockers seven taking part in the latter. With six games today in total, each will consist of just one 30-minute period. We get to watch two former Rockers, Bionic Betty and Feisty McGee, up against each other in the opening intermediate match, before we take to the track against the A-team of hosting PRW. We’ve come up against the Wenches on a fair number of occasions and are relieved at the absence of RIP McMurphy (now playing in the States), although we still have to contend with the likes of Nina Nunchucks, who is as terrifying and brilliant as ever. I can’t remember the score (sorry) but we take the victory. I win MVP and don’t know who else won anything because I’m massively self obsessed… and forgetful.

“The other advanced semi-final sees Team Spektacular – who only feature players wearing glasses and have the best team name we’ve ever come across – defeated by the co-ed team Hoodlum Fang Advanced. We’re becoming increasingly nervous at facing a co-ed side for the first time ever. In our favour is the fact that they’ll be coming straight off the back of a hard-hitting game against Spektacular, whereas we’re a little rested but full of lunch. The prospect of playing against a team of massive boys (and two equally scary girls) makes it very obvious to us that we have to go in for the kill from the very first second. It brings out the best in us and we play a really strong game. We know we have to keep the inside line locked down because we saw Hoodlum’s Tenacious P (the lovely announcer at Rockers home games) nip through on numerous occasion in the previous match.

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“We have Finn in lane one who really does lock it down, with one amazing hip check sending an apex jumping Savage Hun crashing to the ground. Hairy Fairy gets weirdly protective of us all and starts smashing the poop out of the opposition – which is great! Hairy later takes a much deserved MVP award for this game. Our defensive walls are working really hard all game. We know we have to battle together and keep everything as slow and controlled as possible if we’re going to be in with a chance. The nice grippy floor makes this easier. Again, I can’t remember the exact score but – while we lose – it’s by a tiny handful of points. They may have taken the win but we made them work super hard to get it!”

Thanks Emma. BRATS pick up this write-up in early DECEMBER as Haywards Heath plays host to another Rockers double header (a mere three weeks since the last one). The A-team AllStars face Milan Harpies in the first game. The crowd is fairly small today, which is to be expected since the SUPER EXCITING THING HAPPENING NEXT WEEK has meant the Rockers cannibalising their own attendance. One factor when hosting teams from overseas is that they’ll often bring a squad of fewer than fourteen – numbers reduced due to issues of travel costs, time off work, etc – especially now that Brighton are WFTDA apprentices and players must presumably come from each team’s official international roster? Rockcity had it tough (despite their victory) last month when they arrived with eleven skaters, but Milan are here with… NINE! This could get messy.

The Rockers get off to a flying start and are 76-35 up halfway through the half, as the referees tell announcer Tenacious P to be a bit quieter (the skaters can’t hear the penalty calls). Kapow v the visitors’ most effective jammer Electric Lemon next. Milan are getting plenty of lead jammer statutes here, but they’re almost always picking up a track cut straight after. Early in the second period, with Brighton 130-62 up, those penalties are making their mark. The Harpies are down to seven players now, with two fouled out and sat in the crowd. They’re not going down without a fight though, and battle their way back to 149-108 with some great jamming from Martattack. Electric is next to foul out for the Italians with Martattack following soon after. Not only have Milan lost their two biggest jamming threats but they now have only FIVE players left. The remaining Harpies must play out every jam – and the cleanest games of their lives – for the ten minutes left of this match. It’s a fantastically resilient performance from them, slightly aided by a little touchline advice from the foulees, which head ref LaserHammer tells them off for. Somehow the Fantastic Five match the Rockers point for point in the final jams, with a great apex jumping call off from Baby Razor closing out the game. Brighton take a surprisingly narrow 195-159 victory. Great work from the five Harpies.

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The day’s second game sees the Rockerbillies facing Eastbourne Roller Derby’s brand spanking new women’s B-team, the Cherry Bombs. Scorewise this is similar to the ‘billies outing against Basinghampton, with lead changes aplenty in a first half that ends with the Brighton team 91-90 in front. Crikey! Mistress is bench coaching both the A- and B-teams for the Rockers today. Eastbourne’s CalEmity fouls out early in the second period, with Obliviator (the ‘billies most dangerous jammer today) racking up a number of 10-0 jams. InnsterSlam and Elle Hound are amongst the Bombs starheads keeping things close here. Great jamming from the unyielding Chloe Colossus – back from a litany of shoulder injuries – sees Brighton establishing a 25-point lead as another Cherry (Newmatic Drill) is plucked from the penalty seats to the crowd for a foul out.

Jumping Jack Smash and T-Wrecks battling hard in the purple packs, Cruelty Spree and Jackie Jerkheart likewise in the Brighton black, as some great jamming from the likes of Yorkshire Brew-ser and Elle Hound sees the visitors claw back the lead and build one of their own. It’s 172-182 to ERD as we start the final jam. Obliviator v Brew-ser. Brighton defence super tough. Two full passes for the home starhead ties things up at 182-182. As the seconds tick down is there time for a final Rockerbillies pass? There is as the B-team ‘billies take the win by a tiny margin (186-182) for the second game in a row. Wow!

One week later and the Rockers A- and B-teams are back in action. This time they’re playing against themselves as the league splits into two factions – Team Blue and Team Black – for an exhibition game at the Corn Exchange. This is the first time roller derby has ever taken place in front of a crowd in Brighton itself… and what a crowd it is! This event is a sell-out and the packed seats cheer, scream and Mexican Wave along to the events on track as first the B-team, and then (in the second half) the A-team AllStars, battle it out in a slightly cut down – due to the size of the venue – version of derby. We won’t go into detail here as we’ve written a full report for our friends at Brighton SOURCE (click here for that) but suffice so say it’s a crazy exciting event with a super narrow victory to Team Blue, who claw back a 37-point half time deficit to win by three. This epic event might mark the end of the calendar year’s Rockers games, but it’s not the end of our Review of 2016. Keep an eye out for the final instalment (Part Four) where we’ll be cracking open the ballot box and revealing who YOU voted for as your Brighton Players of the Year…

[Photos by John Hesse]

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