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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Photos by John Hesse]

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Turn Left Issues 17 & 18 Now Online

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Did you miss our fanzine for last weekend’s epic Rockers exhibition game at Brighton Corn Exchange? Issue 18 covered both that event and the previous weekend’s double header against Milan Harpies and Eastbourne Cherry Bombs in Haywards Heath. Click the cover image directly above this text or HERE to go that issue. The previous issue (Issue 17) for November’s games against Eindhoven’s Rockcity Rollers and a Basington Southampton hybrid is also online. Click HERE or on the cover image at the top of this piece for that one.

A few physical copies of both should be knocking around on the flyers shelf in the Evening Star pub near Brighton station. Special thanks as ever to all our lovely interviewees, photographers and awesome advertisers including Brighton’s Black Horse (Church Street) and JW Lennons (Edward Street) pubs, http://www.meadowyurts.co.uk/ and http://www.purenuffstuff.co.uk/ Cheerses!

ROCKCITY REMATCH: This SATURDAY the BRIGHTON ROCKERS take on EINDHOVEN and most of HAMPSHIRE!

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There’s a whole bunch of Brighton Rockers action coming up in Sussex (and neighbouring Hampshire) over the next few weeks. Things kick off this Saturday (12th Nov) as the A-team AllStars take on Rockcity Rollers from the Dutch city of Eindhoven. This is a rematch of a game that took place in February in Normandy, with Brighton looking to reverse a narrow 167-140 loss this time out. The day also features the Brighton B-team Rockerbillies taking on an ungodly hybrid of the Basingstoke Bullets and Southampton City Rollers. Five or six Class of 2016 Fresh Meat graduates will be making their debuts in the B-team game, while the AllStars match is the final game (for a while at least) for Rockers stars Gin Atomic and Lab Wrath. Go buy all the tickets now, yeah?

WHAT AND WHERE?
Saturday’s action takes place in the Rockers regular open door venue, the Dolphin Leisure Centre in Haywards Heath. Doors are at 2pm, with the derby kicking off around 2.30 – we presume the A-team game is first up (they usually are). Tickets priced £10 adults, £8 students and free for under 12s are available from the link below. There’s a special 4-for-3 deal on adult tickets. The venue is around seven minutes walk from Haywards Heath station (turn left and follow the signs) at postcode RH16 1LY. There’s a cafe, bar and vending machines there, and the nearest cashpoint is at the big Sainsbury’s halfway between the station and venue. The pub opposite the station (Burrell Arms) is OK for a pre-game pint, but beer geeks might want to know that Haywards now has a Dark Star pub – the Lockhart Tavern opened on Broadway last Wednesday. Don’t forget to pick up a free copy of our fanzine Turn Left at the games. Issue 17 includes a super geeky feature on all the UK roller derby magazines ever.

PREDICTIONS AND THAT
If you don’t like reading predictions before a game, jump right on past this here paragraph. A week or so back (Sun 30th Oct) the Rockers lost an away game to Luton’s Rebellion Roller Derby by a single point: 237-236. If Flattrackstats is to be believed, this Saturday’s action could well be just as close. The Brighton AllStars place 77th in Europe on 578.3 points, with Rockcity 81st on 568.5. FTS gives Brighton 63% chance of taking the win here with an expected differential of 44:37 suggesting a fairly narrow 176-148 margin. Moving onto the B-team game the Rockerbillies place 306th on 449.5 points. Usually we wouldn’t be able to predict a game involving a mixed team, but the opponents are so similarly ranked – Basingstoke 288th (455.1), Southampton 289th (454.4) – that the prediction comes out more or less the same whichever we use. Brighton are given a 51% chance of victory with a differential of 52:51 suggesting something like a 156-153 home win. Wowsers!

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“In many ways it’s going to be a very different team we’re putting up against Rockcity this weekend, compared to the tournament in February. We had a few new players making their A-team debuts in Normandy. They’ve now had eight months to bed in, and we’ve got some great new transfers from overseas in our ranks now too. We also know more about what to expect from Rockcity. They’re a lovely bunch and we’re looking forward to it, both as a game and a fun experience.”
HAIRY FAIRY – BRIGHTON ROCKERS

“It was a very hard game in February. We were very well matched. I expect it could go either way this weekend. We are prepared for the awesomeness that Brighton will bring!”
DOLLY DEATHSTAR – ROCKCITY ROLLERS

“A debut game is hugely important. For the rookies taking part on Saturday, it’s recognising that it’s been pretty much exactly a year since their first Fresh Meat taster session, and that’s been a year of building up to this day. They’ve played in intraleague games in training, but today’s when they finally put into practice everything they’ve learned this past year in front of a cheering crowd. It’s kind of like a showcase.”
KAPOW! – BRIGHTON ROCKERS

“We always aim to bring the best of our training to track. Tight teamwork is a focus on the day – as is fun. We’re looking forward to the challenge that the Rockerbillies present. We’re also anticipating an evenly-matched game, which will be as fun to watch as it will be to play!”
BILLIE HORRORDAY – BASINGSTOKE BULLETS

[Photos by Vinciane Piérart aka NSP 189]

LINKS
FB EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/1787334024885888/
TICKETS: http://www.brightonrockers.com/shop

BRIGHTON VS THE CONTINENT: The Rockers Take On Europe

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As the mighty Brighton Rockers gear up for Saturday’s trip to face London Rollergirls side Batter-C Power in Tottenham [tickets still available – see the link at the bottom of this piece] we look back on Brighton’s five most recent open door games. In keeping with their summer promise to “face more European opposition” all five of these games were against teams from across the Channel. The first two took place in Haywards Heath in November and the other three a couple of weekends ago in Normandy.
    Our story begins in Haywards then with home rematches of two foreign trips from past years. Gent GO-GO Girls are the challenge facing the Rockers A-team AllStars and what a challenge they are. The Belgian side has come on in leaps and bounds since the Rockers played them in 2012. Indeed, outside of Scandinavia and France, Gent are now the second highest ranked team in the entire rest of Europe (only Berlin’s Bear City place above them). Flattrackstats expects the Belgians to take the win by around 100 points here, so a first jam that sees Skate Bush triumph 17-11 over Olga Volt is a good start for the Sussex side. Meanwhile Shambolic, in only her second open door game back since an extended break from the team, re-establishes a tradition by being the first Rocker to visit the penalty box.
    Some tough blocking and bracing from the likes of Chaka Carnage and Gin Atomic allows Kapow, Rose Bleed and others to keep Brighton noses in front for the next few jams. There is a sense though that, as often happens in derby, the stronger side are simply scoping their opponents out over the first four or five jams here, ready to switch up their tactics and regain the initiative. Gent’s very tough jammer Martacus has seen enough now and a 13-0 jam against Dr Whooligan sees the lead change. It’s now 34-27 to the visitors. A succession of jammer penalties for Brighton will see the Belgians add another fifty to their tally before the Rockers score again. The height of the challenge facing the home side here is demonstrated when Brighton’s biggest threat Gin takes lead, puts in a fantastic apex jumping starhead performance that has the crowd on its feet, yet still somehow loses the jam 11-12. GO-GO are GOOD.
    The sentence “even when Brighton look to have got the better of them, Gent win the jam on points” appears several times in our notes. Other scrawled highlights include “Gent bench coach is very smartly dressed – more bench coaches should wear waistcoats”, “GO-GO’s Moodswing Baby is a super tough blocker” and “we are entirely surrounded by noisy Switchblade fans – are they all wearing denim ironically or is it still fashionable in France?” There’s one moment towards the end of the game where we’re pretty sure Olga Volt picks up three jammer penalties in a single jam, yet Brighton still only manage four points. That pretty much sums the contest up. The Rockers battle hard and give them a game, but Gent are a class above and roll out 258-116 winners.

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The day’s second game isn’t strictly speaking a rematch. Although a Rockers side travelled over to Lille to take on Switchblade Roller Grrrls the previous summer, that was a mixed A/B-team Brighton squad, whereas today it’s specifically the B-team Rockerbillies taking on the Lilloise team. The fact that the mixed side lost (albeit not by much) means the B-team could really struggle here. “When the Rockers said they were arranging a game for the B-team against Switchblade I suggested they request Switchblade’s B-team,” one non-player in the Rockers ranks tells us, “I really hope to God they haven’t sent over their A-team or it will be a massacre.”
    They have indeed sent over their A-team. Two jams in and it’s 17-0 to the French side. While Gent brought very few fans across for this event, the league from Lille are represented by a good 20+ in the crowd here, most of them bearing cardboard shields, banners and the like. They’re a fantastic support and damn loud too with a repertoire of chants that would put every UK derby league’s fans to shame. Out on track Sham, playing in both of today’s games to get her track time up after a break from derby, is first to put up points for the ‘billies. A strong jam from captain Irish Mist drags Brighton back into contention – up from 11-27 to 25-27 – before Speedy Gonzalex gives the Sussex side a 35-34 lead. A track cut calls sees Speedy start the next jam in the box and Switchblade take full advantage to post 23 without reply.
    The French side are going with a super small jammer rotation here. For pretty much the entire game it’s only Fille De Satan and Honey Boo Boo donning the Switchblade star, but it’s working well for them. Satan in particular is tearing the Rockerbillies apart jam after jam. Pinkie Buster is amongst the standout blockers for the Lilloise. The likes of Lab Wrath and Van Hayley battle well for Brighton but the French packs dominate much of the proceedings. Jammer penalties are hitting the Rockerbillies hard too with Switchblade taking one jam at the end of the first period 48-0 as Sham looks on from the sin bin. Ouch. It’s 37-195 at the interval and one plucky member of the Lille travelling support agrees to shave his head if Switchblade make it to 400 points. Will he come to regret that bet?
    Irish Mist is probably Brighton’s best hope of points here but even when she has a good run it’s just the odd two or three onto the ‘billies total. Thunderstriker makes an appearance in the French star as Lille vary things up towards the end of the game. Kelly’Diote fouls out and there must be a few of her teammates on five or six penalties now. A great jam from the impressive Mighty Mouse (13-4) is one of the second half highlights for Brighton. With 3’30” left on the clock it’s 368-75 to Switchblade and one of their fans is nervously running his fingers through his at-risk hair. A couple of short jams follow. Speedy Gonzalex does well to hit five without reply and make it 80-377 with just twelve seconds left on the clock. That chap’s hair must be safe now, surely?
    Final jam: Lab Wrath v Honey Boo Boo. The latter takes lead and racks up several passes. Visitors on 392 now with just 45 seconds left on the jam clock. The Lille fans are going wild (well, all but one of them) and no-one but us amongst the Brighton fans knows why. That 400 point target is in sight. Another pass. 397. Twenty two seconds left. Can Boo Boo make it past and through in time? Yes she can! Lille hit 402 in the final seconds of the game with Brighton scoring 84. The French fans stream across to the bench and hug their team before sending someone to Sainsbury’s for clippers. Roller derby is a sport of big wins and big losses – the ‘billies beat Southampton a few months ago by a similar margin to today’s defeat – and this is all part of the learning curve for this fledgling second team. Nonetheless, after today’s results we expect it will be a long time before Brighton skaters face a Belgian and a French team on the same day again.
    In fact, it will be just twelve short weeks…

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We’ve never caught a ferry from Newhaven before, so we make an educated guess as to which train station (Town or Harbour) to get off at. Twenty minutes of wandering round deserted streets later a man in a Portaloo tells us we chose the wrong one. It seems the ferry port is slap bang next to Newhaven TOWN station. Luckily this is only ten minutes walk from Harbour station, which makes the existence of the latter (nowhere near the harbour) even more illogical. Things look up when we learn that booze (albeit Stella, euw) is only three quid a pint on the ferry. So begins several days of accompanying every other pint with a shot of Calvados, a Normandy apple brandy that tastes a lot better on the way in than the way out. Fun fact: around 2.5 hours into the four hour crossing to Dieppe the white cliff coastlines of both countries are visible from the upper deck of the ferry. Unfun fact: Bars in Normandy don’t open until 6pm, even on Saturday, and any that fail repeated hygiene inspections are forced to put a Union Jack in their window and call themselves an English Pub.
    The annual Slip It! roller derby tournament kicks off at an ungodly 10am and Brighton are up first against the Brussels Derby Pixies. Strong continental packs were the theme of that November Saturday at the Dolphin and the same is true this crisp February morning in Caen. Four jams in and three points from Rose Bleed are all that Brighton have managed. She picks up another in jam eight and the scores stand at Rose 4 Brussels 32. Hairy Fairy takes advantage of a power jam and depleted Pixies pack to pull it back to 22-35. Cake Or Death holding back Roll Her Face well now but Sham can’t take advantage. Gin next up in the Sussex star – she looks to have landed an apex jump right on the whistle but the refs don’t give her the points. Noise Tank, benching here in the absence of Mass Janeycide, questions this somewhat vociferously. Racey and Gin are pegging back Roll Her really well now. Obliviator and Irish Mist the other half of a really strong Brighton pack that draws a penalty from the Belgian starhead. BRATS Jammer Of The Year Skate Bush takes full advantage, posting nineteen points to put the Rockers ahead for the first time in the game: 43-41.
    Sham downing Metalix to force the call next and it’s still 43-41. Another pointless jam follows before Roll Her – the Belgian side’s most impressive jammer – retakes the lead. There’s 6’30” left of the period with the Pixies leading 58-52. A bodged star pass between Dr Whooligan and Rose allows Florence And The Machete three scoring passes. By the interval it’s 85-69 to Brussels. That’s a tiny gap in derby terms, but the second period doesn’t start well for Brighton. Multiple blockers getting penalised for failing to reform on a ‘no pack’ call is just one of many problems that sees the Rockers pick up a single point while the Pixies nab 51. Eek. Noise calls a team timeout at 70-136, but this contest is destined to slip away from Brighton. Brussels tough it out to take the game 217-121.
    The Rockers face the hosts Roller Derby Caen next. Good home support here in a nice roller hockey style venue; white flooring that resembles ice makes it feel colder than it actually is, which is pretty damn cold to begin with. Rose gets the Rockers off to a good start with eight points in the first jam, but pretty soon it’s 12-30 to Caen and Noise is calling a timeout. Brighton will field quite a few newer players across this weekend, including the likes of the aces Bionic Betty, Speedy Gonzalex and Hippy Hippy Skate. Although the new additions all do really well, the absence through injury and other reasons of some of the Rockers’ most experienced blockers like Hyde N Shriek (here in the bleachers on crutches) is keenly felt. Caen’s chief tormentors Spank Girl and Chantal D’Acier and the hard blocking Quinn Cardinal are amongst those who keep Brighton on the back foot for most of the game. The final score is 236-145 to the hosts, so the Rockers finish third in the group and will playoff tomorrow at noon for the wooden spoon…

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Having scoped out Sunday’s after party venue on the Saturday night, and been somewhat seduced by several really strong Belgian dark ales on draught, we’re in need of some hair of the dog for Brighton’s midday match-up with Eindhoven’s Rockcity Rollers. Unfortunately it seems that every shop in Caen including the supermarkets and off-licences is closed on a Sunday. After half an hour’s Googling we locate a small store in the suburbs that is open. This seems solely aimed at street drinkers however, with none of the beers (lagers) on offer being less than 6.5% ABV. Almost all of them are obscure German pilsners flavoured with various spirits. There’s the 6.8% whiskey beer, the 7.4% rum beer and the 7.6% tequila beer. We eschew all these ridiculous concoctions and plump instead for the 8.4% absinthe beer. It says “special herbal beer” in big letters on the can, so it must be good for us. Cracking into it back at the venue, we instantly discover that it’s the most disgusting drink ever created.
    Brighton get the better of the first six jams but the lead is a worryingly narrow one (29-27). Lotta Havoc receives the star for Rockcity and takes advantage of a trip to the box for Rose to give the Dutch side a twelve point lead. Skate Bush and Whooligan are putting in some good turns in the star for the Rockers, but the Eindhoven squad of just eleven (Brighton with a full fourteen from an even bigger travel squad) are resolute in defence. The Brickster and Marcie in particular are a real handful for the Sussex packs to tussle with. A first half with a lot of stoppages, including Noise winning back his official review, ends 104-86 to Rockcity as we rush off back to the store for more disgusting wormwood lager. We have another reason to vacate the hall for the interval. There’s a huge ‘Turn Left’ advertising banner between the benches. It seems that we inadvertently gave our Rockers fanzine the same name as a long established Dutch roller derby store. Noise has suggested we should arm wrestle the store’s owner (one of the Rockcity skaters) for the rights to the name. This is a challenge we are VERY keen to avoid.
    Most of the crowd are very much behind the Eindhoven team here with chants of “Go Go Go Rockcity” echoing around the hall as the game resumes. Ruby Cruel and The Great Tyrant are finding space through the Brighton packs despite the battling efforts of (amongst others) Racey, Emma the Condemner and Cake Or Death. The latter picks up a broken nose during the game and will appear at the after party with her face covered in what looks like gaffer tape (albeit stylishly accessorised gaffer tape). Gin, Skate and Whooligan keep the Rockers in touch – Rockcity’s lead is never more than a power jam away – but the Sussex side go down 140-167 to take sixth place in the tournament. The Brighton skaters take to the stands to watch the tournament’s two remaining games.
    The third place playoff between the capital city sides of Brussels and the Paris Rollergirls B-team is the game of the tournament. There’s barely a cigarette paper between the two sides on the scoreboard for the vast majority of the contest. Indeed we lose track of the number of times the teams are tied between jams. 58-58 is followed a couple of minutes later by 72-72. There’s a 112-112 too and so on, hard to remember now, special herbal beer yeah. The Pixies have the edge 90-84 at half time, but a hard fought final couple of jams sees Paris triumph 179-166 with the teams gaining thirteen lead jammer statuses apiece. Wowsers. The final sees hosts Caen face Namur (whose 142-139 win over Paris was the highlight of Saturday). By this stage, to be honest, the six cans of absinthe beer have kicked in and all we can make out from our notes of the game now are what look like the phrases “don’t lick the bleachers not taste nice” and “does stick insects have ears”. According to the internet Namur won 200-154.

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The after party then. We arrive fashionably early – two hours before anyone else – to take up our usual (well, third night in a row) spot at the bar. The rest of the evening is quite a blur. We can vaguely recall everyone in the building congaing around the bar, up and down the stairs and up and down the street… some crazy fake snow blizzard covering half the block… the barman giving us free shots of Calvados… being slightly sick on ourselves… and not much else. We have an early train in the morning so we retire at a sensible hour, thank God. We later learn that most of the Brighton team end up at a house party that is closed down by the police around five am. They may have lost the tournament but we’re pretty sure the Rockers won the after party. It was a splendid and awesomely hosted weekend all round. Yay!
    PS Don’t forget you can catch the mighty Sussex skaters in action back on British soil this Saturday (12th March) in North London’s Tottenham Green Leisure Centre. The fact that it’s the only March weekend without engineering works on the Brighton train line is God telling you to attend, yeah? PPS Bring your own Calvados x

Photos by Vinciane Piérart aka NSP 189
https://www.facebook.com/nsp189/

BRIGHTON ROCKERS V BATTER C-POWER @ 12TH MARCH
FB EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/177921445907182/
TICKETS: http://www.seetickets.com/event/london-rollergirls-2016-season-opener-game/tottenham-green-leisure-centre/954601

CAEN YOU DIG IT? Slip It 3! Tournament Preview

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The mighty Brighton Rockers said they would be lining up some European opposition in 2016 and this weekend (Sat 20th & Sun 21st Feb) sees them face no fewer than THREE Continental sides. The Rockers are taking part in their first Euro derby tournament, a competition featuring six WFTDA member and apprentice leagues in the city of Caen, Normandy. This piece contains previews of all nine tournament games plus interviews with the French hosts and the Brighton captain, along with travel and accommodation tips.
    Firstly, here’s some general info on the tournament itself. This is the third annual Slip It! tournament and takes place at the centrally located Halle des Granges in Caen. Things get off to an early start on Saturday (10am) and yes, Brighton are taking part in that first game – so pack an alarm clock! There’s a full twelve hours of derby action (six games) on the Saturday, then a slightly less frenetic day of three games starting at noon on Sunday.
    The Rockers will face Brussels and hosts Caen on Saturday. The next day Brighton will playoff for either first, third or fifth place against one of Namur (Belgium), Rockcity (Eindhoven) or the Paris Rollergirls B-team. Tickets are a super cheap 10 Euro for the whole weekend (€6 for one day) and are available from the link at the bottom of this piece. With Normandy full of budget hotel options and a number of different ways to get over there, it’s a cheaper weekend away than you might think…

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GETTING THERE

Sadly it’s too far to swim. Which is disappointing since if you stand on Brighton beach and stare out to sea, it’s actually Caen (or at least its attached port of Ouistreham) that you’re looking towards. With that pesky stretch of water in the way any travel plans are going to have to involve a boat, a plane or a tunnel. The ferry option is almost certainly the cheapest, but which of the sea crossings to use? You can get a boat from Portsmouth to Caen (well, Ouistreham) but it’s spendy in ferry terms (£30-£40 each way on foot) and takes 5 hours 45 minutes. The further East a port you want to travel from/to the shorter the crossing will be, but the longer the journey on both sides of La Manche will be. Decisions, decisions…
    For road users we suspect Dover-Calais is the best option for keeping time and costs down. Certainly it’s the option we’ve heard that most of the Brighton team will be using. Us public transport types might have considered the ferry from Portsmouth, but it seems Brittany Ferries don’t want public transport users on it. Check-in for the daytime crossing (the only one served by a bus on the other side) closes five minutes before the first train of the day can get you there! The best option then is the Newhaven-Dieppe ferry (just £30 return on foot). Although this involves a 2.5 hour £25 train journey on the other side, when you factor in the cheaper ferry price, shorter crossing time and stations right by the ports, it actually works out cheaper and slightly quicker than the Portsmouth option would have been. Hurrah!
    Other options include the Eurostar or catching a flight. Caen does have an airport (it’s actually much closer to the city than the port is) but the only UK location serving it is Southend. This wouldn’t normally be a problem, especially as it’s a cheap Flybe service, but there are only a couple of flights a week in winter so you won’t be able to fly back until Wednesday – gah! The best option for those who would rather use a tin can in the air than a tin can on the water? Probably Easyjet from Gatwick to Paris Charles De Gaulle (£40 each way) then a train from Gare Lazare to Caen. This doesn’t work out much more expensive than the ferry options, but the addition of the airport train and a Paris Metro hop make it no quicker and probably more hassle, especially with luggage.
    Accommodation wise, hotel prices in Normandy at this time of year are very good value. Although many places in central Caen are now full, there are still bargains to be had (eg an apartment hotel is offering studio flats for around £30 a night). Of course there’s also the option of an overnight ferry on the Friday and Sunday nights and sleeping in a hedge on Saturday. Enough of the logistics, though, on to the derby…

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TOURNAMENT STRUCTURE

The Structure for the tournament is exactly what you’d expect from a six team weekend tournie. On Saturday the teams have been split into two evenly matched groups. Each group consists of three teams and will feature a total of three games, with each team playing twice (one full-length game against each of the other two teams in their group). The results of these games will give us the group standings, a league table for each of the two groups with teams placed first, second and third. These tables form the basis for Sunday’s playoff games.
    So the teams that finished bottom of the two groups will play each other for fifth place in the tournament overall. Then the teams that finished in the middle of the groups will play off for third place. Finally, the winners of the two groups will meet each other to decide the winner of the whole tournament. If things play out according to the European rankings at flattrackstats.com we could be in for some VERY close games on Sunday. We have the 47th/48th ranked teams plus the 57th/59th split across the groups here.
    The national spread is also very even with one French and one Belgian team in each group, along with one from ‘elsewhere’ (the UK and Netherlands). Let’s take a look at the tournament schedule with the help of the prediction machine at flattrackstats.com. These computer predictions do have a certain element of guesswork to them as ever. The rankings, great though they are, usually don’t quite reflect the current state of the various leagues. We’ll also hear from the Rockers captain and hosts Caen about what they’re expecting from the weekend…

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SATURDAY 20TH FEBRUARY – THE GROUP GAMES

GROUP ONE
Brighton Rockers (ranked 48th in Europe)
Brussels Derby Pixies (59th)
Roller Derby Caen (77th)

10AM – BRUSSELS v BRIGHTON
Brighton are probably quite surprised at how well their Euro ranking has held up despite a tough 2015 season; indeed, one prominent player told BRATS she expected the Rockers to be the lowest ranked rather than second highest team in this tournie. So we’ll take all these predictions with a pinch of salt – particularly as Brighton have never played any of the other teams before. Flattrackstats calls this as around 66% chance of a Rockers win, with a predicted differential of 6:5. That means they expect Brighton to score six points for every five that Brussels get, which would result in a typical scoreline of say 210-175 to the Rockers. That’s pretty close so a Brussels win wouldn’t be a huge shock.

2PM – BRIGHTON v CAEN
As there’s no tournament/neutral option at Flattrackstats we’re having to average out home and away predictions for most of these games. However, in the case of the hosting Leopard Avengers of Caen Roller Derby, we’ll be awarding them home advantage in the calculations. Even so the website gives Brighton a hefty 80% win chance with an expected differential of 19:13. For the sake of keeping the maths simple, that suggests something like a 190-130 Rockers win. Having said that, Caen are not only the hosts but also defending champions (having won Slip It! 2) so we expect them to be tough opposition all weekend.

6PM – BRUSSELS v CAEN

The final Group 1 game also looks like a tricky one for the hosts if we are to believe the computer predictions. FTS gives Brussels a 68% chance of taking the win with a predicted differential of 39:32. That would mean a scoreline in the region of 195-160 to the Belgian side. These teams have met once before. That was at the very first Slip It! tournament back in January 2014, with Brussels taking the win by a super close 158-155 on that occasion, so this one could be a real nailbiter.

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GROUP TWO
Namur Roller Girls (ranked 47th in Europe)
Rockcity Rollers (57th)
Paris Rollergirls B – Les Quedalles (63rd)

12PM – NAMUR v PARIS
Namur from Wallonia (French-speaking Belgium) were a late addition to this tournament following the withdrawal of Copenhagen. Though ranked five places below the Danes they are the highest placed team taking part. Paris Rollergirls B-team Les Quedalles were the lowest ranked of the six teams, but a good showing earlier this month against teams from Lille and Reims has seen them jump a whopping 23 places in the rankings. Nonetheless, Flattrackstats give the Belgians 72% chance of the win here with a predicted differential of 47:34. If true that would mean something like a 188-136 Namur win.

4PM – ROCKCITY v PARIS
This shows you the effect Les Quedalles’ good results a week or two back have had on the (rankings based) prediction computer. When we ran the predictor before those games it gave Rockcity 82% chance of taking the win here. Once those three games on 6th/7th Feb are factored into the Paris ranking, Rockcity’s chances have dropped down to 62%. The suggested differential of 7:6 would equate to something like a 154-132 victory for the Dutch side from Eindhoven. That’s super close in derby terms, so this one could go either way.

8PM – NAMUR v ROCKCITY
Should the computer predictions for the first two Group 2 games have proven correct (which is unlikely – we’re expecting at least one upset in each group) then this match will decide the group winners. Flattrackstats favours the Belgian side here, giving Namur 65% chance of the win. The differential is pretty close though at 27:22, which suggests a scoreline in the region of 162-132. Rockcity have won their two previous games against Namur however (in 2013 and 2014) so take nothing for granted!

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SUNDAY 21ST FEBRUARY – THE PLAYOFFS
We aren’t going to include any predictions for Sunday’s playoff games as we really wouldn’t like to predict which teams are going to finish where in the group tables. Certainly several teams here are ranked quite a bit higher or lower than their most recent results would suggest. This is particularly apparent when looking at possible playoff match-ups. For example, hosts the Leopard Avengers beat Paris B by almost 300 points at Slip It! 2 and Caen’s only ever game against the highest ranked side here Namur (less than a year ago) saw the French side triumph 192-93. Rockcity are the only Group 2 side the hosts haven’t played before.
    An all-Belgium playoff game would prove an interesting proposition. Brussels and Namur have met three times before and the most recent meeting saw the Derby Pixies triumph by a single point: 170-169. Les Quedalles are also no stranger to Brussels with one win apiece in the teams’ previous meetings. Could there be a ‘best of three’ decider in Caen? As for a Brussels v Rockcity game, that would be the SEVENTH public meeting of the Benelux sides. The teams have been taking it in turns to win with scorelines to date [Brussels scores listed first] of 192-172, 165-202, 122-100, 152-182, 142-79 and 167-176. No-one would be brave enough to predict the outcome of a ‘best of seven’ decider here!
    Whoever Brighton meet on the Sunday will be a new opponent, although the Rockers have previously played (and narrowly beaten) the Paris Rollergirls A-team. Whatever the make-up of the tournament’s three playoff games, we’re expecting them to all be pretty close. Even the FTS predictor throws up 52%-48% win chances for a couple of Sunday’s potential match-ups!

12PM – 5TH/6TH PLACE PLAYOFF
This match features the teams who finished bottom of the two groups.

2.15PM – 3RD/4TH PLACE PLAYOFF

The ‘bronze medal match’ is between the two second place teams.

4.30PM – 1ST/2ND PLACE PLAYOFF
The final sees the winners of Groups 1 & 2 battle for the tournament title.

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SPANK GIRL – ROLLER DERBY CAEN

Can you tell us a little about the history of Roller Derby Caen and the Slip It! tournament? Do the Leopard Avengers have any special players or tactics that fans should look out for?
Roller Derby Caen was created in 2011 by our President and Captain, Chantal d’Acier. In the beginning we were just a few skaters and thus unable to play under our own colours, so we had our first games with Team Normandy. We played our first tournament as the Leopard Avengers in 2013. Since then we’ve played regularly and despite being a small league, we managed to become strong enough to be in the Elite category (the highest) in the first French Championships. We were accepted in late July as an Apprentice Member of WFTDA. As you can imagine we were really looking forward to making it!
    Since this year we’re happy to also have a B team, Les Pétrolleuses, which will allow our Fresh Meat to start playing games more quickly. We’ve been organising the Slip It! tournament for three years now. It’s well known in France and now throughout Europe. This year’s Slip It! will be 100% WFTDA teams, and we will be hosting players and referees from many different European countries. As for our special players and tactics, we prefer to let you see for yourselves and have the full surprise!

Have you played many of the teams at this year’s Slip It! before? Are any teams totally unknown to you? How are you hoping to do in the tournament and which teams do you think will do the best?
The two teams we really don’t know are the Rockcity Rollers from Eindhoven and the one you are cheering for, the Brighton Rockers. We have already met Brussels Derby Pixies, Paris Les Quedalles and Namur Roller Girls. We are really looking forward to playing against Brighton and we are happy to meet Brussels again; the Derby Pixies are a great team with good spirit and they’re funny ladies. We will do our best during this tournament in all the games we play and we’re sure that all six of the teams will play at their best level. As we say in French: “Que le meilleur gagne!”

Can you tell us a little about your venue? Is there much seating for fans? Vendors? Food? Most importantly, is there are a bar?
La Halle des Granges is a big place with a very high ceiling. It is really cold during the winter, so tell people to bring warm clothes (scarves, gloves, fleeces) to feel more comfortable, and blankets too. You will find bleachers and a big suicide zone to sit in, vendors (roller derby stuff, team merch, etc). There is a bar where you can have some homemade soups, cakes, sandwiches in fresh baguettes, plus hot and cold drinks. We do apologise but we don’t have the right to sell beer or wine. It is strictly forbidden by the City Of Caen to sell alcohol at an athletic meeting. We are sure you will find a way to have some!

For fans travelling to Caen for the tournament, is there anything you suggest to see and do (as a tourist) in the area?

The city centre of Caen is lovely and there are also many places you can visit in the surrounding area. First you should have a look at L’Abbaye aux Hommes near to the venue. It was erected by William the Conqueror himself, in a pure Norman style, and he’s buried there. You can also visit L’Abbaye aux Dames, which was founded at the same period. Still in the city centre you have the Ducal Castle at the top of which are the Fine Arts Museum and the Museum of Normandy. Close to this is St Pierre’s church. Also check out the Caen Memorial, a museum and war memorial commemorating the Second World War and the battle for Caen, during which the city was almost completely destroyed. Around Caen if you drive about 40km you can visit the D-Day beaches and the artificial harbour (Mulberry Harbour) of Arromanches. 20km from Caen you’ll find the famous Bayeux Tapestry. Embroidered by Queen Mathilde and others, this illustrates the events of the Norman Conquest of England, particularly the Battle of Hastings.

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GIN ATOMIC – BRIGHTON ROCKERS CAPTAIN

Are you selecting a full squad of twenty players for Caen? Any new players or tactics we should look out for? How have preparations been going? We understand part of the roof recently blew off your Hove training venue!
We’re taking nineteen skaters altogether – this includes two subs. The core seventeen includes four of our wonderful B-team who have been working their butts off and are now making their A-team debuts. We have decided to play a little short, partly to keep track time up and also to ensure we have solid line and pack rotation. We’ve been working on new tactics (you’ll have to wait and see what they are) as well as strengthening our defaults. A lot of our training time has been focused on that. When we lost the training hall for a night due to the storms, we ended up having a three-hour tactics meeting instead. This included some of our players patching in on Skype!

According to the current European rankings you’re the top rated team in Group 1 here. Do you consider yourselves favourites? What do you know of your opponents (Brussels and Caen in the group; then one of Group 2’s Namur, Rockcity or Paris B in playoffs)?
I think these will all be hard games, to be honest. We tend not to focus too much on rankings, since the moment you think you’ll have an easy ride the other team will always surprise you! We’re doing our research on everyone in preparation, but we will be playing our own game and will be ready to react to whatever team is on track against us on the day.

The Rockers said a big reason for quitting British Champs was to take on more European opposition in 2016. Are there more tournaments in the pipeline? Or will it mostly be one-offs for the rest of the year? You’ll still face UK teams too, right?
Yeah, we’ll be playing UK teams too. One thing we really missed during our Champs season was the freedom to choose who to play. We’ve got a few UK games confirmed including LRG Batter C-Power (in Tottenham on March 12th) and Newcastle B, as well as some other exciting European games in the pipeline. Currently there are no more tournaments confirmed, but we’ve not finalised our season just yet so watch this space!

LINKS
SLIP IT! 3 ON FB: https://www.facebook.com/events/1527006124294931/
SLIP IT! 3 TICKETS: https://www.yuticket.com/roller-derby-caen/febb72f1-4540-4377-af1e-95d8a564043f-slip-it-3-tournoi-de-roller-derby-20-21-fevrier-a-caen.html
ROCKERS: http://www.brightonrockers.com/
CAEN: http://roller-derby-caen.fr/
BRUSSELS: https://www.facebook.com/BrusselsDerbyPixies/
PARIS: https://www.facebook.com/ParisRollerGirls/
ROCKCITY: http://www.rockcityrollers.nl/
NAMUR: https://www.facebook.com/NamurRollerGirls/