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/

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Turn Left Issue 14 Now Online

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In the next few days we’ll have a report up here on yesterday’s (April 30th) epic double header against Newcastle B (a win!) and the Hoodlum Gang. In the meantime, if you missed the game – or if you were there but missed the fanzine (it ran out faster than any previous issue has!) – click the cover image above to be taken to the online version. This includes interviews with Rockers stars Skate Bush, Speedy Gonzalex and Bionic Betty. We also hear from both opposing teams, Irish Mist takes on Newcastle’s Fugazi in the seven questions challenge, our spy reports from inside the current Rockers Fresh Meat, and loads more! Special thanks to all our lovely interviewees. Also big thanks to our photographers (John Hesse, NSP 189, Roller Derby On Film and Dave Moore) and our lovely advermatisers including http://www.meadowyurts.co.uk/ and http://www.thewick.pub/ Yay!

Brighton Rockers AllStars v Newcastle B Preview (inc Batter C Report)

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PREVIEW: SATURDAY 30TH APRIL
BRIGHTON ROCKERBILLIES v HOODLUM GANG B
BRIGHTON ROCKERS v NEWCASTLE WHIPPIN’ HINNIES

You wait five months for a Brighton Rockers home event then two come along in a row. Yes, following on from this Saturday April 30th’s double header in Haywards Heath, the Rockers will be back in action 22 days later (on Sunday 22nd May) against local-ish rivals Croydon. We’ll have a full preview of the May game closer to the time, but for now let’s look at what to expect from this coming Saturday. Tickets are available online until some point tomorrow (Friday 29th) priced at £10 adults, £8 students and free for under-12s. Although there will be tickets available on the door, a special 4-for-the-price-of-3 deal is only available online.
    Doors open at 2pm at the Rockers’ usual venue, the Dolphin in Haywards Heath. Anyone who hasn’t been to the Dolphin before, it’s one of the top roller derby venues in the country (the likes of Eastbourne, Croydon and Men’s Team England have also used it) and is seven minutes walk from Haywards Heath station. Turn left in front of the station and follow signs stuck to lampposts, or point your Sat Nav at RH16 1LY if driving. There’s a cafe in the lesure centre lobby – although it will run out of booze before the end of the first game – along with vending machines. There’s also a big Sainsbury’s with ATMs halfway between the train station and venue.
    Unlike the previous home double header the B-team Rockerbillies are scheduled to be the first game this time. They’ll be taking on the Hoodlum Gang (a mixed league challenge team run by the Hoodlum Fang fashion label) at 2.35pm. This will be Hoodlum Gang’s first ever game, so we don’t have any way to predict a result for this one. Teams such as Dorset, Suffolk and Southampton are represented in the Hoodlum squad, and the Rockerbillies are giving debuts to several new players, so it should be an interesting match-up all round and a chance to look out for stars of the future.
    The day’s main event at 4.40pm sees Brighton’s A-team AllStars take on the Whippin’ Hinnies B-team of Newcastle Roller Girls. Newcastle’s A-team are the highest ranked English team in the UK Roller Derby Association and have already won the 2016 British Championships (with two gamedays to go!), so it’s fair to say their B-team are going to be a tough challenge for the Brighton AllStars. The Whippin’ Hinnies are currently ranked 60th in Europe on 592.0 points, whilst the Rockers are 69th on 580.3. These positions have changed slightly from those in our fanzine (61st/67th) but the points and thus predictions remain the same. Hinnies are given 53% chance of the win with an expected differential of 49:47 equating to something like a 141-147 away win. Wowsers!
    Brighton have high hopes going into the Newcastle game. The Rockers performed above rankings expectations in their previous outing, last month’s game away to Batter C Power in Tottenham. We have a full report on that match-up below, so give it a read and we’ll see you on Saturday. Don’t forget to pick up your free copy of our fanzine Turn Left on the door. This issue features exclusive interviews with Rockers stars Skate Bush, Speedy Gonzalex and Bionic Betty, plush several Whippin’ Hinnies and the boss of Hoodlum Fang/Gang. There’s also an inside report from our spy in the current Rockers Fresh Meat and loads more. Now printed on 15.38% thicker paper!

APR 30TH FB EVENT:
https://www.facebook.com/events/582731168559262/
APR 30TH TICKETS*: http://www.brightonrockers.com/#!shop/cttr
*It’s the second row of tickets (seagull image) – top row is May 22nd

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REPORT: SATURDAY 12TH MARCH
LRG BATTER C POWER v BRIGHTON ROCKERS
LRG BRAWL SAINTS v VAGINE REGIME UK

London Rollergirls events have a habit of selling out. Although this one has left it a bit late (there were a dozen quickly-snapped-up tickets remaining when the doors opened) it’s the crowdedest we’ve ever been at a derby game. Sure, we’ve been to bigger venues, but not ones where people are standing five deep behind packed rows of seating. For several Rockers players this Tottenham Green Leisure Centre audience is easily the biggest crowd they’ve played in front of.
    Flicking through the programme, whilst waiting for first whistle, there’s one name that springs out from the London Rollergirls C-team roster Brighton are facing: Thelma Track. Is that the same Thelma Track who two years ago – in the colours of Paris – put in one of the best jamming stints we’ve ever seen against Brighton? It certainly is, and we have a feeling she could be a thorn in the Rockers’ side again (although Brighton did very narrowly beat her Paris team). Sure enough Thelma is first up in the star for Batter C and hits fourteen without reply in the opening jam. Oh la la.
    Rose Bleed is first to put some points on the wall for Brighton, but the gap is sizeable at Rockers 3 – Batter C 25. It isn’t helping Brighton that they had to submit their roster for this game over a month ago. The Sussex side have had a number of injuries since then and weren’t allowed to add anyone new to the squad. Consequently the Rockers are fielding just eleven players rather than a full fourteen this evening. Gin Atomic with a great apex jump as London call it, but the points gap is still north of twenty. Batter C haven’t picked up a single penalty in the first half dozen jams, but their jammer is off now and Emma the Condemner takes advantage.
    Brighton are putting up some good defence here, but some of their skaters (Racey in particular) are quite penalty heavy in these opening exchanges. Trigger Scrappy really tenacious in the London star, whilst O’Malley (ex-LRR) throws big hits to send Shambolic flying. 59-13 to Batter C midway through the first period. Gin, Rose and Skate Bush picking up points for Brighton now, but penalties are an ongoing concern for the Rockers – Irish Mist and Obliviator the only blockers on track against Scrappy now. Big jam from Thelma Track puts London within touching distance of triple figures. Rose picks up a good haul in the final jam of the period and it’s 45-94 at half-time.

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The prediction computer expected a good London win here, and at the break Batter C are actual doing better than the predicted 8:5 differential. (45-72 rather than 94 would match the prediction.) Given that the Rockers are three short of a full squad, and that reduced squads tend to fare worse in second periods as they tire and pick up penalty foul-outs, the home team seem on course for victory by well over a hundred points here. Nobody seems to have told Brighton this though. Not only do they keep the gap below fifty for the first few jams of the second period, but they then start to reduce it. Successive scoring jams from Skate, Sham and Gin, combined with really tough Sussex walls, sees the Rockers close it down to 71-110 with twenty minutes left.
    Batter C starting to pick up a lot of jammer penalties now with the impressive Van Hustling and Scrappy off in quick succession. Brighton playing it canny. Calling the jams off with the London starhead standing; giving the next Rockers jammer those vital few seconds of power jam start. 88-128. Gin spinning around on the inside of turns one and two now as the LRG blockers chase her dust. 97-128. Tough blocking from Dr Whooligan, Chaka Carnage, Emma, Racey and others is making life hard for the London starclads. This tough blocking gets a little *too* tough as a clockwise block from Chaka is deemed ‘egregious’ (whatever that means) and she is expelled from the game. Oops.
    Just ten players now for Brighton with eight minutes left on the clock. Gin makes it 125-154, but Batter C get the better of the final five minutes and take the game by 172 points to 132. It’s a defeat for the Rockers, but a defeat that feels very much like a victory. Not only did they effectively win the second half 87-78* but the final score’s differential is roughly half what the rankings suggested. Indeed, this loss will actually see Brighton climb three places in the European table overnight (from 70th to 67th). “Wow, that’s the best I’ve seen Brighton play in ages,” one Sussex based neutral tells us. We can but concur. So how will the resurgent Rockers do against the B-team of British Champions Newcastle this Saturday? We can’t wait to find out.
[*NB that’s a palindromic number which, according to roller derby tradition, means everyone reading this now has to neck a tequila or something.]

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For now – jumping back to March in Tottenham in this time travelling narrative – we settle down to watch LRG’s B-team Brawl Saints take on LGBTQ challenge side Vagine Regime UK. These two teams met at the same venue last year. VRUK took the win then by the narrowest of margins: 133-130. Initially this one looks like it’s going to be a more definitive affair, VRUK racking up seventeen without reply, but the first lead change of the day (23-22 to LRG) quickly tilts expectations back to it being super-close. There are lots of well known faces from London’s other league LRR in the Vagine squad, and many of these – Jack Attack, Rammit, Hunter and Pand’Assassin – will form the heart of the visitors’ jammer rotation.
    It’s a very defensive game here with Brawl Saints co-captain Sophia Ho Chee particularly sturdy in the home packs. VRUK’s own captain is London Rollergirls blocking icon Raw Heidi, whose knowledge of the home side’s squad could prove useful here. Brawl Saints are starting to dominate now with the likes of Magic Beanz and Thelma Track (back on track after a great game against Brighton) gathering a decent haul of points. The tough packs on both sides are keep scores fairly low in general, though. LRG go into the break with a 69-57 lead.
    The home team’s other co-captain, Carley McAdam, is arguably their biggest jamming threat. She gets the second period underway with a six point jam against England star Vic Tori Bee. 75-57*. [*Drink more tequila.] Rammit proving very resilient in defence for VRUK, but Thelma is ducking and diving through their packs. Tori Bee backwards skating her way through the London pack now. Rammit takes a jam 17-8 but Brawl Saints are leading 116-86 with half a half left. Power jam for Pand’Assassin with Beanz off and all of a sudden Vagine have pulled it back to 116-105!
    119-114 now. Though it’s a home game for Brawl Saints, around two thirds of this crowd, including most of the Rockers contingent, are cheering for the visitors. 124-118. Official review changes it to 124-119. LRG still keeping their noses in front, but only just. Momentum is with VRUK with six minutes left. Lola Vulkano (a Brawl Saint here playing for Vagine Regime) has the crowd on their feet as she takes the visitors into the lead. 124-126. Next jam and another lead change. 128-127 to London. Time for another? Seconds left. 136-137 to Vagine now. Ohmigawd. Whistles sound. No-one but the refs 100% sure what the score is. Wait for the board to update. VRUK have taken it 143-136 in the very last jam. Wow!
    As everybody drifts off to the nearest pub to get their breath back, let’s wind forward to the present day to remind you of this: If the online predictor is right then this Saturday’s Brighton Rockers v Newcastle Whippin’ Hinnies game is going to be just as close and exciting as the Brawl Saints v VRUK match-up we just described. So buy a ticket. And bring some Valium.

APR 30TH FB EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/582731168559262/
APR 30TH TICKETS*: http://www.brightonrockers.com/#!shop/cttr
*It’s the second row of tickets (seagull image) – top row is May 22nd

[Photos by John Hesse]