BRATS Review Of 2016: PART TWO – Starting off EXTREME until it’s TIME for BED(S)

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Did you check out Part One of our Review of 2016 last week? Click here if not for the full story of January to June in Rockersland. We pick things up in Part Two (slightly delayed due to a bout of flu in BRATS HQ) in the seaside sunshine… The month of JULY saw one of the longest awaited match-ups in British derby. Brighton and Eastbourne have both had roller derby leagues for several years. Although the two have scrimmed with and against each other many times behind closed doors, there has never been a public game between them. All that changes on the Saturday of Eastbourne Extreme 2016 as the Brighton B-team Rockerbillies face off against Eastbourne Roller Derby’s Bourne Bombshells in the lunchtime sunshine on Ebo seafront.

These two sides narrowly missed out on meeting in the playoffs at last year’s Extreme tournament and both are much changed twelve months on. Brighton are giving a few of their 2016 Fresh Meat intake a first taste of action in front of a crowd, whilst Ebo (who are having a quiet year in terms of open door games) also have a number of new skaters in their ranks. The Rockerbillies have the better of the opening exchanges, with the likes of Mighty Mouse, Lab Wrath and Hippy Hippy Skate jamming them into a 35-14 lead. Despite the scoreline, which soon extends to 76-24, the ‘shells are getting as many lead jammer statuses as Brighton here. Track cut penalties are in abundance, however – as they would be on an outdoor surface with no perimeter wire to warn you – and these seem to be hitting the purple jammers harder.

Lily Malicious donning the Eastbourne star for the first time today. Hates jamming apparently, but her haul of fourteen marks the hosts’ best jam so far. Scoreless outings for Crash, Von Stackit and Amazing Graze follow as the Rockerbillies take a 122-48 lead into the interval. Polly Dartin and Speedy Gonzalex giving good defence for Brighton in the second half, with Smash’Er Fierce and The Philosofear both as hard-hitting as ever for Bombshells. Cruelty Spree fouling out for the ‘billies now. “You only get seven penalties in roller derby,” intones Tenacious P on the mic. “So make them good ones,” adds Mother Mercy. Smash’Er sending the entire pack (Brighton and Eastbourne) flying now. A number of high scoring jams for the impressive Mighty Mouse have made the difference here, as ‘billies bench coach Mistress celebrates a 207-142 win.

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The Rockers keep things chill over the summer, with their only public outing on skates in AUGUST being in the Brighton Pride parade. Early SEPTEMBER brings a double header in Haywards Heath against two challenge teams. First up the A-team AllStars face Team No Fuss. Captain Gin Atomic gives the hosts an early lead, before a great turn in the No Fuss star from Beat’her Parker (dancing along the outside line on her toe-stops) puts the visitors 25-16 up as Brighton call a team time out. Kapow is having a really good game today, battling hard to put more points on the board for the Rockers, but the No Fuss defence – particularly Wheel Deal and Liannarchy – are super resilient. Game tied at 40-40. Beat’her off for a while being treated for an injury. LRG’s O’Malley now donning the star every other jam for No Fuss and hitting Brighton hard, but some great starhead outings for Velvet Bottom, Gin and Shambolic round off the half with Brighton 93-50 up.

Half time sees a woman angrily berating a group of fans with a ‘Kick Her In The Face’ banner. “That’s not in the spirit of the sport,” she rails. Er, apart from being the Rockers team’s pre-game chant. Beat’her is back in action in the second half. She and Liannarchy are putting in good stints in the No Fuss star, but Brighton are racking up roughly double the visitors’ points haul here. Super tough blocking from Finn McCruel as Kapow hits another nineteen without reply. Further Kapower jams follow. Janey calls a team time out with one second left on the clock. Gin spins in a few more passes in the bonus jam as the AllStars roll out 240-113 winners. Curiously there are no victory laps and slaps, with Bomb S’Quadder Chasin’ Status the only member of the crowd to line up by the track tape. Maybe the ethos of ‘No Fuss’ is contagious?

Rockerbillies v Team Dragon now, a final game for ‘billies co-captain Van Hayley before her transfer to Bristol Roller Derby. The Rockers B-team are low on numbers here, so five Bourne Bombshells have joined their ranks. Several No Fuss skaters are back on track in Dragon colours. Things start out close, but a little messy. Dragons’ Tinkahell is expelled from the game for entering the penalty box at a dangerous speed. Janarchy, Amazing Graze and Hippy (the ‘billies best jammer so far) edging Brighton into a 30 point lead, but Dragon pull it back to 95-82 at the half time whistle. The Rockerbillies start the second half with their jammer in the box and Streets Of Rage takes advantage to make it a three-point game. Solid jamming from Lab, Hippy and Speedy, together with tough blocking from Van Hayley and Dolores Diablo, sees the hosts take a 142-100 lead with half a half left. Velocity Kendal, Streets and Rumpleteaser battling hard for Dragons, but the only question now is whether Brighton will make 200 before the final whistle. A power jam from Hippy sees them do just that with the final pass of the game: 200-118.

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The B-team sit out OCTOBER, whilst the A-team AllStars head off on two road trips, beginning with the Rockers’ first meeting with Welsh opposition as they take on the Tiger Bay B-team. We like Cardiff, mostly as it just seems to be one giant pub. The Wetherspoons by our hotel has THIRTY real ales on at £1.99 a pint. With Tiny Rebel, Brewdog and Waen Brewery bars in the same street, we leave this road only twice over the weekend, both times for visits to warehouses in the docklands area. The Doctor Who Experience is Sunday’s destination, whilst Saturday’s is Cardiff Central Youth Club. This is Tiger Bay’s first game in this cavernous venue, but a sudden threat of closure (Brains brewery wants to relocate to the site) means it could also be one of the last, gadnammit.

Tiger Bay’s A-team were ranked #1 in the UK Roller Derby Association on several occasions in the past few years, so their B-team is always going to be a tough proposition. The game starts off surprisingly clean, with no penalties (we think) for anyone in the first four jams. No sooner have we written this in our notebook than Cake Or Death becomes the first of a whole sequence of Rockers blockers taking a seat as the hosts rack up a 35-5 lead. Two five point passes for Gin makes things look more presentable for Brighton, but the likes of Hello Reeshi, Boba Fettish and Wild jammerise the hosts into a 102-62 half time advantage. The Rockers have been getting a reasonable number of bites of the lead jammer cherry – with Sham a particularly effective starhead today – but the Welsh packs are super hench.

Half time sees a demonstration of junior derby (Tiger Bay are probably the UK’s leading exponents of under-18s derby) as we enjoy the cheapest bar table we’ve ever encountered – £2 for a can of Guinness is practically offie prices! Those blocker penalties we mentioned come home to roost as Hairy Fairy – usually one of Brighton’s cleanest defenders – fouls out in the first jam of the second period. The announcer gets so excited by this that he blows up the PA; the remainder of the game will have a background of just music. Mighty Mouse does well in the Rockers star as the bar table runs out of Guinness and presents us with a Hobson’s Choice of shandy or Carling. The Sussex starheads are not getting much chance to take advantage of LJ status here, with the Welsh jammer almost always immediately at their back. Tiger Bay B-Bombs take it 227-147 and the Rockers retire to the thirty ales Wetherspoons.

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A mere two weeks (and one day) later and the AllStars are back on the road. This time the destination is Houghton Regis, a cluster of estates outside Luton that takes longer to get to on public transport than Cardiff – waaah! Rebellion Roller Derby are the hosts and they get off to a flying start with Boris and Dew Drop Her hitting Brighton for 17 without reply. The former is Rebellion’s biggest jamming threat, whilst Mayh’Em throws down tough blocking as the likes of Skate Bush and Sham struggle to break through. 48-11. Gin and Juno running master classes in apex jumps for their respective sides. Hench hitting Bush so hard she goes back in time. Never known a half with this many official time outs. It’s a squeaky close 145-122 to the hosts at the break.

Rebellion’s bar is even cheaper than Tiger Bay’s. In that it’s free. In that there isn’t one. “A venue with no alcohol means a quiet crowd,” one Rocker solemnly predicted, but the atmosphere’s actually pretty good. Superstar performance in the star from Sham at the start of the second and suddenly it’s 151-141. Rebellion keeping ahead through the period but only by a power jam’s distance (fifteen-ish). Brighton 217-235 down with 1’15” left as Gin lines up against Boris (who is starclad every other jam now) for the umpteenth time. Apex jump. Track cut. Track cut. Apex jump. Track cut. Super tough Brighton pack. Suddenly it’s 235-226. Is there time for two passes from Gin before the jam clock ticks out? There is. Takes it 236-235 in the final second as the Rockers go wild….

…only to go somewhat less wild ten seconds later as the two points Rebellion’s jammer banked before her final penalty box visit hit the scoreboard. Brighton haven’t won by a point, they’ve LOST by a point: 236-237. Ah poo. Still, an epic game, and the day’s second match sees the surprise re-appearance of ex-Brighton and Eastbourne skater Swann, here debuting for her new team, the Kent-based Apex Predators, after a long break from derby. Speaking of taking a break, we’ll pause our Review of 2016 there. At the end of October? Are we crazy? Yes, but so are the Brighton Rockers, and their November and December were so packed full of derby (eight games in a four week period!) that they demand an instalment of their own. See you soon for Part Three of our round-up…

[PHOTOS: Eastbourne by John Hesse. Cardiff by Adam Chard. Rebellion by Daz Wilson.]

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BEDS TIME: The mighty BRIGHTON ROCKERS aim to quash REBELLION this weekend!

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A mere two weeks after taking on the Tiger Bay B-team in Cardiff, the mighty Brighton Rockers AllStars are back on the road. This Sunday (30th October) sees a slightly shorter trip up country to take on Rebellion Roller Derby. The venue is Houghton Regis Leisure Centre, with the Rockers game kicking off at 12.45, followed by a match between Rebellion B-team Rebel Uprising and the Kent based Apex Predators. Tickets are priced £8.04 (including fees) online – see the link at the bottom of this piece – or £10 on the door. Under 16s go free. The Kings Arms in Houghton Regis is hosting the after party.

“Where in the sam heck is Houghton Regis?” some of you may be asking. It’s just off the M1 north west of Luton. This ought to make for a fairly painless direct Thameslink journey from Brighton, but the Gods of Engineering Work will put you on a bus between the coast and Three Bridges. The nearest station to the leisure centre (Leagrave) is a good 2.5 mile hike, so we suggest getting off at Luton and hopping on either an A or Z bus. It’s actually the same circular bus route, with the letter changing en route. Since Houghton Regis/Parkside is the halfway point (20-25 mins) either bus will do. Car users should point their Sat Nav at LU5 5PY.

Are you one of those people who don’t like reading predictions ahead of a game? Then skip the rest of this paragraph. Rebellion are one of the earliest formed UK derby leagues, predating the Rockers by some margin. They currently rank 47th in the UKRDA on 510.3 points, with the Rockers placing 23rd (595.0). The prediction machine at Flattrackstats gives Brighton a 91% chance of victory, with an expected differential of 13:6 equating to something like a 195-90 away win. Switching to the European rankings system (likely more accurate as it’s based on a much higher number of games) sees Brighton ranked 73rd (582.0) against Rebellion’s 95th (553.3). Brighton’s chances of victory drop to 66% with a predicted 21:17 differential equating to a much narrower 189-153 Rockers win. Since Rebellion’s B-team hasn’t yet played a ranking game, the FTS computer won’t predict anything about their contest v Apex Predators. Soz.

Enough complicated maths stuff, let’s hear from the hosts and a Rocker about what they’re expecting…

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REBELLION ROLLER DERBY

Hi there. For any Brighton fans reading this who might not know of Rebellion Roller Derby, can you tell us a bit about your league?
Despite being collectively very creepy we love hugs, especially during training. We have a small cupboard at our training venue where we keep our line up manager Gav and bench coach Blitz hostage. Shhhhh!

Do you know much about the Brighton Rockers? Any particular players or tactics of theirs you’ll be looking out for at Sunday’s game?
We know the amazing Gin, who is very much a double threat not to be taken likely. We have heard they also like hugs, so we are hoping to take advantage of this and trick their walls into letting our jammer escape. Hahaha.

Any particular Rebellion players or tactics that the crowd should watch out for?
Rebellion is well stocked full of jammer and blocker talent. Best to watch everyone at the same time somehow?

Rankings wise, Brighton place a little bit higher than you at present. What sort of a game are you expecting?
Coach Blitz says: “Brighton are an experienced team not to be taken lightly. However, we enter every game in the mindset that we are here to win. As soon as that first whistle goes it’s on like Donkey Kong.”

The day’s other game sees your B-team Rebel Uprising take on the Apex Predators. What should people expect from that match?
I believe this is only the Apex Predators’ second open door game, so they remain very much an unknown entity. This is Rebel Uprising’s first game, so to the outside world they are very much another unknown entity. Expect the team with the most together walls to take this one.

Finally, what facilities are there at your venue? Anything else to see or do in the Houghton Regis area?
There will be food laid on by us at the venue; hot dogs, vegan chilli, crisps, tea, coffee. There’s nothing else other than vending machines at the leisure centre. No bar. There isn’t much in Houghton Regis – a couple of bars and supermarkets. It’s a very small area, but it’ll do!

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HIPPY HIPPY SKATE – BRIGHTON ROCKERS

Two away games within a fortnight is something of a rarity for the Rockers. How was the Cardiff trip and have you all recovered sufficiently to face Rebellion?
I can’t speak for what it was like on the party bus or in the hostel (I came up to Cardiff a day early and stayed elsewhere) but I understand the Rockers continued their tradition of winning the after party in great style. As for the game itself, we had a great time and the Tiger Bay B-Bombs were such a lovely team. Fortunately I think the hangovers and assorted bruises have faded enough for us to give Rebellion a good game!

What do you know about Rebellion Roller Derby? Any particular RRD players or tactics you’ll be looking out for?
The Rebellion roster looks pretty fierce! The Rockers have been practising our offence and we’ll be trying to put that into practise on the day – we’ll need to against those walls. Gin has skated with Blitzkrieg (the Rebellion bench coach) before and has been giving us tips about his favourite moves, so hopefully we’ll have guessed enough (and practised enough) to be able to counter some of their offense in turn. I don’t want to go into too much detail though, in case they’re reading this…

What sort of a Rockers squad can we expect for this game? Will there be many changes from the side that travelled to Wales two weeks ago?
The Rockers roster has a similar core to what we had for Tiger Bay B. Mighty Mouse won’t be with us, which is a shame because she was on fire at Tiger Bay (winning Best Jammer in her first ever A-team game!). We’ll have Emma the Condemner and Racey back, so it will look a little bit more like a ‘classic’ Rockers A-team. As for who to look out for, I never get tired of watching Gin Atomic leap across the track, but I also think Finn McCruel is making a huge mark on the Rockers – she’s a badass, incredibly strong and with an amazing derby brain.

The Rockers are currently ranked a bit higher than Rebellion. What type of game are you expecting? Care to predict the result?
I’d love to win it and I think the Rockers are playing pretty strong, but I try not to predict things ahead of the day. I think I’m one of the less competitive players on the A-team. I’m still so thrilled whenever I’m rostered for an AllStars game that I count it as a win if I don’t fall over my own feet! Mostly I go in hoping for game that forces both teams to bring their best – I want to play some great derby and have a good time.

Finally, the Rockers are back in action at Haywards Heath very soon, with the A-team facing two continental teams in quick succession. Rockcity of Eindhoven (Holland) on Nov 12th and the Harpies of Milan (Italy) on Dec 3rd. Have you started thinking about those games yet?
It’s exciting and a little overwhelming to have so many games in rapid succession. I have to admit I haven’t had a chance to think too much about the Milano Harpies – I can’t think more than two games ahead! But we’re definitely thinking ahead to the game against Rockcity. We had a great time playing against them at the Slip It tournament in Caen earlier in the year, so we’re looking forward to seeing them again! The B-team is also playing on the 12th, taking on a combined Southampton Roller Derby and Basingstoke Bullets squad with a lot of our fantastic new rookies playing for the first time ever in front of a crowd. I think fans of the league will be pleased to see our awesome new B-team skaters, and fans of roller derby in general will get to watch a hard-hitting game with Rockcity. I predict a great atmosphere, because I know the team always has the most fun when playing against lovely people.

LINKS
FB EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/1783951281861467/
TICKETS: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2642389
REBELLION: https://www.rebellionrollerderby.co.uk/
ROCKERS: http://www.brightonrockers.com/
PREDATORS: http://www.southerncoedrollerderby.com/