Time For A ROLLER DERBY Education? – It’s CAMBRIDGE v BRIGHTON Today!

Oh my giddy goodness, the Brighton Rockers A-team are playing on two consecutive Saturdays. Today (18th Nov) sees a trip up to Cambridge, whilst next week (25th) they are at home in Haywards Heath to Norfolk at an event which also sees the B-team play Dorset B. We’ll have a preview of the home games in the next couple of days, but here’s a last minute look ahead to today’s Cambridge trip….
    The action is taking place at the Kelsey Kerridge which, unlike most British leisure centres, is pretty much right in the centre of town. Doors are at 1pm and the Brighton game is scheduled to be first up at 1.30 with the Cambridge B-team hosting LRR B at 3.30. Tickets are available on the door, priced £8 adults and free for Under 16s.

GETTING THERE AND STUFF
Car users should point their Sat Navs at CB1 1ND which is a car park (Queen Anne Terrace) next to the venue. Four hours parking is a fiver. Train folks should be aware that there are very few fast/Victoria trains from Brighton today. Journey planners suggest routes with several changes and a tube journey. The wise owls at BRATS say get the Bedford Thameslink train to St Pancras, then just stroll next door to Kings Cross. The journey should take around 2.5 hours each way by road or rail.
    The station is a little way from the town itself. This is deliberate. As with Oxford, the University overlords demanded the railway be built away from the colleges/town so students weren’t tempted by the sinful delights of London or, er, Ipswich. Luckily the leisure centre is on the station side of town, around ten minutes walk away.
    The venue joins those at Bristol and Glasgow for getting boos for allowing no booze. At least there are a few pubs within a couple of minutes walk. The Grain & Hop Store (cut a corner across the park) is probably the closest and is where the after party was five years ago. This year’s is a little north east of the venue in the Tram Depot. What we will be pondering over our pints is: Why the hell is it pronounced ‘Came-bridge’ when the river is pronounced ‘Cam’? Mind you, don’t get us started on the way they pronounce ‘Magdalene’ round these parts…

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PREDICTIONS AND THAT
Skip this bit if you don’t like to hear predictions ahead of a game (although we do share an interesting one in the interviews below)… As far as the A-team game goes, these teams have met twice before, but a derby lifetime ago. The Rockers sneaked a 141-132 win at home in 2011 before thumping Cambridge (or Romsey Town, as they then were) 304-60 away the following year. Cambridge have bounced up the rankings in recent years and currently place 22nd in UKRDA with 598.5 ranking points. Brighton are a little way behind in 25th with 595.0. Flattrackstats gives the hosts 58% chance of the win here, with a predicted differential of 48:43 mathsing out as something like a 192-172 Cambridge win.
    We tend to put more stock in the European rankings as they cover a broader range of games, including the UK ones. (Around 60% of Brighton’s games in the past two years have been against Euro not UK sides, for example.) Using these, Flattrackstats comes up with something we’ve never seen before. It predicts that Cambridge (75th, 951.0 points) at home to Brighton (68th, 598.8) has 50% chance of a Cambridge win and 50% chance of a Brighton win, with the teams expected to finish exactly equal on points. Obviously that can’t actually happen (in derby you keep playing until there’s a winner) but it suggests this one really is too close to call!
    In the day’s other game, using the Euro rankings (as only A-teams are UKRDA ranked) Cambridge’s Punt Rockers B-team place 160th on 513.4 points, whilst the visiting London Rockin’ Rollers B-team Badasses are 173rd on 507.3. Add home advantage to the mix and the Punts are given 60% chance of victory. Predicted differential of 55:48 mathses out to something like a 220-192 win for the Cambridge Bs. Which makes both games super close anything can happen match-ups…

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CAKE OR DEATH – BRIGHTON ROCKERS

Cambridge and Brighton have met open door twice before. That was way back in 2011/12, which is ages ago in derby terms. Presumably both teams have changed a lot since then? Absolutely! Derby is evolving so quickly and luckily we have resources such as online videos and high level coaches to help us keep up. However, each team finds their own way to keep up with changes, so it’s always interesting to see how each team is playing now.

Any particular Cambridge players or tactics that you will be looking out for? I don’t know much about their current roster. I’ve heard they have a fearsome reputation for excellent walls though!

Which Brighton players or tactics should the crowd look out for? Finn McCruel is my absolute hero. She won’t be out there doing the biggest hits, so she’s not always noticed, but by the end of the game opposing blockers and jammers alike will be hating her! She’s all over the track at once and forms impenetrable walls. Having jammed against her in practice I know she makes you want to cry. The crowd should expect a more dynamic Brighton team today.

Flattrackstats calls this (using Euro rankings) as a genuine 50-50 game, which we’ve never seen before! Are you expecting it to be that close? 50% win chance each? That’s so cool. How exciting is that, I love it! As always I will make my own prediction of the result. I think it will be a thrilling 245-213 win. To the Rockers, obvs.

Any thoughts re the day’s other game, Cambridge B v LRR B? Ooh, that’s exciting! I imagine they’re pretty evenly matched. LRR are such sweethearts. Well, off the track they are – they’re pretty brutal on the track. I’m looking forward to watching that game.

Brighton then take on Norfolk (A-team) and Dorset (B-team) at Haywards Heath next Saturday. This must be the first time you’ve played open doors two Saturdays running. What are the pluses or minuses of doing that? I didn’t even think of this, so maybe it’s not too big of a deal. I think we approach each game individually, but it’s awesome to have more games to play.

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JANEGEROUS – CAMBRIDGE ROLLERBILLIES

Cambridge and Brighton met in open door games in 2011 and 2012. Presumably things have changed a lot since then? Cambridge pride themselves on never changing. Since the CloneMaster3000 came online in early 2008, the Romsey Town Rollerbillies have been growing replacements for each of their skaters. These are useful for spare organs, or sometimes even just for someone to sit with when no-one else will because your pads SMELL, for the love of…. Jeez.

Any Cambridge tactics the crowd should look out for? We have been EXCESSIVELY practicing leg whips. Today is the day. Watch with your eyes, but sense it with your ganglions.

Any particular Brighton players or tactics that you’ll be looking out for? I don’t really know… but if they do that thing where they get in the way of our jammer, or protect their point, then I dunno…. I might just pop.

Flattrackstats predicts 50/50. Are you expecting it to be that close? Yes and no. I imagine it will be closer in terms of body contact than score per se. If we can find a way of merging the two and creating a super powerful all-seeing all-winning team of point-scoring closeness and glory, then I imagine that would be preferable. But failing that… We’ll do the thing and then that thing’ll happen.

What about the day’s other game, Cambridge Punts (B-team) v LRR B? Punting is a popular pastime for plenty of people while perusing the plains of East Anglia. The punts are prolific in persistence in playing to perfect their roller profession. Prepare to party Punt style as these pugnacious punts take to the track.

What can you tell us about your derby venue and Cambridge itself? Kelsey Kerridge was the initial breeding point for the Romsean Rollaerians from Alpha Smasha Roller Badger 7. They first integrated the humans of the local area by leaving DNA in hair strands around the hall. These were slowly collected in the rolling of the wheels on the floor. When concentrated in a hot knotty mess around an axle and in proximity to the bearings, then strange things started to happen. Cambridge, as a result, has grown an outdoor ice rink outside Kelsey Kerridge as the perpetual cold seems to slow the shedding.

LINKS
FB EVENT PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/events/715136265277741/
CAMBRIDGE ROLLERBILLIES: http://rollerbillies.com/
BRIGHTON ROCKERS: https://www.brightonrockers.com/
LONDON ROCKIN’ ROLLERS: https://londonrockinrollers.co.uk/

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Brighton Rockers AllStars v Croydon Riot Squad Preview (inc recap of both teams’ last games)

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The mighty Brighton Rockers AllStars take on their ‘friendly rivals’ Croydon Riot Squad at the Dolphin in Haywards Heath this Sunday 22nd May. A home game for Brighton on a Sunday is something of a rarity (we can only think of one previous occasion) so be sure to take advantage of this opportunity for a post-roast festival of sport. ‘Festival’ being the operative word, since the game, despite its geographical remove, is part of Brighton Fringe Festival.
    Doors open at 4pm (first whistle is at 4.30) and tickets are available online for £10 adults, £8 concessions and free for under 12s. You can also get four adult tickets for the price of three. Tickets are available from both the Brighton Rockers and Fringe Festival websites, but we recommend the former as there’s a small fee added at the latter. We have a full preview of this epic game lower down, but first off we’ll recap two other derby events that have taken place at the Dolphin in the past couple of weeks. Given that these two events were hosted by Brighton and Croydon respectively, they provide useful clues for what to expect on Sunday…

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SATURDAY 30TH APRIL: BRIGHTON V NEWCASTLE B REPORT
Coming in off the back of a great display – albeit a small loss – away to London’s Batter C Power in March, the Rockers AllStars round off April by facing the Whippin’ Hinnies B-team of Newcastle Roller Girls. Newcastle’s A-team is the top ranked English team in UKRDA and has already won this year’s British Champs with two months left to go, so it’s no surprise that their second team are favourites here. Flattrackstats expect the Hinnies to win but by the tiniest of margins (six or seven points). Seven jams in and the margin is invisible. It’s a tied game at 20-20, Joanna Bruisin’ and Blackjack Belle doing much of the damage for the Geordies, with Gin Atomic and Shambolic scoring well for Brighton. Hairy Fairy and Obliviator doing good work to peg back Mills & Boom now as Skate Bush edges Brighton ahead.
    Our companion is disappointed that Newcastle don’t play in black and white stripes – “make the refs play in green or something” – as fantastic jams from Sham and Skate give the Rockers an unexpected 48-21 lead. Sham is back in the star a few jams later, ducking and diving through the Hinnies pack to chalk up 25 points. After an extended break for travelling a year or so ago, the nimble ninja is back to her best as she helps Brighton to a chunky 107-42 interval lead. The second half sees the Rockers continue to dominate. Khal Jojo and Pretty Skate Machine are amongst the standout blockers for Newcastle, with Hairy, Gin, Emma The Condemner and others proving super solid for the home side.
    With the scores at 134-67 there is an extended stoppage for treatment to tough Brighton blocker Chaka Carnage. She will play no further part in the game and her injury takes some wind out of the Rockers’ sails. The Hinnies take advantage of Brighton’s slight loss of momentum to start clawing back at the lead; the home side have started picking up noticeably more blocker penalties now. Another Rockers injury sees ever impressive starhead Skate Bush bowing out of the match. With further Brighton skaters such as Sham picking up knocks, the home side are glad to make it to the final whistle with a decent victory margin still intact. This 170-143 win is the Rockers’ first open door success since beating Leeds side Hot Wheel, also by 27 points, in May of last year. Without the injuries we would have likely been looking at closer to a three figure differential here. Rest assured that this win not only builds upon the performance against Batter C, but (especially coming after seven straight losses) also marks a turning point for the rapidly improving AllStars.
    Today’s proceedings began with the B-team facing the Hoodlum Gang, a mixed league side organised by the Hoodlum Fang fashion label. That match ended in a 168-223 defeat for the Rockerbillies and saw a great performance from both sides. For Hoodlum the likes of Chunder Woman, Grace Bopper, Ore Raura and the appropriately named Hench were amongst the standouts. In the Rockerbillies ranks, plaudits go to Lab Wrath, Bionic Betty (here playing her final game for Brighton), fast jamming Shakesbeer and many others. No doubt there’s a whole slew of future A-team regulars in the ‘billies ranks. Indeed, B-team MVP Hippy Hippy Skate put in a great stint for the As today too. The day ends with Gin Atomic’s 30th birthday celebrations, a surprise on track marriage proposal for Cake Or Death (many congrats to her and Phil), and a suitably messy after party back in Brighton.

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SATURDAY 14TH MAY: CROYDON V LRR REPORT
With barely time to catch our breath, the sound of clacking derby skate wheels returns to the Dolphin two weeks later. Last year three teams in the British Championships (Brighton, Eastbourne and Croydon) hosted games here. With the first two having withdrawn from the 2016 tournament, today’s Croydon hosted double header is most likely the only Champs action that Haywards Heath will see this year. First up is Bristol Roller Derby v Portsmouth Roller Wenches. Based on last year’s Tier 2 South results we’re expecting Bristol to dominate this one. Flattrackstats agrees, but it’s the Wenches who are fastest out of the gates, taking a 20-3 lead over the first few jams. Nina Nunchucks and Psyclone DestroyHer particularly effective in the Pompey star, but a power jam sees Bristol clawing their way back. Hard N Sharpe and Delta Strike are chalking up points for BRD, with RIP McMurphy hitting back for the Wenches. Lead change! 46-45 to Bristol.
    Great blocking from the likes of Valkyrie Pain and Rosie Rocketpants for PRW; likewise from Black Thorn, President Garfield and others for Brizzle. Portsmouth’s blockers in particular are picking up a lot of penalties here. In fact, Valkyrie picks up her seventh with a quarter of the first half still to go, leaving the game. Successive power jams from Psyclone and Nunchucks sees the Wenches snatch a half time lead of 123-117. Pompey extending their lead at the start of the second, but Bristol peg them back to 169-160. Delta Strike and The Blizzard jamming in points for BRD. McMurphy and Elke Dickson sturdy in the Wenches defence. Jammer switcharoos aplenty and Rosie becomes PRW’s second foul out. That means more jams (and more penalties) for those left, and the domino effect sees two more Wenches sent to the stands, with at least one Bristolian joining them. What’s left of the Pompey squad holds firm for an unexpected 306-276 win.
    It’s hosts Croydon Riot Squad v London Rockin’ Rollers next, and the latter go into this one as firm favourites. We think this game can’t possibly be as exciting as the last one, but it turns out we’re very wrong. There are three lead changes in the opening few minutes, but that’s not unusual as teams feel each other out before one side starts to impose themselves. It seems that side could be LRR as a well used power jam sees them take a 21-11 advantage. This looks like being a fairly low scoring contest with two very solid defensive units at play. Total Bevlam, Smashasaurus Bex and Polly Filla amongst the standout defenders for Croydon here; Miss Justice, Von Bitch, Rammit and others proving equi-tough in the London packs. LRR look like they might run away with things with the scores at 50-13, but the Flying Kiwi and Dyduch are amongst those putting in great turns in the star for Riot Squad. Suddenly London’s lead is a single point (54-53). It’s not often that there’s only one point between the sides during a roller derby game, but this margin will be repeated several more times before the game is done. Starting with a lead change that puts Croydon 62-61 ahead.
    The Croydonians stretch this to a seven point gap (75-69) at the interval, but this game has plenty of drama to come. Queen Mob, Rammit and Jack Attack putting in some ferocious turns in the London star, with Jacks chalking up another lead change and single point margin. LRR leading 90-89 and starting to pull away now, but Croydon are fighting hard and keeping in touch. Riot Squad icon Apocalex, here playing her last game for the side, amongst those battling in the purple packs. Meanwhile, Agent Cooper is being let off the leash more in the Cronx star, swooping and sweeping at speed through the walls of red. CRD keeping within ten or fifteen points of the Rockin’ Rollers here. Ten to fifteen points being that sweet spot in derby differentials – the gap it can just take a 30 second power jam to close. Riot Squad battle hard but LRR keep their noses in front, taking the game by a much closer than predicted margin: 151-137.

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SUNDAY 22ND MAY: BRIGHTON V CROYDON PREVIEW
So what have we learned from those very recent Brighton and Croydon games? Firstly, both sides fared better than the rankings computer had predicted, suggesting that both leagues are currently on an upwards trajectory. Though there have been a few closed door games between Brighton and Croydon, the A-teams have only met once before in public. That was in July 2014 (at, where else, the Dolphin) and the Rockers took the win that time 163-151. Super close! So what’s expected this time?
    ***SPOILER ALERT: If you don’t like knowing Flattrackstats predictions ahead of a game then skip past this paragraph*** There are two different rankings systems on the FTS website. The UK Roller Derby Association one is, as you’d expect, based on the results of UKRDA sanctioned games only. Brighton currently place 19th in the table on 602.3 points, with Croydon just behind in 20th (599.5). FTS gives the Rockers 58% chance of taking the win here, with an expected differential of 51:46 equating to something like a 153-138 Brighton win. Switch to the Europe-wide rankings system, however, and Cronx place higher. They’re 45th on 619.2 points, with the Rockers 69th on 584.8. Run those stats through the predictometer and there’s 69% chance of a CRD win. Predicted differential of 17:13 suggests something like a 170-130 Riot Squad victory in this case. In other words, this one really could go either way!
    The venue is as ever the Dolphin in Haywards Heath, which is seven minutes walk from the train station (turn left and follow the signs stuck to lamp posts). Point your Sat Nav at RH16 1LY if driving. The pub opposite the station, the Burrell Arms, is OK for a pre-game pint, if a little football geezer-y. There’s a very large Sainsbury’s (with ATMs outside) halfway between the station and leisure centre. Be warned that this closes at 4pm on Sunday, so get any provisions prior to doors opening at the roller derby. The last two events have seen the Dolphin move their stash of booze from the lobby cafe to a table in the sports hall itself. This is awesomely convenient, but we suspect is largely aimed at not having a queue of green-haired derby types scaring off parents arriving to drop off kids at the pool. Expect to pay between three and four quid for a bottle of beer/cider/wine, and please leave the London Pride for us (there’s never enough). The after party is at Idelwild, a bistro bar on Haywards Heath Broadway, about twelve minutes walk from the Dolphin.
    Snap up your tickets for this epic rematch in advance from the link below. There will also be tickets available on the door. Don’t forget to pick up your free copy of our unofficial Brighton Rockers fanzine Turn Left on your way in. Sunday’s issue is jam-packed with stuff including… Best mates Gin Atomic and Agent Cooper (playing on opposite sides for the first time in an open door sanctioned game) have a huge banter-off ahead of the contest. Mass Janeycide and Noise Tank trade tips on bench coaching the Rockers. Emma the Condemner selects the programme for a Brighton Rockers themed arts festival. We also hear from Croydon captain Dyduch and others, plus the latest news from all six Sussex roller derby teams and more. See you there!

[Photos by John Hesse, except CRD v LRR by Neil Biggs]

LINKS
BUY TICKETS: http://www.brightonrockers.com/#!shop/cttr
FB EVENT PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/events/767370616727093/
BRIGHTON: http://www.brightonrockers.com/
CROYDON: http://croydonrollerderby.co.uk/

Turn Left Issue 12 Now Online

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Sunday saw the mighty Brighton Rockers hosted the final day of British Championship Tier 2 South action. Playoff and relegation places were decided as the Rockers took on the London Rockin’ Rollers, Royal Windsor Rollergirls did battle with Bristol Roller Derby, and Portsmouth Roller Wenches faced the Seaside Sirens. We’ll have a full report on the day’s events in the next week or so. Did you miss out on a copy of the fanzine we gave out on at the game? It features interviews with all six competing teams, loads of stats (including top jammer and blocker tables for all the sides), a report on the Brighton B-team’s Eastbourne Extreme debut and more. Click on the image above to read the online version. All the physical copies were snapped up on the day, so unfortunately there are none in the Evening Star this time. Sorry!

PS Check out our lovely advertisers:
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British Champs UKRDA National South Final Day Preview (inc Day 6 Report)

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This Sunday (9th August) sees the British Champs Tier 2 South season reach its crescendo at the Dolphin in Haywards Heath. In most divisions there’s often nothing to play for on the final day. Here in T2 South there’s *everything* to play for. Three teams (Royal Windsor, Bristol and London Rockin’ Rollers) are vying for two playoff places, whilst another three (Brighton Rockers, Portsmouth and Seaside Sirens) are fighting to stay in the division – two of the latter trio will be relegated to Tier 3. We have a full preview of Sunday’s action, with predictions plus quotes from all six teams taking part, further down this piece. We begin though with a look at how things went in the previous T2 South Game Day, also in Haywards Heath, last month…

People have said we often concentrate more on a venue’s beer selection in these reports than on the actual roller derby. Whilst we don’t think that’s the case, WHAT THE HELL IS UP WITH THE DOLPHIN CAFE TODAY? Usually it has a selection of bottled ales and lagers, and although these will run out during the day, there’s always at the very least a few ciders or Bacardi Breezers left at the end. Not today. The first game hasn’t even started as we bound up to the bar. “What fine ales do you have, o Yeoman of the Caff?” we ask. Blank look. “What beers are you selling?” A shake of the head. “Lager? Cider?” More head shakes. “What alcohol do you have?” Our server gestures to four bottles sat atop the fridges. Two miniatures of white wine, one of red wine and one Smirnoff Ice. Our faces drop at the realisation this is all they will be selling today. Then drop even further when we realise these aren’t a display of the drinks they stock, these *are* the drinks they stock. Just these four warm (no-one thought to put them in the fridge) bottles. That’s it. We buy the whites and Smirnoff Ice, leaving just one 187ml bottle of red wine for everybody else in the hall to share.

MEMO TO THE BRIGHTON ROCKERS: PLEASE SUGGEST TO THE DOLPHIN THAT THEY GET SOME BEERS AND THAT IN FOR SUNDAY. NOT ONLY IS IT GOING TO BE A VERY LONG DAY OF DERBY WATCHING, BUT THE WHOLE ‘SUNDAY’ THING MEANS THE NEARBY SAINSBURY’S SHUTS AT 4PM. AU SECOURS! THANKS XXX

First up on track is the all conquering Royal Windsor versus the London Rockin’ Rollers. LRR have big playoff aspirations this season, but such is RWRG’s dominance of the division that the main aim in this game is surely to keep the differential down. LRR are just 17 points worse off than second place Bristol differential wise, but every point that Windsor beat them by here will add to that gap. The first few jams are low scoring as the two sides test out their opponent’s defences. With things standing at 15 points apiece seven minutes in, the division’s star jammer Cle-Blam-O sets to work, effortlessly driving in 20 points with Rammit picking up none in return. It’s 35-15 to Windsor, but good work from Pand’Assassin sees LRR close back to 34-42. The likes of Mimika Mayhem and DisorderLee putting in tough blocks for the Londoners, but Windsor’s jammers – particular Cle-Blam-o and Culverhouse – are super wily, and the Royals go into the break 123-83 up. That’s damn near spot on the predicted 3:2 differential.

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The second half sees LRR rally. Some great apex jump sprinkled jammer outings from Rammit, taking advantage of a bigger than usual blocker penalty accruement from RWRG, and the ladies in red have closed the gap to 137-171. Star pass problems for Miss N Link put Windsor back in the ascendancy, but LRR are keeping the gap down to the 40 points they were behind at the break. They are also gaining lead jammer status way more often than anyone else has managed against Windsor in Champs, just 14-16 behind in leads midway through the second half. Culverhouse powering through again and again now, taking advantage of her low centre of gravity to dip straight through the middle of the London pack for a series of natural fives. “Let’s go London, let’s go…” chants from the rowdy travelling support, who are small in number as indeed is the crowd in general. (London Rollergirls are hosting an event in South London that has leeched a fair chunk of today’s potential audience.) Windsor holding the LRR jammers back through tough blocking from Laptalis, Hillsdon, Riley Cyrus and others. We can’t help noticing that half the Windsor squad are single named, with the rest rarely more than eleven characters. RWRG must have the lowest ‘letters on the back of shirts’ expenditure in UK derby. Von Bitch throwing hits at Cle-Blam-O left right and centre, but the Windsor jammer is through. Rollin Stone R calling a team timeout with the clock on fifteen seconds to force a final jam, and the 3:2 prediction turns out remarkably close with a final score of 296-197 (we make that a differential of 3:1.99662).

The day’s second game, featuring the hosting Brighton Rockers up against Portsmouth Roller Wenches, is a biggie. Should Brighton win they will guarantee their own survival whilst sending Portsmouth and the Seaside Sirens to Tier 3. Victory for the Wenches will make PRW favourites for survival due to having the easier final game (v Sirens). Rockers picking up a lot of defensive penalties in the early stages, with Mass Janeycide calling an early team timeout in response. Wenches sending out really tough packs here, with the likes of RIP McMurphy, Dropkick Molly and Halcyon Daze proving a challenge to pass. The Duchess of Crutches is a particular ‘last line of defence’ annoyance to the Sussex jammers, with Brighton forced into quite a few star passes over the course of the game. The Rockers are battling hard – Hairy Fairy and Chaka Carnage sturdy in the packs as Swann trades hits with McMurphy on a regular basis – but the Wenches defence is taking it out of the Brightonians. Sussex starheads looking knackered as PRW call a team timeout with a 74-26 lead. Skate Bush toughing it out well against Duchess as the impressive recent A-team addition claws some back for the Rockers. Final jam of the period is a masterclass of staying in bounds from Dr Whooligan, who shakes off tough hits to score eighteen without reply. It’s 91-56 to Portsmouth at the break.

As a line forms at the cafe – do they not know we drank all the booze? – we do a bit of maths. There’s two ways this could go. Brighton could produce one of their famed second half revivals to send Portsmouth down. Or the Wenches could hold on for the win. The latter would put these two sides level on points, with only differential separating them. At the interval the Rockers are 89 points better off on -113 compared to PRW’s -202. Every point more or less than the current 35 scoreline gap that Portsmouth win by here will add or subtract two from that 89. Each point is worth two since it’s +1 to one side and -1 to the other. Yikes! Things start out better defensively for Brighton as play resumes, with Hairy Fairy sending Nina Nunchucks to ground as the Rockers packs fight to keep Duchess out of their own jammers’ way. Gin Atomic takes advantage of a penalty call on RIP McMurphy to win the fourth jam 23-4. Rockers have closed it to 97-112. McMurphy off now with what looks like a recurrence of the nose injury she picked up in Pompey’s previous Champs game. Wenches 120-100 up with twenty minutes to go. Psyclone DestroyHer putting up some good points for PRW now, before Molly takes advantage of a power jam start to open up a bigger gap for the visitors. Portsmouth timeout as they lead 189-135. “Gin, Gin, Gin, Gin” chants from the Rockers bench – hopefully whoever stocks the cafe is listening, but they’re actually chanting for Atomic, who claws a few back. There’s not enough time left for a Rockers rally though, and the Wenches close out a 215-150 win.

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HOW THINGS CURRENTLY STAND: The Rockers and Wenches repair to the beer garden of Brighton’s Hobgoblin pub for an old school after party with pot luck panties, limbo dancing, gin roulette and more. We sit in the corner with a calculator working out how things stand ahead of the final divisional Game Day (this Sunday). Essentially the Tier 2 South is now split in half. The top three could all finish in any of those positions (1st, 2nd and 3rd) with the top two progressing to Playoffs against two Tier 2 North sides in LRR’s venue, Newham Leisure Centre, on September 19th. Similarly, the bottom three could all finish 4th, 5th or 6th. Only the team finishing fourth will remain in Tier 2, with the other two sides relegated to Tier 3.

It’s fairly unlikely that Windsor will miss out on Playoffs or that Sirens will stay up, so the real battle is between LRR and Bristol (both currently on nine points) for the second playoff place, and between Brighton and Portsmouth (both on three points) for fourth place survival. If these pairs match results – eg both LRR and Bristol lose on Sunday – then placings are decided on score differential. Bristol are currently 116 differential better off than LRR, with Brighton 29 (not 31 like we maths wrong in Sunday’s fanzine) better off than PRW. What happens if two sides finish up on the same points *and* same differential? We put the question to Champs Tournament Head NSO Pettichoke, who tells us, “it’s then decided by the result when those two teams met.” This gives LRR (who beat Bristol) and Portsmouth (who beat Brighton) the edge in ties. If you understand all of the above, well done. Please can you explain it to us.

GAME DAY SEVEN @ SUNDAY 9TH AUGUST:
This weekend’s event, the final Tier 2 South Game Day, is something of a first for Brighton as hosts. The first time (we think) they’ve hosted an open door on a Sunday, and the first time (we’re sure) they’ve hosted a triple header. As you’d expect, fitting in three games means a fairly early start. Doors are at 12.30pm with the first game whistling off at 1.05pm. We advise early arrival since the first game is Brighton v LRR, which is likely to be the day’s closest match-up and will also set up what the teams in the other two games need to achieve to make Playoffs or avoid relegation. Tickets are available online from the link at the bottom of this piece, priced at £12 adults, £10 students, free for under 12s. There’s also a 4-for-the-price-of-3 offer. Tickets will also be available on the door (same price, but no 4-for-3).

The Dolphin is situated seven minutes walk from Haywards Heath train station (turn left and follow the signs) and has parking out front. Somehow National Rail have forgotten to schedule any engineering work – yay! – but bear in mind that trains will be fewer and a little slower on a Sunday. There’s a Sainsbury’s (with ATMs) halfway between the station and leisure centre. The supermarket itself shuts at 4pm due to Sunday trading laws, so let’s hope the Dolphin has remembered to stock up on booze, grub and soft drinks. The after party is taking place at the Witch Inn Sergison Arms Savannah Cafe Bar, which is around fifteen minutes walk from the Dolphin; head back to the train station and hang right at the roundabout just past the station – it’s on the left five mins down the road.

Don’t forget to pick up your free copy of our fanzine Turn Left on the door on Sunday (and mentally rewrite any reference to the differential gap between Brighton and PRW as 29, rather than the 30, 31 or 32 we wrongly state on different pages!). It includes interviews with players from all six teams, tables listing the top performing jammers and blockers on each side, a report on last month’s Eastbourne Extreme tournament which featured the Brighton B-team, and much more. We’ll leave you with the thoughts of participants, neutrals and prediction computers on all three of Sunday’s games…

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1.05 PM: BRIGHTON ROCKERS V LONDON ROCKIN’ ROLLERS

WHAT TO EXPECT: Although all three of the day’s games are important ones with plenty at stake, this first game is arguably the most important as it sets up what the teams playing later will need to do. The most interesting result would be a Brighton win, as this would then set Bristol a target that they must lose by less than against Windsor (to beat LRR to a playoff place) and also set Portsmouth a target they’ll need to beat Sirens by to survive relegation at Brighton’s expense. This game looks like it could be a close one, with Flattrackstats giving LRR a 57% chance of victory and a predicted differential of 29:27. That would equate to something like a 203-189 win for the visitors, which is super close in derby terms.

DR WHOOLIGAN, BRIGHTON ROCKERS: “Shambolic is back for this one. Straight from her adventures abroad, Sham has dug out (and hopefully Febrezed) her skates and returned to the track. We also have Rose Bleed back in the pack. Skate Bush is back on jamming; she’s had an amazing Champs, jamming straight away from her first game with the Rockers. LRR are very similar to us on and off the track, and we always have a great game. We have no special tricks planned, just the aim of an empty penalty box and super strong walls to stop those slippery LRR jammers.”

MISS N LINK, LONDON ROCKIN’ ROLLERS: “We’ve lost a few skaters this year due to retirement and injury. Our captain Jack Attack is still off skates and will be leading us from the bench. We’ve played the Rockers a few times over the years. Last time was a couple of years ago, where the score was a close one. We always love meeting these ladies on track, so we’ve been really looking forward to this match-up.”

POISIN CHERRY, ROYAL WINDSOR ROLLERGIRLS:
“Brighton has some double threats, such as Gin Atomic and Swann, who can rack up the points as jammers or form a solid wall as blockers. However, Rammit was a strong jammer when we played LRR and their walls were tough, so it will be an interesting game to watch.”

ADMIRAL, PORTSMOUTH ROLLER WENCHES: “LRR v Brighton is too hard to call. The predicted outcome is 57% chance of an LRR win. That’s a slim difference, and Brighton will not want to be relegated any more than we do.”

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3.20PM: ROYAL WINDSOR ROLLERGIRLS V BRISTOL ROLLER DERBY

WHAT TO EXPECT: As these teams currently place first and second in the group, this game ought to provide the highest overall quality of derby from today’s matches. If LRR lost the opener, then there’s a good chance that these will be the division’s two entrants to Playoffs (battling two teams from Tier 2 North for promotion to the top flight). If LRR beat Brighton, but by less than 116 points, then Bristol will need to beat Windsor here to nip LRR to that second playoff spot. The only way Windsor could miss out on Playoffs is if Bristol beat them by 190+ points, which is highly unlikely. FTS give Windsor 85% chance of the win, and a predicted differential of 50:31 suggests something like a 300-186 win for RWRG.

POISIN CHERRY, ROYAL WINDSOR ROLLERGIRLS: “We are extremely proud of all of our skaters that have taken part in the British Champs and we wouldn’t be where we are now without every single one of them. Bristol have put in a strong performance in Champs and we know that they are going to be just as strong today. Their walls are tight and their jammers determined, so I’m sure they will keep us on our toes.”

SOMEONE, BRISTOL ROLLER DERBY: “Keep an eye out for Lil Miss Bloodlust who has been having a good tournament. We also have a few new players join our squad, so keep an eye out for Rip Tease, Bear Thrills, Hard n Sharpe and Lex Lethal, who may make their tournament debut. We aren’t worrying about individual Windsor players because they’re strong throughout their squad. They are a very well drilled team with strong jammers, solid walls and stinging offence. But so are we. This will be a good game!”

DR WHOOLIGAN, BRIGHTON ROCKERS:
“Royal Windsor have been such a dominant team in Champs. Culverhouse is the jammer to watch – she’s so strong and has very agile footwork – and Riley Cyrus is a tough backward blocker. I think Bristol will definitely give them a run for their money though; they are hot on their heels in the table. The Blizzard knows how to run rings around the opposition.”

FORCE TEN GAIL, SEASIDE SIRENS:
“Windsor have been incredibly strong in this group and really know how to take advantage with the scoreline, but Bristol have been getting stronger and stronger all year, so it really could go either way.”

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5.30PM: PORTSMOUTH ROLLER WENCHES V SEASIDE SIRENS

WHAT TO EXPECT: The opening game will have set Portsmouth a target for this one. If LRR beat Brighton then the Wenches only need to win against Southend’s Sirens to ensure their survival and Brighton’s relegation. If Brighton beat LRR things get more complicated. Add the number of points Brighton won by to 29 (the advantage the Rockers had over the Wenches in the table prior to today). That’s the minimum number PRW must beat Sirens by to finish above Brighton. Seaside, meanwhile, will only stay up if they beat Portsmouth by 430+ points. That’s probably not gonna happen, especially given that FTS have this as 85% chance of a PRW win. Expected differential of 27:16 equals a scoreline such as 243-144 to the Wenches.

ADMIRAL, PORTSMOUTH ROLLER WENCHES:
“We’re obviously hoping for a high scoring win today, to secure both three game points and also a good differential, but we know the final outcome will also depend on Brighton’s result v LRR. Sirens have had a tough season, but will come and play to win. We saw their game against Bristol. Despite it being high scoring for Bristol, the game also saw Sirens put 122 points on the board, which means we shouldn’t underestimate their jammers. Force Ten Gail in particular has been a strong performer for them.”

FORCE TEN GAIL, SEASIDE SIRENS:
“We played the Wenches last year and I think we just scraped a win last time we met [150-147] but things have changed a lot for us, so we really don’t know what to expect. We’ll be watching out for Duchess and RIP McMurphy. For the Sirens, Who?Rae! has been on great form since returning to us earlier in the year after a tib-fib break followed by a ‘nine month injury’. She has been jamming quite a bit recently, which is great to see. Our priority is to enjoy the game and play our hardest. That’s all we can do.”

DR WHOOLIGAN, BRIGHTON ROCKERS:
“Portsmouth v Sirens should be a great match-up. Portsmouth’s team has been working so hard to get to the level they currently play at. RIP McMurphy is always great to watch. The Sirens have been working hard on playing cleaner (they were down to six players when we played them) so it should be a close game!”

POISIN CHERRY, ROYAL WINDSOR ROLLERGIRLS: “Both Portsmouth and Sirens have a good mix of players, with Nina Nunchucks and Force Ten Gail high on the jammer performance tables. There should be a lot of skill displayed with hard hits and maybe even an apex jump or two.”

LINKS
FACEBOOK EVENT:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1611173889165316/
BUY TICKETS: http://www.brightonrockers.com/#!shop/cttr
BRITISH CHAMPS: http://www.britishchamps.com/
LIVE TWITTER FEED: https://twitter.com/britchampslive

[Photos by John Hesse]

Turn Left Issue 11 Now Online

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This weekend saw British Championships action in Haywards Heath as the mighty Brighton Rockers hosted a Division 2 South double header event. The day featured a game between the division’s unbeaten sides London Rockin’ Rollers and Royal Windsor Rollergirls, as well as a vital relegation battle match-up between the Rockers and Portsmouth Roller Wenches. We’ll have a full report on the day’s events in the next week or so. Did you miss out on a copy of the fanzine we gave out on Saturday? It features interviews with all four competing teams, as well as spotlights on the Rockers 2015 Fresh Meat intake and next weekend’s Eastbourne Extreme tournament. Click on the image above to read the online version, or get yourself down to the Evening Star pub near Brighton Station to pick up a free physical copy (from the shelves by the ladies loo) while stocks last.

British Champs UKRDA National South Day 6 Preview + Day 5 Report

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The Rockers have hosted a lot of exciting derby events, but perhaps none as pivotal as the ones coming up at the Dolphin this Saturday (11th July) and Sunday 9th August. British Championships is a 72-team thirteen division national derby tournament which launched this year. Brighton are in one of the two second divisions (Tier 2 South) and are hosting this division’s final two Game Days. These are the events that will confirm which two of T2 South’s six teams will progress to Playoffs (meeting T2 North sides in the hope of promotion to the top flight) and which two will be relegated to the third tier.
    Although the final day, Game Day 7 which features all six of the divisional sides in a mammoth triple header event, might seem the bigger deal, in fact an awful lot could be decided at this Saturday’s Day 6. For starters the first game sees the two unbeaten sides, London Rockin’ Rollers and Royal Windsor Rollergirls, face off. One of these will lose their unbeaten status whilst the other will all but guarantee their spot in Playoffs. The second game pitches the hosting Rockers against Portsmouth Roller Wenches. If Brighton win this game they guarantee at least safety from relegation (plus a fairly remote chance of making Playoffs) whilst simultaneously relegating Portsmouth and Southend’s Seaside Sirens. Ouch!
    A win for Portsmouth would give them a slightly better chance of final day survival than the Rockers, since the Wenches have an easier final game (v bottom place Sirens) than Brighton, who will face LRR. Sirens and Bristol Roller Derby are sitting out this day, but will no doubt be following events closely – particularly Bristol, who have an eye on pipping LRR to the second Playoff place. The action takes place at the Dolphin in Haywards Heath, with doors at 2pm. Tickets are £10 for adults, £8 students, free for under 12s. These are available online via the link at the bottom of this piece (look for the double header ones, as August’s £12 triple header is also on sale) until 4pm tomorrow Friday 10th. They can also be bought on the door for the same price, but a “4 for the price of 3” deal is only available online.
    Before we hear from players, neutrals and prediction computers about Saturday’s two epic games, we’ll give you a quick summary of the last T2 Game Day, which took place three weeks ago in Havant. Although Brighton sat that day out, the results have set the table up in the exciting way it is going into Saturday. (NB: If you’re wondering why we don’t have a write-up of the Rockers’ May friendly against T2 North’s Hot Wheel RD on this site, we felt Bash’s swansong deserved a wider local audience, so we wrote it up for our friends at Brighton Source instead. You can find a link to it at the bottom of this piece.)

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DAY 5 REPORT: HAVANT @ 20TH JUNE 2015

Attendances at this season’s Champs games have fluctuated wildly, and today’s crowd in Hampshire is much smaller than we were expecting. Of course, there’s simply so much derby happening in the UK these Champs-packed days that potential spectators are becoming increasingly thinly-spread. Indeed, the two Game Days Brighton will host both clash with high profile London Rollergirls events. We rather suspect that the Government has something to do with today’s low crowd, though. A quarter of a million people are marching through London to protest against austerity, and given the typical demographic of roller derby folk (particularly in terms of politics and professions) it’s highly likely some are missing from the crowd today due to that.
    First up on track are hosts Portsmouth and LRR. With three players (including Betty Swollox) recently retired, and iconic Jack Attack watching from the sidelines with a strapped-up leg, LRR are going through one of those ‘transitional’ phases that derby leagues have. Saying that, there’s still enough top level talent on track for them to jam in two points for every one the Wenches get in this first period, which ends 117-60 to the visitors. Rammit responsible for a fair chunk of those, with Nina Nunchucks and RIP McMurphy hitting back for the Wenches.
    It’s a very physical game with the likes of Von Bitch and Obnoxious Li putting it about for LRR, and Dropkick Molly and Wheelma Flintstone steely in defence for PRW. McMurphy picks up a broken nose from VB, acquiring a hockey mask and losing her face paint as a result, then plays a big part in a spirited second half Wenches fight back. It’s not enough and LRR take the game 207-144 to maintain their unbeaten record and stay just behind Windsor on points difference in the table.

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We find some signs pointing towards a leisure centre bar, and excitedly follow them to find a proper bar with tables and comfy chairs and… its shutters down. There is a cafe attached that’s open, but despite the server’s best efforts on our behalf, his supervisor won’t let him unlock the bar bit to sell us a beer. We’ve often moaned in these reports (perhaps misunderstanding the point of leisure centres in the process) about venues that don’t have bars. Now we’ve discovered something even worse. One that does have a bar, but won’t open it. Aaagh!
    After a brief libation at Wetherspoons (five minutes down the road and home to today’s after party) we return for the Bristol v Sirens game. The former have been responsible for the season’s key surprise result so far – a squeaky (four point) victory over Brighton on Day 3 – and they’ll pull out another surprise today. Not that they weren’t expected to win against Sirens, with the numerically disadvantaged Southend side propping up the division after a series of heavy losses. It’s the scale of Bristol’s win that comes as a surprise. Force Ten Gail and Ella Gnaw eke out what points they can for the Seasiders, but tough Black Thorn and all-over-the-track President Garfield defend hard.
    Meanwhile, Delta Strike, Lil’ Miss Bloodlust and others power Bristol to a 498-122 win. Yowsers! That’s better even (differentially) than league leaders Windsor managed against Sirens, and it’s a shame there are so few BRD fans here to see it. They normally travel in numbers and volume, so their scarcity at what must be their closest away venue (in this division) is striking. Maybe they’re all shouting at Big Ben. The loudest support in the second game comes from the LRR squad cheering on Sirens. A look at the table suggests why. Bristol’s huge margin of victory takes them above LRR and into second place. There’s still everything to play for at Game Days 6 and 7. Speaking of which…

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DAY 6 PREVIEW: LRR V ROYAL WINDSOR (2.40PM)

JACK ATTACK, LRR: “We’ve played Windsor a few times over the years and I think they are going to be the most challenging of all the Champs games. We’re totally prepared for it, though, so I think it’s going to be a really good close game. I certainly can’t predict the result as you never know what might happen on the day, but we’ve got a brand new All Stars team with some great new talent as well as veterans.”

CLE-BLAM-O, WINDSOR: “We’re looking forward to playing LRR. They are a lovely team, but we know we need to watch out as they are also a tricky team with some really good players. At Royal Windsor we’re all about the team work. You’re only as strong as your weakest player, but luckily all of RWRG are FIERCE. Bring it on!”

ELLA GNAW, SEASIDE SIRENS: “Windsor’s Riley Cyrus is relentlessly strong backwards blocking and the packs waterfalling made it very tough for our jammers when we played them. They also have a tactic of running the jam clock on to get the points on the board. LRR are just lovely to watch on the track and they look like they enjoy every second. Deadly DeVito’s offence for her jammers is difficult to ignore, and the team’s ability to switch to offence is quick and effective.”

FLATTRACKSTATS.COM: The continued lack of a neutral option on the online predictor means we had to run this through twice, with each side at home, then split the difference. RWRG are ranked 7th in UKRDA on 663.6 points, with LRR in 15th (625.1). Windsor are given an 80% predicted chance of victory with an expected differential of 3:2. This would work out as something like a 270-180 win to the Berkshire side. A prediction based on the European or WFTDA rankings actually favours Windsor even more (90% win chance and 44:27 differential). The above differs from the predictions in Saturday’s fanzine, which are based on marginally older rankings.

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DAY 6 PREVIEW: BRIGHTON ROCKERS v PORTSMOUTH (4.45PM)

SWANN, BRIGHTON: “We’ve only played at the same Game Day at PRW once this year, so we’ve not seen too much of them lately. I seem to remember them having some quite aggressive offence the last time we played them, so we’ll be looking out for that. Dropkick Molly is my one to watch. She’s really consistent and clean and that’s all very valuable in a good player. Our ones to watch? Skate Bush and Irish Mist are coming on in leaps and bounds; they impress me more with every game.”

ADMIRAL, PORTSMOUTH: “We know Brighton really well and have seen them grow since their foundation. For obvious reasons we can’t say too much about strategy, beyond saying that we will be expecting the Rockers to deliver tough walls, hard hits and great jamming. Wenches will be bringing their usual mix of character, flair and spirit. We are super excited to have Peggy Peril back with us, and our newer skaters have really been doing great stuff. Tactics wise, the crowd will have to wait and see!”

BLACK THORN, BRISTOL RD: “I think there are more similarities than differences between these two teams. Their jamming styles are physical and their blocking is brutal. Both teams managed to disrupt our slow controlled defence when we played them, and they forced us into a more physical style of play, resulting in higher than average penalty counts. Both teams also came away with not too different results against Windsor. I’m expecting a physical and relatively evenly-matched game.”

FLATTRACKSTATS.COM: Using the online predictor on the second game, with Brighton given home advantage, sees the Rockers (16th in UKRDA on 620.8 points) given 84% chance of victory over Portsmouth (23rd, 588.2). Expected differential of 17:11 would equate to something like a 204-132 home win. The European rankings give a fractionally different prediction of 83% Brighton win on a 47:31 differential. Obviously, all these predictions are based on past performances, and don’t reflect which players may or may not be available on the day. Again these numbers differ slightly (by 1-2%) from the earlier version in Saturday’s fanzine.

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PHOTOGRAPHS BY (MANY THANKS TO)
Game Day 5: Graeme Willetts
Final Pic: John Hesse

FACEBOOK EVENT FOR SATURDAY
https://www.facebook.com/events/1449649895353261/

TICKETS FOR SATURDAY (PAGE 2 ‘DOUBLE HEADER’ ONES)
http://www.brightonrockers.com/#!shop/cttr

THE ROAD TO PLAYOFFS
http://www.britishchamps.com/womens-t2-the-road-to-playoffs/

BRITISH CHAMPS WEBSITE
http://www.britishchamps.com/

SATURDAY’S LIVE TWITTER FEED
https://twitter.com/britchampslive

ROCKERS V HOT WHEELS (MAY 23RD) REPORT
http://brightonsource.co.uk/reviews/brighton-rockers-roller-derby-review/

British Champs National South Game Days 3 & 4 Report + Day 5 Preview

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The British Championships UKRDA National South division kicks back into action tomorrow, Saturday 20th June, at Havant Leisure Centre. Here’s a brief preview of Game Day Five, along with belated recaps of Days Three (Southend) and Four (Bristol)…

Portsmouth Roller Wenches are hosting the action in Havant. The mighty Brighton Rockers are sitting this one out (as are table toppers Royal Windsor) but Brighton will be hosting the final two divisional Game Days on 11th July and 9th August. They also have a taster session in Hove on Monday for those who want to give derby a try. As for tomorrow, even though the Rockers aren’t playing, pop along to Havant if you can. It’s only an hour away by train and the day’s opening game is a match-up between Brighton’s two remaining opponents. Doors are at 1pm with tickets available online (see link at bottom of this piece) priced just £7 for adults – far less than at any other National South Game Day – and free for Under 14s. Tickets will also be available on the door for an extra quid. Don’t expect much in the way of decent pubs in Havant – a Wetherspoons full of screaming kids is as good as it gets – although Portsmouth itself, or better still Southsea, is pretty good for ale.
    The opening game at 2pm features the Portsmouth Roller Wenches (who Brighton play in July) taking on Brighton’s Final Day opponents London Rockin’ Rollers. The Londoners sit in second place having won both their games to date, with Pompey fifth after two losses. LRR are ranked 14th in UKRDA on 625.3 points, whilst the Wenches sit in 20th on 592.5. Even given the Hampshire side’s home advantage, the predictor at Flattrackstats calls this as 70% chance of a London win, although the expected score differential is pretty close at 56:45. That works out at something like a 224-180 away victory, which is nail-biting in derby terms (although using the European ranking system the predicted gap is wider). LRR have three jammers in the divisional Top Ten charts – Rammit, Beat Girl and Jack Attack – and nullifying these will be key to Portsmouth’s chances.
    The day’s second game at 4.30pm is a match-up of the hosts of the most recent two T2 South Game Days. Bristol Roller Derby currently rank 21st in UKRDA on 589.4 points, with their opponents Southend’s Seaside Sirens not far behind in 25th (575.9). Splitting the difference between home and away predictions – introduce a neutral/tournament button please FTS! – calls this as 61% chance of a Bristol win on an expected differential of 50:42. That works out at a typical derby scoreline in the region of 225-189 to Bristol. This effectively makes both the day’s games too close to call with any degree of confidence, at least using the UKRDA ranking system (the European one favours Bristol more strongly). Sirens will certainly be hoping that’s the case as they have yet to register their first win. An unexpected victory for Southend over third place Bristol would also benefit Brighton a great deal. Speaking of which, let’s rewind the clock to recap last month’s Champs action in Bristol; and first, the games back in March from somewhere just outside Southend…

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It’s the first day of spring and there’s a bit of a breeze blowing in across the garishly coloured attractions that dominate the beachfront. “Four pound each for the train,” says the lady at the entrance to Southend Pier. Stuff that, we want to walk. “Three pound 50 then.” Eh? Nobody *ever* tell Southern Rail about this set-up – it will give them ideas. We’re keen to get to the end of said pier as we’re somewhat confused. OK, geography’s not a strong point, but we always thought Southend was on Sea (the clue’s in the name, yeah?). Yet what we can see from the beach is more reminiscent of a river (albeit a very very wide one) with some sort of nuclear power station on the other side. As stupid as we clearly are, we’re not the only ones to have been confused by this view. A friend from these parts is currently in town celebrating her birthday (with her best friend, the derby playing daughter of a celebrity derby fan). Our mate admits she grew up confused by the hoo-hah over people swimming the Channel: “I always thought that power station just there is in France, yeah? I could swim to that no problem.”
    Perhaps it’s such childhood dreams of crossing the Channel in record time that breeds hearty sporting stock like the Seaside Sirens. The local derbyers are swimming against the tide in this first match of Game Day Three, though. Opponents Royal Windsor are the National South division’s highest ranked side, and they know they have to beat the hosts by 160 or more points to retake top spot from the London Rockin’ Rollers. Windsor’s main tactic is a masterpiece of self confidence. Get lead, pass the Sirens pack, then call it right? Nah, not if you’re the Berkshire starhead you don’t. The jammers in white know how tough their own packs are; know that the likes of Trashbag, Laptalis and Riley Cyrus will hold the Southend jammers up for seconds that feel like minutes on every pass; know that if racking up as many points as possible is the aim, they might as well just let these jams run the full two minutes. Whilst the other side might make some passes, you – the Windsor starhead – will be making far more.
    The first jam runs the full 120 seconds. Windsor lead 22-12. This is about as good as it’s going to get for Sirens. Hosts calling an early team timeout now. Just three jams gone. Their Royal guests will dominate this game as they are dominating this division. 73-32 after eight minutes. Blue team battling. Ella Gnaw trading jammer-on-jammer hits with Cle-blam-O. Force Ten Gail probably the best option in the star for Southend, but the Windsor pack is castle strong and PoiSin Cherry is dancing in natural fives against her. Culverhouse starred up now and taking the outside line. Frocky Balboa and Tiny Temper amongst the blockers battling valiantly to hold back the Windsor wave. The hosts have named this event ‘Tsunami’ and the Sirens are getting swept away here by the sheer strength of the Royals. Ella and Tiny holding up Siouxsie Sutures well in the final jam, but when the whistle goes there’s 265 to 93 on the board. Windsor have passed the 160 point victory margin needed to take top spot… oh, and it’s still only half time.

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Refs share insights in the loos. (“There’s nothing to call; Laser’s on fire, he’s calling everything.” “The Windsor jammers are getting through without having to throw a hit.” “They aren’t going to let up in the second half, they want that differential.”) We do our usual thing of bemoaning the drink selection at the bar; 17 different sorts of lager but no actual beer, gah! Making the best of a bad situation, we decide to sample as many different lagers as possible in case we find one we like, and thus can recall very little of the second half, other than that it’s more of the same. The likes of Pegasus (who fouls out late on) and Gail work hard to eek out a few winning jams for Sirens, but the starheads in white – particularly Cleo, the standout jammer in the whole damn division – are too strong and the Royals take the win 508-141.
    Whilst the booze selection lacks variety – maybe it’s a local thing; even the Wetherspoons by Southend station had no dark beers – everything else about the hosting seems spot on. The bleachers are comfortable and buzzing (although the departure of much of the home support sees them thin out considerably for the second game) and the lighting is bright and white, rather than the yellowy murk favoured by many leisure centres. Most shocking of all, the first game didn’t start on time – which in itself is a real rarity in the world of UK derby – but five minutes early. Jeebers! The next game has been much hyped as a best of three decider, with Bristol and Brighton having previously met in 2013 (Bristol won) and 2014 (Brighton won). It certainly lives up to the billing.
    The Rockers get the best of the opening jams with single scoring passes to Emma The Condemner and Gin Atomic in the openers, before Swann, Hairy Fairy and Emma pin back Lil Miss Bloodlust for The Mighty Mighty Bash to jam in a hatful. In next to no time the Sussex league are 19-0 up. Bristol getting back into things now, though, with The Blizzard expertly marshalling Swann to kill off a Brighton power jam. Black Thorn sending Kapow to ground with a big hit as Til Thrillster takes advantage of Bristol’s first lead jammer status. Noise Tank is filling in for Mass Janeycide as bench coach and he calls a team timeout (Brighton now just 31-29 ahead) to halt the opposition’s building momentum. Raven Lunatic up against Bash in the star now, Bash off, Swann throwing shoulders at Raven to run down the jammer penalty clock, Bash on then off again, three penalties in a single jam as Noise screams from the sidelines.

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Lead change and the Westerners are starting to pull away now. 56-35 to Bristol. Their fans being typically noisy – the only really vocal support for any of today’s four teams. Two very tough packs out on track. The likes of Hairy, Bash and Dr Whooligan blocking well for Brighton; Raven, Thorn and Bazooka Salt likewise for Brizzle. Whooligan starred up now, shrugging off hits with great jamming to close the gap to 79-51. Delta Strike probably the most effective jammer in this game, drawing more penalties from Bash. Noise studying the penalty board during an official timeout. How many marks against 888 now? The Westerners holding a 108-79 lead at half time. Rockers claw it back to 102-112 as Delta serves time in the box, but a misconduct call on Whooligan sees Bristol regaining the initiative. Gin putting in some good jamming performances, but BRD are out muscling her at times. Bristol split the pack and lead by thirty with a quarter of the game left. Noise studying the penalty board again and conversing with Bash. Must be close to seven now.
    Hard-hitting Gin v Bloodlust jam goes 11-10 to the latter. Raft of penalties sees the Bristol blues down to one blocker on track. First foul out, but it’s Raven of BRD not Bash. Nine minutes left. Bristol player down injured. Team time out. 200-179. Ophelia Pain racking up a good haul as Brighton slip further behind. Whooligan star pass to Kapow. Rockers not going down without a fight. 220-200. Four seconds on the clock. Last jam. Gin gets lead. Vile Shadow down injured, half on track. Ref blows for safety. All the zeros on the period clock, but the jam didn’t end naturally, so reset to one second for an extra jam once Vile is happily up and off track. Whooligan lining up against Delta. Bristol jammer picks up a penalty. Swooping, skipping passes from Whooligan. Delta on then off again. It’s Whooligan v the jam clock now. Is there time? Must be close… The Bristol fans, pretty wild even at the quietest of times, go extra wild now, when – after a lengthy delay, with all the double checking of scores possible – the official result flashes up as 227-223.
    Awesome fightback from Brighton, who were around thirty points behind for most of the game, but this trilogy of match-ups goes to Brizzle fo’ shizzle and they slot in behind the Rockers on points differential in the divisional table. We repair to a bowling alley on a small industrial estate. Hardly your typical after party venue, but it’s pretty awesome as players take to the end-of-the-pier penny dropping and stuffed toy grabbing machines, before a mammoth laser bowling tournament. Oh, and the Jägermeister’s just £1.80 a shot, yeah. There is some confusion with food, since the staff insist on taking people’s names rather than where they’re sat when ordering. Everyone politely gives their real first name, and it soon becomes apparent that every roller derby player here is called either Gemma, Jenna, Emma, Jenny, Anna or Emily, all of which sound identical when called out by a wandering barman in a noisy amusement arcade. Tip: Next time use your derby names, if only because of all the wonderful words and phrases the bemused staff will then have to call out…

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As with Southend, there is an efficiently on time start to proceedings in Bristol seven weeks later. So much so that as the first whistle goes we are still trying to find our way out of Bristol Parkway train station. As is usual with stations with the phrase ‘parkway’ in their title, pedestrians are barely even an afterthought. The lack of any sort of subway under the track means what should be a five minute hike to the University actually takes three times that. By the time we arrive at the sports hall the hosts have built up a decent lead over Portsmouth Roller Wenches. 65-38 says the board as Valkyrie Pain tussles with Bristol’s ex-Croydon starhead President Garfield. Crowd favourites Delta Strike v RIP McMurphy up next to jam. Things getting very physical in the packs as Nina Nunchucks and Lil Miss Bloodlust trade blows.
    There something disconcerting about today’s track and it takes us a few jams to fully work out what that is. In order to fit in extra seating – unlike BRD’s other venue nearby, they can’t use bleachers here – the track is at roughly a 35 degree angle to the hall itself. Whilst this does mean they can fit in a horseshoe of seating around 80% of the circuit, it also creates an optical illusion depending on where you are stood/sat. From where we are the track looks circular rather than an elongated oval. Luckily those taking part aren’t confused by the angled track the way we are, and the noisy Bristol support cheer on Delta as the hometown heroes pull ahead of the hundred point mark. Wenches star pass to Awesome Wells and there’s 124-67 on the board. Raven Lunatic and E-Z Roller pushing hard against Nunchucks now as Bloodlust spins in a series of scoring passes. Duchess of Crutches running strong passive offence for the Portsmouth jammer.
    It’s a strong end to the first period for both sides with 157-98 showing on the scoreboard. General consensus from the Bristol fans at half-time is that the impressive Bloodlust is growing stronger as a jammer with every outing “but she still looks like she wants to cry all the time”. It’s not often we encounter a sports centre with its own off licence, but any initial excitement at this revelation is tempered by two sobering facts. Firstly, you’re not allowed to drink in the hall itself, but must sit/stand outside like some kind of freak (ie smoker). Secondly, the only booze on offer is sickly sweet ciders and three different types of tequila flavoured lager. This is Bristol ffs, one of the best craft ale towns on the planet (as last night’s sojourn on King Street taught us) and this is the selection the denizens of this campus put up with? Students, it seems, have a lot to learn.

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In the interests of journalism we try all three of the tequila lagers and the second half is already underway by the time we make it back to the hall. RIP McMurphy off for a jammer penalty (not the rarest of events) and a star pass to Black Thorn sees the home captain speeding through the pack, with hard hitting from Vile Shadow clearing her a path. Halfway through the period and the hosts are 246-179 up. Official review for Portsmouth gives the chanting home fans an opportunity to remind everyone that “we like shouting”. Wenches battling back well now, clearing the 200 mark with the gap down to around fifty points. Penalty call on Psyclone Destroyer puts the toe-stoppers on the fightback as Delta power jams in a whole bunch. RIP closes out the game with a pass, call and fall. 305-253 final.
    Bristol are up to third, but there’s a humungous score differential separating them from second place LRR. PRW still to record a win, but they are playing less early games (only two over the first four Game Days) than most others. The Rockers are holding a team talk out in front of the offie. Noise Tank bench coaching again – presumably he’ll be taking on this role for away games now, with Janeycide helming the home ones. Not sure what Noise is saying to the troops – we’re distracted by more four-packs of horrible tequila lager – but they must know today’s game is going to be a tough ask. Royal Windsor Roller Girls are firmly ensconced at the top of the National South table, and by the time today’s final whistle blows they’ll have five jammers in the divisional Top Ten for points difference, plus *eight* players in the equivalent table for blockers. That should give you some idea how things are going to go here.
    Indeed, Windsor replicate the tactics from all their previous Champs outings. They’re happy to let the clock run down on most jams as they know their blockers will restrict the opposition to a limited number of scoring passes. First jam sees Gin Atomic pick up a penalty. Although she scores a few on her return, Cle-blam-O has put Windsor 27-11 up after one jam. Plus ça change. In fact Gin will spend the following two jams in the star as well, starting both in the penalty box as RWRG rack in another fifteen. The Mighty Mighty Bash and Dr Whooligan pull a few back for Brighton, but the almost superhuman Cleo puts in a 20 point jam, sending Rockers jammer Hairy Fairy to ground when the latter tries to nudge her off. Noise calls an official review halfway through the half, but the 75-36 scoreline stands so he sits down and has a banana.

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Emma The Condemner steers Cleo off well now, but Gin picks up a track cut and is at some risk of fouling out before the interval. Lots of passive offence from Windsor, who seem to have a surprisingly small travelling support given their stature as a league. Maybe living so near to Legoland makes it hard to drag yourself away. What RWRG may lack in fan numbers they make up for in everything else, although Cleo will start the next one in the box after the refs confer. Whooligan taking full advantage of the PJ start with some great jumps inside turns one and three as Cake Or Death runs effective interference. The fast emerging Irish Mist knocks Siouxsie Sutures out well as Swann takes lead. Tough defence from Bash, Cake and others in the Rockers packs, but they’re picking up a lot of blocker penalties now. Round of applause for Laptalis as she takes out Bash. The period clock hits zero as a braced three-wall keeps Gin contained.
    The second half offers much of the same with Windsor swiftly opening up a three figure margin. 183-81 is 233-109 ten minutes later. There’s some great springing down the inside line from Rockers debutant Skate Bush, who hasn’t looked out of place in Brighton’s jammer rotation against this storied opposition. The Rockers are matching Windsor point for point now, but that scoreline gap of 120-odd isn’t going anywhere. Team timeout to Windsor with four minutes left on the clock. Brighton picking up successive leads through Emma and Swann, but they’re 325-189 down now with a minute left. Whooligan v Sutures. The Royals jammer calls it with one second left as bench coach Rollin Stone R shouts for a timeout. Forcing the extra jam. They want more points. Greedy gits. They get them as a penalty call on Bash sees PoiSin Cherry win the final exchange 18-3 for an overall final of 348-196.
    As emphatic as that mighty seem, Brighton have picked up 56.3% of RWRG’s points haul here, which is actually better than anyone else has yet managed against Windsor in Champs – although we suspect LRR will have a damn good assault on that come July 11th. For now, we deport to No 51, a bar in the hipster heartland of Stokes Croft, where we order a multitude of Jägers to take away the taste of all that tequila lager. As things stand, going into tomorrow’s games in Havant, LRR will need to beat hosts Portsmouth by at least 360 points to retake top spot from the commanding Windsor crew. That looks very unlikely on paper, but any sort of London win will set things up nicely for the Windsor v LRR game in Haywards Heath in July – the match that could very well decide the title. From a Rockers perspective, final league placing is probably going to depend as much on Bristol’s results as their own. Portsmouth still have three games to play so absolutely shouldn’t be discounted (and could throw the centre table wide open with a win over LRR), whilst the Sirens will be hungry to try and eek out a win from somewhere before the season comes to a close. All the excitement.

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You’ll find ticket links to all three remaining National South Game Days below. Yay!

LINKS

GAME DAY 5 @ HAVANT / 20TH JUNE
FB EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/839162602831375/
TICKETS: http://www.portsmouthrollerwenches.com/tickets/

BRIGHTON ROCKERS TASTER SESSION / 22ND JUNE
FB EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/835137986566280/

GAME DAY 6 @ HAYWARDS HEATH / 11TH JULY
FB EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/1449649895353261/
TICKETS (PAGE 2): http://www.brightonrockers.com/#!shop/cttr

GAME DAY 7 @ HAYWARDS HEATH / 9TH AUGUST
FB EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/1611173889165316/
TICKETS (PAGE 1): http://www.brightonrockers.com/#!shop/cttr

PHOTOGRAPHS BY (WITH THANKS)
Royal Windsor v Seaside Sirens: Nick Smith
Bristol RD v Brighton Rockers: Warren Miller
Bristol v Portsmouth: Jason Ruffell http://www.roller-derby-on-film.co.uk/
Brighton v Windsor: Jason Ruffell http://www.roller-derby-on-film.co.uk/