British Champs National South Day Three Preview: Sirens v Windsor & Rockers v Bristol

ns3p1

Another game day so soon? Yep, they come thick and fast in British Champs. Day Three of the National South division takes place this Saturday (21st March) near Southend-on-Sea. Doors are at 1pm with first whistle at 1.30. Tickets are £10 in advance (£8 students) from the link at the bottom of this preview or £12 on the door. This is a pretty small capacity venue – roughly half that of the recent sold out East London game day – so we very much recommend buying online as soon as possible. There may well be no tickets left on the door.
    The venue is Clements Hall Leisure Centre in Hawskwell, Essex. This is about ten minutes walk from Hockley train station, which is four stops before Southend Victoria on the line from Liverpool Street (not to be confused with the train line from Fenchurch Street that goes to Southend via a different route). Although the journey from London to Hockley is only 45-50 minutes, getting to London from Sussex will be a bit of a mission on Saturday, as those delightful words “replacement bus to Three Bridges” have been dusted off for the whole weekend.
    We recommend allowing a good two hours to get to Liverpool Street, including a bit of faffing around on the tube. If this sounds like a bit of a mission, you might be interested to know that the Rockers have a few spaces for fans on their team bus. These will cost in the region of £12 return, leaving Brighton around 11am and returning in the evening after a bit of after partying. Get in touch with the Rockers via Facebook/email asap if you’re interested.
    We normally recommend a few pubs, but this is actually the Rockers’ first UK away trip to somewhere we haven’t previously done drinking in. Given that Hockley is a fair way inland from Southend itself, allow extra time if you want to hit the seafront, attractions and/or town centre bars before the games. The after party venue is a bowling alley very close to Hockley station, and there are a fair few pubs close to the leisure centre, most of which receive moderate to good write-ups online. The White Hart on Southend Road is the closest, and there is of course a bar at the venue.

ns3p2

RANKINGS AND PREDICTIONS
Now for our ever exciting rundown on how the games might play out using the predictometer at Flattrackstats. A relentless tirade of numbers mostly beloved of game day announcers who have run out of anything else to say! Firstly, hosts Seaside Sirens (ranked 22nd in UKRDA on 584.8 points) are up against Royal Windsor (10th, 645.5). FTS calls this one as 84% chance of an away win, with a predicted 51:31 differential in Windsor’s favour equating to something like a 255-155 RWRG win.
    Using the Euro rankings rather than UKRDA works out even more heavily in Windsor’s favour, with the Berkshire side ranked 19th on 671.2 points given a 92% chance of beating their Essex hosts (55th, 593.8). Predicted differential here of 35:18 works out as a typical derby scoreline in the region of 315-162.
    Moving on to the Brighton Rockers v Bristol game, as ever with a neutral host venue we have to split the difference between the home and away predictions. (Memo to FTS: please introduce a neutral option!) Brighton are 11th in UKRDA on 640.0 points, whilst the division’s lowest ranked side Bristol sit in 26th on 578.0. The Rockers have roughly 90% chance of the win, with a differential of 29:16 mathsing out to something like 232-128 on the board.
    Switching to the Euro rankings, things are a fair bit closer. Brighton place 27th (641.0 points) and Bristol are 41st (610.9). The predictometer, when tweaked for neutral, calls it at 75% chance of a Rockers victory with a differential in the region of 62:46 suggesting a Sussex victory in the order of 186-138. That’s super close in derby terms, and given the margin of error of these computerised predictions, pretty much anything could happen on the day.
    In terms of the divisional table, LRR sit on the top with two wins and a +281 points difference. They’re sitting out this game day, so the other unbeaten teams (Windsor and Brighton) know what is required of them in their second games of the season. Windsor need to beat Sirens by 160+ to leapfrog LRR on points, whilst Brighton need to best Brizzle by a whopping 204 or more to do likewise. For Bristol and Seaside, both sides will be looking for their first win, which (given Portsmouth’s absence today) would put clear space between themselves and the bottom slot.
    That’s enough number crunching. Now let’s hear from members of three of the day’s teams about what we can expect on Saturday. (Unfortunately, we haven’t received any reply to the interview questions or follow-up messages we sent to Royal Windsor, so you’ll just have to imagine that side’s thoughts going into the weekend’s action.)

ns3p3

SEASIDE SIREN ROLLER GIRLS v ROYAL WINDSOR ROLLERGIRLS

ELLA GNAW – SEASIDE SIRENS

After a quite a heavy defeat to LRR on Game Day 1, you put in a strong performance against Brighton on Day 2, despite penalty foul outs reducing you to six players. Anything from that Brighton game that you’ll be building on for the rest of your British Champs campaign?
One thing we have been working on – which won’t be a surprise! – is penalties! We’ve had the chance to see what worked and what didn’t and get ready to put it into play for Saturday.

Due to a few fixtures having been swapped over, SSRG are in the unusual position of playing in three Game Days (1-3) in a row! Are there any advantages or disadvantages to playing so many Champs games in succession?
I think it gives us an opportunity to review what works and what doesn’t work for us and to put it into play quickly. There’s no chance to take our foot off the gas and become complacent because we’re always in game mode, which is fun. In an ideal world most derby teams would give anything to play every week, like most sports teams, so to play once a month has been a great opportunity.

Your opponents this Saturday are Royal Windsor. We believe you’ve played them once before, more than three years ago (RWRG winning that 134-77). How are you expecting this meeting to go?
We played them for an exhibition bout for Sky News three years ago and our squad was very varied in that game. It was a 40 minute game and a cherry popper for myself. Royal Windsor Rollergirls are a great team to watch and their drive to grow and continuously develop their game is a great inspiration. We’re really looking forward to playing them on the track and anticipate a great game. Locking down their jammers, who push hard to find the smallest gaps will be our main aim.

The day’s other game sees Brighton take on Bristol. What should people look out for in that one?
Watching Bristol play LRR at the last game was a great opportunity to see how they play as a team. We played Bristol two years ago and they appear to have grown in strength and their walls are solid. Brighton have agile fast jammers who do not give up looking for the gap to take.

Finally, Sirens are hosting the action on the 21st. What can you tell us about the Clements Hall venue, the after party and the Southend area in general?

This is very exciting for us as it’s at our new venue, Clements Hall! We have previously bouted on a very slippery wooden sports hall floor and this will be our first game on a sticky traditional UK sports court. Though this is also our Sunday scrimmage venue so we’re used to it. It has a great roll but hard wheels are advised. Our Force Ten Gail recommends 93s. We have tiered seating, so will be giving our fans a different view of the track for the first time ever, but it only holds 170 people so get your tickets fast!
    We will have merchandise on sale for the teams and also Resolute Framing, an independent business offering high quality, bespoke framing and framed prints, limited edition artworks, photographs, collectables and more. We have a cake stall selling all kinds of treats and the proceeds will be going towards our local branch of Cats Protection League, a charity which is close to many of our hearts. And finally, we have a fully licensed bar, which will be situated in the hall, so you won’t need to miss a second while getting your refreshments!
    We are also having our after party at a different venue, nearer to our sports hall, at CJs Bowling Alley. Anyone who came along to the recent Roller Derby Sevens tournament will have enjoyed the after party there, and there’s plenty of parking for the visiting teams’ coaches and cars. We have bowling alleys booked, and there’s food and drink on offer. And finally, Southend itself. We are home to the world’s longest pleasure pier and Adventure Island. Come and ride the roller coasters, eat some candy floss and skim some stones while eating hot donuts!

ns3p4

BRIGHTON ROCKERS V BRISTOL ROLLER DERBY

SWANN & CAKE OR DEATH – BRIGHTON ROCKERS

Hi there. So you’re 20% of the way through your British Champs National South campaign now. Was it good to get that opening win under your belts last month against the Seaside Sirens?
I think it would have been easy for us to go in with high expectations based on the result last time the Rockers and the Sirens met, but we definitely appreciated that both teams have changed a lot since then, and no result is ever a given. We were also going in without a couple of key players who would normally be on our A-team roster, so we couldn’t be sure how much of a difference that would make. We definitely had a half-time turn around. We’d figured out what was working for us, they lost a couple of players to penalties, and we just focused on being a strong unit and really tiring out those remaining players, which allowed us to pull ahead at the end. It’s a great feeling to have a win under our belt at the first stage, and hopefully we can carry that success through the rest of the competition.

Your opponents on Saturday are Bristol Roller Derby. In a way this is a “best of three” decider, with one win to Bristol (251-175 in London in 2013) and one win to Brighton (277–209 at Haywards Heath last September) in previous meetings – we make it 460-452 to Bristol on points at present. Presumably you know their roster fairly well now?
Bristol are really strong and a big experienced league. We have played them a few times and most recently at home. They have recently chosen their team for the season and we know they have a strong squad to choose from. They have plenty of very experienced players like Black Thorn, E-Z Roller and The Blizzard, who we shall have our eyes on

Moving onto the Brighton squad, can we expect one or two of the Rockers who were missing against Sirens to return to action against Bristol? Care to predict the result?

We never predict the result but do predict a party bus all the way home whatever the outcome. British Champs is giving us a great chance to vary our roster. Although Saturday’s side will be similar to the team that played the Sirens, we like to mix it up a bit.

The day’s other games sees Royal Windsor take on the Seaside Sirens. Any thoughts about how that one will go?
That game will be brilliant. Sirens were really tough to play in our first Champs game, but Windsor are such an experienced team. I think this game will be less about individual players, and more about which side has the best teamwork.

Finally, with games against Windsor, Portsmouth and LRR coming up in the next few months, what are your views on the National South division as a whole?
The South division is very strong, with lots of diverse teams who work well together. We’re very proud to be part of it. Windsor we haven’t played for years, but we’ve heard they have become very strong so they will definitely be a formidable foe in Bristol on May 9th. And of course the great and glorious London Rockin’ Rollers gave us The Mighty Mighty Bash, so they are clearly awesome – but seriously, they scare me a bit…

ns3p5

RAVEN LUNATIC – BRISTOL ROLLER DERBY

Bristol made their British Champs debut last month against divisional leaders LRR. Did that game go the way you expected?
We were really pleased with our opening game to Champs. Being seeded the lowest in the group and facing leaders LRR we anticipated a really hard fight and we weren’t disappointed. LRR’s blockers were very strong with some bruising offensive moves and their jammers were nippy and agile. It’s what we expected and what we’d prepared for. I think we probably took LRR a little by surprise with the strength of our walls and the power and determination of the Bristol jammers. A huge positive for us is that, despite losing the game, we kept the points differential a lot closer than anticipated, leaving us nestled comfortably mid-table.

You’re facing the Brighton Rockers on Saturday in Southend. In your two previous meetings with the Rockers, it’s one win apiece, so in a way this is a “best of three decider”. Which Bristol players or tactics do you think are going to play a key role in this game?

Yes, we are really looking forward to ‘The Decider’ against the Rockers. Our last fixture in 2014 was fantastic and we really hope to replicate the energy and athleticism of that day. We watched part of the Rockers’ game against Seaside last month so we’re pretty familiar with their style of play. We have a few tactics up our sleeve but you’ll have to wait until game day to find out what those are!

Having met the Brighton on track twice in the last two years, you presumably know their squad fairly well. Who are you looking out for? Care to predict the result?
I think the team has changed a bit since we last met, but the Rockers have a strong and dynamic squad who I’m sure will be working hard to make life difficult for us on Saturday. Dr Whooligan had a good game against Seaside Sirens, as did Hairy Fairy and Swann, but we will be looking at the team as a whole, not concerning ourselves about individual performances. I predict that this game is certainly going to be one to watch. After all, this isn’t just about positions on the British Champs table. This is the accumulation of three years of history between Brighton and Bristol. This is ‘The Decider’!

The day’s other game sees Royal Windsor take on the Seaside Sirens. Any thoughts about how that one will go?
Seaside Sirens have some incredibly strong players and their first half against the Rockers last month was really impressive. It was a shame that they lost so many players through penalties in the second half. Royal Windsor are favourites for this match, but if Seaside can keep their players on the track, who knows…

Finally, the game day after this one (Day Four on May 9th) you’re hosting in Bristol. Are plans in hand for that event? And what are BRD’s hopes and ambitions for the remainder of the 2015 British Champs season?
Plans are well underway for when Bristol host the tournament on May 9th. The event coincides with Bristol Roller Derby’s Fifth Birthday, so we will be celebrating in style and hope lots of skaters and supporters can stay and enjoy the after party with us. There will be cake and fizzy stuff, and no Bristol Roller Derby after party is complete without some German Leg Wrestling.
    Our ambition for the British Champs season is probably the same as everyone else’s – to finish as high as possible up the table! Being seeded lowest in the group doesn’t stop us from aiming high. We have a very strong team who all want to play great derby against other great teams. But we’re a competitive bunch, so ultimately our aim is to win!

[Photos by John Hesse]

THINGS YOU CAN CLICK ON:
FACEBOOK PAGE FOR SATURDAY’S CHAMPS EVENT
BUY TICKETS FOR SATURDAY’S CHAMPS EVENT
READ OUR REPORT ON T2 SOUTH GAME DAY TWO
BRITISH CHAMPS WEBSITE
BRITISH CHAMPS FACEBOOK

Advertisements

Here there be Dragons: Brighton Rockers double header preview

tdp1

It’s been a busy few days here at BRATS HQ. In the build up to this Saturday’s festival of awesomes, we’ve been hurling loads of articles on this here website. In case you missed them, check out these three pieces:

B-TOWN BRAWLERS: We caught up with a brand new second Brighton based roller derby league to find out how they came into being and what their plans are. A potential future local rival for the Rockers? CHECK OUT OUR INTERVIEW HERE.

BRITISH CHAMPIONSHIPS: The mighty Rockers are taking part in this year’s inaugural British Champs, a national tournament featuring 72 women’s teams. We went along to the first National South Division game day to check out four of their upcoming opponents. CHECK OUT OUR REPORT HERE.

WFTDA APPRENTICE LEAGUE:
A couple of weeks ago it was announced that the Rockers have been accepted on to the Apprentice Program of world governing body WFTDA, something less than twenty UK leagues have ever achieved. What does that mean though? CHECK OUT OUR ARTICLE HERE.

Now we turn our attention to this weekend when Brighton celebrate their Fifth Birthday by taking on Team Dragon. This challenge side, which originated from London recreational skaters, has put together a special roster to take on the Rockers. They’ll be fielding England 2011 World Cup star Lucy, 2014 England training squad member Lisa Wright, plus Lola Vulkano (Spain) and Aline Decat (Belgium) both of whom featured for their nations in last December’s World Cup. Yowsers! We’d best write a preview then…

ALL THE INFO
The Birthday double header takes place this Saturday (7th Feb) at the Dolphin leisure centre in Haywards Heath. Doors are at 2pm, with the mixed opener at 3pm, followed by the Rockers v Dragon game at 5.35pm. Tickets are £10 for adults, £8 students and free for under-12s. There’s also a special 4 for the price of 3 deal. These tickets are selling fast – this will be the biggest crowd for a Rockers event in quite a while – and are available online until some point tomorrow (Friday 6th). Although we do expect there to be a few left on the door, you’re strongly advised to nab yours via the internet asap. You’ll find a link at the bottom of this piece.

The venue has a decent sized car park and is approximately seven minutes walk from Haywards Heath train station. Turn left outside the station and follow the handmade ‘roller derby’ signs. If you arrive early, the pub opposite the station (the Burrell Arms) is not too bad for a sporty bar and cheaper than most Brighton pubs. It also has a large beer garden with giant Connect 4. If you need to stock up on supplies, there’s a Sainsbury’s superstore halfway between the station and leisure centre. The centre itself is modern, and unlike many UK leisure centres, it sells booze! There used to be two bars in fact, but now there’s only one – a cafe bar in the foyer that does various bottled beers, ales, wines, etc. It probably also sells food, soft and hot drinks, for weirdos that like that sort of thing. There’s a decent break between the two games, so a run to Sainsbury’s for munchies is also an option.

Be sure to pick up a copy of our fanzine ‘Turn Left’ on the door. We had to add an extra four pages to this issue as there was so much to fit in. You’ll find previews of both games, a review of 2014, who won what in our awards for the year, a preview of Brighton’s upcoming British Champs games, and loads of interviews. There are also a few more typos than usual as our printing company’s website was on the blink, so we didn’t get to properly proof it. There’s a prize of a BRATS baseball cap for whoever can find the most mistakes.

Events in the hall finish around 7pm and the after party is at the Wick Inn. This is fairly close to both Brighton and Hove train stations; about 18 minutes walk from Brighton, 15 from Hove (yes, we walked both routes yesterday to check, we’re that nerdy), both of which are a short hop from Haywards Heath. There should be loads of buses from both stations to the pub – it’s on the corner of Palmeira Square, one of the City’s main bus thoroughfares. It’s a private party in the pub’s (swanky prohibition era themed) cocktail lounge, and there’s a good real ale selection for those who don’t want to drink something with strawberries floating in. Grab yourself a brew and reminisce about the awesome day of derby you just viewed. Liked the sport so much you fancy giving it a try yourself? The Rockers have two free taster sessions coming up on the 23rd of this month. Drop them a line at info@brightonrockers.com for more details.

tdp2

MIXED OPENER: MAGICIANS V CLOWNS (3PM)

“The opener has seven Rockers represented in total: Irish Mist (who fans may have seen skating previously) will be taking part, as well as Sutherland, Lab Wrath, Chloe Colossus, Van Hayley, Skate Bush and Polly Darting, who are all popping their bout cherries. All the South East leagues are well represented. We have skaters from the Bourne Bombshells, Portsmouth Roller Wenches, Southampton City Rollers, Croydon Roller Derby, London Rockin’ Rollers and Kent Roller Girls, as well as some rogue representatives from Wolverhampton Honour Rollers and the Evolution Rollergirls.”
SWANN, BRIGHTON ROCKERS

“I’ve never played in a game so this is my cherry popper, but I have scrimmed a few times with lots of skaters from both teams today. I’m hoping that I learn a few things, get to practice a few new moves, not let my team or the crowd down, and escape relatively injury free. We’ve got a lot of tactics and tricks up our sleeves. Of course we have, we’re magicians!”
SKATE BUSH, ROCKERS MAGICIAN

“We normally scrim for a bit at the end of each practice, so I’ve been doing that roughly once or twice a week since my Fresh Meat course finished. This’ll be my third proper full length scrim, and even though it will be more challenging than previous rookie scrims, I’m fully expecting to score a whole bunch of points against the Magicians – and maybe knock a few over! Skate Bush has a habit of taking you by surprise, so I’m gonna get in her way and keep an eye on her as much as possible. She’s not pulling any disappearing tricks on me!”
CHLOE COLOSSUS, ROCKERS CLOWN

MAIN EVENT: BRIGHTON ROCKERS V TEAM DRAGON (5.35PM)

“Brighton are taking on a very strong roster from Team Dragon, with some familiar faces from London Rollergirls, such as Lucy who is a very nippy jammer, and Lola Vulkano who is a double threat to watch out for. I saw Aline Decat play at Eastbourne Extreme last year, and she really impressed me. I Eat is a fast and agile jammer and Rusty Stiletto can give some big hits. Brighton will have an advantage – in that the team are used to playing together – but Dragon will certainly give them a tough game. I think the score will be quite close.”
THE PHILOSOFEAR, TEAM NO FUSS

“I never care to predict the result. You just don’t know how each team is going to play on the day. Today we will play hard to win. We have a couple of our usual ‘standout’ players not playing, which should make room for some different players to take the lead, and also you may see a few new faces.”
THE MIGHTY MIGHTY BASH, BRIGHTON ROCKERS

“We are happy to have some very well respected players in the roster. It’s great to have Lisa Wright in the team; she started her derby life in the LRG Rec League, before rising to the Team England training squad. She retired last year but is back on skates for Team Dragon. She’ll be joining Lola and Lucy in bringing some big game experience to today’s team. I wouldn’t want to predict a result. Brighton are the clear favourites and they’re on home soil but we’re here to play and surprise people. We’re amped for this!”
MOTHER, TEAM DRAGON

[Photo by John Hesse]

LINKS

BRIGHTON ROCKERS: http://www.brightonrockers.com/
TEAM DRAGON: http://teamdragonrollerderby.tumblr.com/
FB EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/705098602921263/
TICKETS: http://www.brightonrockers.com/#!shop/cttr

“You’re Fired Up!” …Brighton Rockers are taking part in The Apprentice (Program)

wftda1

There was an exciting and long-awaited announcement on January 19th. The list of WFTDA’s latest batch of apprentice leagues was released to the world, and in amongst the 25 teams – between the Beach Brawl SK8R Dolls of Fort Walton, Florida and the Capital City Crushers of Topeka, Kansas – was the name “Brighton Rockers Roller Derby”. It’s no secret that Brighton have been hoping for a while to be accepted onto the WFTDA Apprentice Program. Here at BRATS we had a sneaky feeling it was imminent when a random crawl of the internet in early December revealed the Rockers had formed a limited by guarantee company on 27/11/14. Although initially concerned by the Coventry address (was the Rockers franchise moving to the West Midlands?) this turned out to be that of the processing solicitor. Being an entity such as this is an essential stepping stone towards joining WFTDA. It was on!

So who are WFTDA? Their mission statement tells us they were “founded in 2005” to “promote and foster the sport of women’s flat track roller derby by facilitating the development of athletic ability, sportswomanship and goodwill among members leagues. The governing philosophy of the WFTDA is ‘by the skaters, for the skaters’. Female skaters are primary owners, managers, and/or operators of each member league and of the association. Operational tasks include setting standards for rules, seasons and safety, and determining guidelines for the national and international athletic competitions of member leagues. All WFTDA member leagues have a voice in the decision-making process, and agree to comply with the governing body’s policies.”

In less wordy terms, they’re the equivalent of football’s FIFA for women’s roller derby. They govern the sport worldwide, organising major ranking tournaments, setting Minimum Skills requirements and issuing the ever-changing rulebook which every league (even non-members) plays by. Well, that’s not 100% true. There are a few rival organisations (USARS, MADE and others) but WFTDA dominates a good 95% of the women’s game worldwide. Not unnaturally, given the sport’s origins, it’s very much an American organisation. Of the current 301 full member leagues, a whopping 238 (79%) are from the USA. There are 16 from the UK, just ahead of Canada (15) with others from Australia (9), Germany (4), France and Japan (both 3), Belgium, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand and Norway (all 2), plus single leagues from Denmark, Ireland and Colombia. Please note: We worked this out by counting tiny flags on their website whilst a bit drunk, so we’ve almost certainly miscounted some of it.

Whilst that’s a decent enough global spread, a look at the 92 leagues currently in the Apprentice Program shows just how much that global spread is increasing as time progresses. There are 51 (55%) from the USA, joined by eight from Canada, five from Oz, and four each from Sweden and France. Belgium, Germany and the UK have three apiece, Brazil two, and there are single leagues from Austria, Spain, Switzerland, Finland, Chile, Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa and Puerto Rico. Wowsers! So how long does the apprentice process last? Well, there is one league who was accepted into it in Nov 2009 who have yet to graduate to full membership, but generally speaking a year or so is the norm. The Brighton Rockers join Birmingham Blitz Dames (Oct 2014) and this month’s British Champs opponents Seaside Sirens (Oct 2013) as current UK apprentices. But that’s enough about numbers and dates – let’s hear from one of the key figures behind Brighton’s WFTDA application…

wftda2

DERBY McGEE (BRIGHTON ROCKERS) ON WFTDA APPRENTICESHIP

How long (and through what processes) has it taken for you to get to the stage of being accepted as an apprentice league?
It has taken us ages to get our application in to join the WFTDA Apprentice Program. It’s a rigorous application process and we soon realised that we needed a better organisational structure before we could join. Like most derby leagues, we suddenly came into being and made it all up as we went along. Having to explain how we run the league made us examine it more ourselves and change things. The result is we are now a not-for-profit company, with a sound and sustainable structure, that is accountable to its members. So, although it’s been a slow process for the Rockers, we’ve already benefited from our application. Once we made sure our league was set up in line with the principles of WFTDA as an organisation, we needed to write essays, provide stats from bouts we’ve hosted, plus a lot of paperwork… It’s a hell of a thing!

Why did you decide you wanted to become a WFTDA league?
We decided to join WFTDA as we had a couple of leagues refuse to play us as we weren’t members. We have always been a highly competitive league and wanted to be able to play those teams, as well as hoping that one day we’d be successful enough to play in the big WFTDA European tournaments. It seemed liked the natural direction for Brighton, although the benefits to the league so far have been off the track.

What happens next?
We only just found out last month that we had been accepted into the apprentice scheme, so it’s early days. We’ll keep you posted on our progress over the months ahead.

You can catch the UK’s newest WFTDA apprentice league in action this Saturday (7th Feb) at the Dolphin Leisure Centre in Haywards Heath. As a warm up for this year’s British Championships campaign, the mighty Brighton Rockers will be taking on Team Dragon, a mixed league challenge side that includes players with World Cup experience from Teams England, Spain and Belgium. There will also be a mixed opener, featuring upcoming skaters – most of whom have never played in public before – from several derby leagues including Brighton, Eastbourne, Portsmouth, Croydon, LRR, Kent and many more. Doors are at 2pm, with the first game at 3pm. Tickets are selling very fast – this is going to be the biggest Rockers crowd in quite a while – and priced £10 for adults, £8 students, free for under-12s, with a special 4-for-3 deal. Get yours from the ticket link below. We’ll have a full preview of this exciting event on this website very soon.

[Photos by John Hesse]

LINKS
WFTDA: http://wftda.com/
ROCKERS: http://www.brightonrockers.com/
FEB 7TH FB PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/events/705098602921263/
FEB 7TH TICKETS: http://www.brightonrockers.com/#!shop/cttr

British Championships UKRDA National South Division: Game Day One report

ns1r1

This year sees the launch of the UK’s first nationwide roller derby tournament. British Champs features a total of 72 women’s teams split into a pyramid of thirteen divisions. (There’s also a twelve team men’s tournament.) The mighty Brighton Rockers are competing one tier below the very top division, in what’s called the UKRDA National South. The first of their seven divisional game days took place a few days ago (Sat 24th Jan) in Windsor, and BRATS were there to watch the tournament get underway. The Rockers themselves – along with Bristol Roller Derby – weren’t taking part in this first game day, but it presented a great opportunity to check out four of Brighton’s upcoming opponents, as well as to to get an early taste of Champs in general…

Windsor is posh. Very posh. From the moment we detrain – and yeah, we’re quite posh ourselves, we use words like ‘detrain’ – at Riverside station until the moment we depart, we’re forever expecting someone to tap us on the shoulder and say: “now now, you really shouldn’t be here should you?” Nobody does. Instead they seek to disconcert us by being almost obsequiously polite. Hammering back pre-derby Jägermeisters in the Wetherspoons opposite the Castle, the bar staff insist on constantly referring to us as ‘Sir’. Back in Brighton, the only time anyone calls us ‘sir’ is when we’re being arrested. We’re on more familiar ground when we reach the derby venue itself. The suburban leisure centres that host this awesome sport – from Reykjavik to Rio, Wellington to Windsor – are all reassuringly much of a muchness inside. Wherever you encounter a left-open turnstile, a paper sign taped to it shouting out ‘roller derby’ in 120-point Impact font above an arrow; the semi-distant sound of clacking wheels, the semi-distant smell of cupcakes… you know you’re on safe ground.

ns1r2

The Royal Windsor Roller Girls have hosted both the most chaotic and the most low-key derby events we’ve ever been to. The former being those Sur5al all-dayers where fifteen different sets of garishly coloured skaters and fans flit in and around every corner of the hall, like dayglo mosquitoes at an 80s beach party. The latter was an RWRG intraleague in Staines where we were amongst just four [£2] paying customers. Today’s event, not unnaturally, lies somewhere between the two extremes. Perhaps a smaller crowd at the moment than we might have been expecting, but there was a fairly late change of hosts for what [alongside today’s Tier 3 event in Halifax] is the first day of the whole women’s tournament. Of course the calendar year itself is still in its early stages, and much of the UK derby community sees January (events wise) the same way BRATS see midday on a Sunday. Yeah, we know it exists – for other people.

A few things suggest this event may have come a little early in the year for the hosts. There are photocopied rather than printed programmes, replete with white borders and hand folding. The projector screen scoreboard is notably small, although it’s supplemented by a delightfully old school (cricket pavilion-esque) numbers on cards version. Most gallingly of all, there doesn’t seem to be a bar here, nor any form of after party. Or at least they’re not telling *us* where the bar or after party are. [Heck, someone was going to act on that memo eventually.] Everything’s fully and awesomely present and correct on track though, and the hosts are up first against Portsmouth Roller Wenches. Not many skaters from the second game in the crowd as the opener gets underway – there are a bunch of London Rockin’ Rollers around, but it seems most of Southend’s Seaside Sirens will be arriving fashionably late today.

ns1r3

There’s a star pass in the very first jam for the Wenches. Recipient RIP McMurphy is likely to be a key player for Pompey today, with Royal Windsor very much the favourites in this game. (The hosts currently rank 10th in the UKRDA, whilst defeat to Manchester at Tattoo Freeze has seen PRW drop to 19th.) Fairly evenly matched in the early stages though, with Cle-Blam-O, Vix and the rangy Sutton starclad for Windsor; Psyclone DestroyHer, Nina Nunchucks and RIP taking early jamming opportunities for the Wenches. First few jams have been incredibly light on penalties, but now McMurphy and pivot Awesome Wells are both off for Portsmouth. Cle-Blam-O making the most of the opportunity to give Windsor a foothold on the game. 38-5 to the hosts. Wenches clawing some back now, but the Berkshire pack is proving resilient. Trashbag in particular has the navy blue jammers pegged well back. The granite strong RWRG blocker was recently called up as a reserve netminder for Team GB ice hockey, the announcers announce. If three inch rubber pucks can’t get past her, what chance do the Pompey starheads have?

Both teams employing very fast packs for much of this game, although things turn completely stationary for a long 15 seconds as McMurphy and the off-track Sutton stare each other down in a recycling standoff. An official time out shortly afterwards sees the PRW line-up challenge Windsor’s to a Cotton Eye Joe hoedown-off. Portsmouth win this, but the game itself is slipping away from them a little here. Great on-the-whistle apex jump of pretty much the entire left side of track from Psyclone, but the Wenches are picking up the majority of an increasing tally of penalty calls. It’s 115-68 to Windsor at the half time break. Having been unable to find a bar on site, we decide to see if it’s possible to run the length of Alexandra Park, neck a pint and shot in Wetherspoons, and make it back through the park in time for the second half. Short answer: No. The scoreboard reads 146-77 on our return. PoiSin Cherry is on a power jam for Windsor now. She has more experience of a tournament like this than most on track – having featured prominently for Basingstoke Bullets in last year’s Heartland Series – and must be relishing making her RWRG debut against fellow Hampshirians.

ns1r4

Portsmouth captain the Duchess of Crutches battling to hold the Wenches packs together as Windsor’s strong jammer rotation continue to edge up the lead. Halcyon Daze, T-Wrecks and Wheelma Flintstone amongst the standout blockers for the navy blues, but the home town defence – particularly Riley Cyrus, Melvin, Muscle Crowe and the ever terrifying Trashbag – are giving it back with interest. The strength of the RWRG packs forcing a number of star passes and jammer penalties from the navy blues, but Pompey hit the ton mark with Windsor around 75 ahead. The Royals react in the best way possible, with the likes of Vix, Cherry and captain Cle chalking up 50 without reply. 230-104. About six minutes left. Wenches try to take advantage of a PJ but the Windsor pack are giving away very few points here. A few (mostly short) jams and a final whistle follow. Windsor’s 252-130 win roughly matches pre-game expectations – the differential is a little smaller than a prediction based on UKRDA rankings, but a little bigger than the Euro prediction – and RWRG top the table after the first game of National South. There’s still another fourteen divisional games to go, of course, with the first of those in just 30 minutes time…

It turns out that what wasn’t possible during half time *is* possible during the break between games, and we get back from ‘spoons suitably refreshed in time for the second game’s skateouts. The sizable and stylish London Rockin’ Rollers travelling support seem equally refreshed, but don’t they always? Seaside Sirens 3-0 ahead after a quick hit-and-quit first jam. A relentless tide of scoring passes from the LRR starclads follows, with Jack Attack, Beat Girl and captain Rammit building up a hefty London lead. It’s 54-4 with less than ten minutes gone as the steaming Rollers flatten their Essex opposition. Von Bitch and Betty Swollox particularly effective in the red packs, both rocking in a lot of offence to sweep Sirens out of the London starheads’ way. Killer Bite is probably Southend’s most threatening jammer at the moment, but she – along with the likes of Ella Gnaw, Force Ten Gail and Pegasus – is finding it punishing going against the LRR packs. 114-7 says the scoreboard now. A far cry from the previous time these two teams met, four months ago in Southend, when the Essex side edged the game 150-147.

ns1r5

The Rockin’ Rollers have a lot more experience of tournaments (albeit weekend ones) than the vast majority of UK leagues, and they’re clearly aiming to get off to a flyer in British Champs. Despite the best defensive efforts of Sirens captain Frocky Balboa, WhoRae, Hell De Jour, Gail, Gnaw and more, the LRR jammers bag almost every lead status and continue wreaking havoc… Jacks grinning to the Rockin’ Rollers fans on scoring passes, as is her way… Rammit going jammer on jammer to edge off rival starheads… Beat Girl, arguably London’s most effective starclad in this first half, proving as sprightly as a truck full of Sprite… Rebel Rebel starring up to good effect too… With 216-65 on the board at the interval, the Sirens will need a miracle to pull this one back, and it’s not to be. Southend do actually fare a bit better in the second period, but whilst Pegasus, Bite and Gnaw are bagging a fair few leads, tough blocking from Flash Bang Wallop, Deadly Devito, VB and others keeps the Essex jammers from profiting much. Final score: London Rockin’ Rollers 372, Seaside Sirens 162. Slightly more than double the predicted differential.

So LRR sit atop the table after the first National South game day, their +210 differential putting them above fellow victors Windsor on +122. The Rockin’ Rollers have a great chance to further cement their top spot later this month. Not only are LRR hosting the event on Saturday 21st February, but they’re taking on Bristol Roller Derby – the lowest ranked side in the division – whilst second place Windsor don’t have a game. The day’s other match-up sees the mighty Brighton Rockers kick off their own campaign. The Sussex side will be hoping to take a leaf out of LRR’s book as they face off against the Seaside Sirens. All this awesome action is taking place at Newham Leisure Centre, a short bus ride from Plaistow tube (easily accessible from Sussex by jumping the District line at Victoria or Blackfriars). Tickets are £12 in advance (£6 kids) from the link below, with doors at 2pm, derby from 2.30-6pm and a roller disco after party to follow. ‘Bring it!’ as they say.

[Photos by Mindy Cherry Photography]

LINKS
BRITISH CHAMPS: http://www.britishchamps.com/
CHAMPS FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/BritishRollerDerbyChamps
CHAMPS TWITTER: https://twitter.com/BritChampsLIVE
21ST FEB FB EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/1376880975944236/
21ST FEB TICKETS: http://www.wegottickets.com/event/306219
MINDY CHERRY PHOTOGRAPHY: https://www.facebook.com/mindycherryphotography

NATIONAL SOUTH TEAMS
BRIGHTON ROCKERS: http://www.brightonrockers.com/
ROCKIN’ ROLLERS: http://londonrockinrollers.co.uk/
SEASIDE SIRENS: http://www.seasidesirenrollergirls.com/
BRISTOL RD: http://www.bristolrollerderby.com/
PORTSMOUTH: http://www.portsmouthrollerwenches.com/
ROYAL WINDSOR: http://windsorrollergirls.com/

New In (B-)Town: Introducing the Brawlers…

btb1

We begin a week of daily website updates in the run up to the Brighton Rockers game on the 7th with a look at another league entirely. Yep, it seems the mighty Rockers are no longer the only show in town, with the arrival in Brighton of a second roller derby league. The B-Town Brawlers describe themselves as Europe’s first gender-inclusive derby side, and we caught up with co-founder FINN THE HUMAN for a few words about this new league…

Hi there. Firstly, can you explain how the B-Town Brawlers came into being?
The Brawlers came about with a Facebook conversation between me and my friend Jak, when we decided that Brighton needed a men’s team. I realised as a transgender person that I didn’t feel comfortable in an exclusively female or male league and recognised that there was a humungous need for gender-inclusive roller derby by talking to the trans and queer communities. All the existing UK roller derby leagues defined gender in some way, shape or form, whether that is talking about a ‘women’s’, ‘men’s’ or ‘co-ed’ league (co-ed is defined as both male and female).
    This can really suck for people who are transgender, non-binary, agender or intersex; who do not define as either male or female, as they have to choose to be in either a male or a female league (or be a male or female in a co-ed league) under UKRDA rules. They aren’t allowed to just be themselves: non-binary. Gender inclusivity is a huge part of the Brawlers’ ethos. We don’t discriminate entry to the league based on gender and you can be any gender to join. In cahoots with my partner Elly and Jak, the concept of setting up a derby league on this basis steamrollered very quickly and we found lots and lots of dedicated people who made it grow.

Do you have many links to the Brighton Rockers or the three (women’s, men’s, juniors) Eastbourne leagues? Are you going to be a ‘rival’ team to them?
We’re very close to the Eastbourne leagues who have been extremely supportive, and also our Brighton big sister league who have also been great. Both have offered to lend us skaters and officials, and offered holy advice. I guess we’re kind of like the Rockers’ queer little sibling and Ebo’s younger cousin! We currently have skaters who originate from the Eastbourne leagues, the Rockers and Cambridge. As to being rivals, even though some of our pre-Fresh Meat skaters are incredible, I think it will be quite a long time before we’re rivaling anyone! Also, if the Rockers end up being a WFTDA league, the chances are that we wouldn’t be able to bout them in any official capacity anyway.

Exactly how inclusive are the Brawlers? What aims and ambitions do the league have?

We currently have an age limit of 18+, but there have been talks of a gender-inclusive youth league in the pipeline, so watch this space! We don’t discriminate against people on their age, build, skating ability or disabilities and we have people from all walks of life involved in skating and non-skating roles. We aim to be as inclusive and as accessible as possible, shown in our motto that we “Never leave a person behind”. This has made our practices somewhere really positive to be.
    We also have a safer spaces policy that protects the members of our league, which many leagues don’t feel the need to do. This means that people in the league are much better protected against discrimination, which can unfortunately still happen in the derby world. We have a really tight-knit support group and welfare team too, who work really hard to make our league members feel safe and represented. Aside from that we have campaigns and fundraising groups who are trying to make roller derby a more inclusive sport. With fundraising, we’re trying to raise money for people in the community to afford skating sessions and kit; people who may not otherwise be able to enjoy the mental health benefits of sport.
    Our league has skyrocketed in a matter of a couple of months. We now have over 50 people involved in skating and non-skating roles, and that number is increasing daily. Our Fresh Meat programme starts this weekend and we’re really excited about that – we have so much planned! Our long term aims are to create a space for people who are trans and non-binary as well as cisgender in the greatest sport on Earth. We’d ideally like to see our success repeated across the country. We’re also looking to challenge the current UKRDA rules on gender inclusivity, and to perhaps even create a different roller derby governing body entirely – one which is gender-inclusive.

MORE INFO
The B-Town Brawlers kick off their first Fresh Meat programme tomorrow, Sunday 1st Feb. You can contact them at Btownbrawlersrollerderby@gmail.com. We’ll have more on this exciting new league in the next issue of the BRATS fanzine Turn Left. Pick up your free copy at the Brighton Rockers v Team Dragon game in Haywards Heath next Saturday (7th Feb).
BRAWLERS FB PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/btownbrawlers

From Rainy February to Gin in November: BRATS 2014 Review of the Year

2014r1

2014 begins, as many years do, in January. The Rockers traditionally don’t play their first competitive game of the year until the league’s anniversary in mid Feb, so the first few weeks are focused on getting back to full fighting strength after the festive break. The year’s training regime sees the Brighton side link up for the first time with CrossFit Connect, who have put together a roller derby specific cross-training programme for the league. These sessions supplement 2014’s more nomadic and changeable than usual training schedule. With the Rockers’ regular venue, GYSO in Shoreham, closing its doors on January 3rd, training will be split between Hove’s King Alfred and the smaller Moulsecoomb Leisure Centre.

Somewhat surprisingly, none of the Rockers on the longlist for Team England (Bash, Sham and Sophia) make the final cut for the World Cup squad. There’s no time to wallow in this as things are hectic in February. The league’s first Fresh Meat programme of the year kicks off on the 2nd and the Sussex side celebrate their fourth birthday on the 14th. The following day sees Great Manchester’s Rainy City as the opponents as Brighton take to the track in Haywards Heath for the year’s first open door game. The Northern side rank five places above the Rockers going into the game, but a battling performance in an epic match sees the Sussex league take a narrow victory. (REPORT) Meanwhile, BRATS become the first fans group accepted as contributors to the National Museum of Roller Derby – check out our fanzines and shizz there next time you’re in Glasgow. (NMRD)

2014r2

After the nerve-wracking comeback against Rainy, there’s an even narrower Brighton home victory four weeks later on March 15th against Paris Rollergirls. With much of the UK derby community’s attention focused on Birmingham, where the inaugural Men’s World Cup is taking place, the Rockers are nearly 100 points behind at half time in Haywards. The Sussex skaters won’t give up though, and the final few jams see them edge past their French opponents to take it by four points. Yowser! (REPORT) As if this isn’t enough excitement for the month, two teams of Rockers face off against each other in the Warrior Run, a punishing obstacle race, on the 30th, raising over £700 for the league in the process. A quieter April sees no public events, but the Rockers use the opportunity to commence their second Fresh Meat programme of the year.

May is Festival Month in Brighton. The Rockers get into the swing of things by taking part in the Fringe City event that kicks it all off, before taking to the track against Middlesbrough Milk Rollers a week later (10th). We persuade William Hill to take bets on the event – the first time anyone has taken bets on UK derby – and the 2-5 odds they give on an MMR victory prove prescient as the visitors (then the highest ranked English league in the UKRDA) become the first team to ever beat Brighton at home. (REPORT) As five members of February’s Fresh Meat programme pass the skills test necessary to become fully fledged Rockers, the league celebrates by taking a mixed level team across the water on June 7th, taking on Switchblade RollerGrrrls in Lille. It’s a tough challenge in tropical conditions for Brighton’s small mixed squad, but there’s not much in it scorewise. (REPORT)

2014r3

Later in the month, the league hold an open session for those interested in derby as part of the TakePART Sport initiative. There’s another home game for the A-team All-Stars on July 26th as they take on near neighbours Croydon at the Dolphin. The rankings website predictions are expecting a comfortable Rockers win here, but the visitors play tight and tough to keep down Brighton’s margin of victory. (REPORT) The game marks the retirement of Rockers legend Mistress and also sees the launch a huge new range of league merch, with multiple T-shirt designs, badges, bottle openers and more. (T-SHIRT SHOP) Aside from Shambolic’s fundraising piercathon at league sponsors Punktured – and the small matter of captain Racey’s wedding – the Brighton skaters take things fairly easy in August. As do we at BRATS… shamefully it takes us nearly two months to post our report on the Croydon game. Oops!

The Rockers All-Stars play an unprecedented sixth home game in a row (including one in November of the previous year) on the 20th September. The opponents are Bristol Roller Derby, the only lower ranked side to have ever beaten the Rockers A-team. That was in a UKRDA tournament at London’s Alexandra Palace in May ’13 and it looks like the two sides will be making a habit of meeting in UKRDA competition – Bristol will be Brighton’s first opponents in the 2015 British Championships. The two sides’ 2014 meeting is tipped to go Brighton’s way, but turns out to be a tougher battle than expected. (REPORT) The one win apiece record sets things up nicely for the leagues’ February 2015 meeting. In BRATS news, we decide we don’t like our fanzine font any more and perform what we grandly call a ‘redesign’ for the Bristol issue. (FANZINE ARCHIVE) The month also sees the release of a short documentary about the Brighton league. (PIVOT BLOCK JAM)

2014r4

October sees us initiate the most ill-judged contest ever. A photograph of BRATS member Maki sporting one of our baseball caps in Reykjavik encourages us to ask fans to send photos of themselves wearing one as far away from Brighton as possible, with the winner getting… er, a BRATS baseball cap. The rest of the year sees Maki and another member, Mr Dean, trying to outdo each distance-wise. Back on home soil, the Rockers realise an away game is long overdue and make the short trip along the cost on the 25th to take on Portsmouth Roller Wenches. It’s another close but well fought victory for the Brighton league. (REPORT) Moving into November, the Rockers blag their second big name signing of the year. Former Eastbourne head coach and captain Swann joined over the summer, and this month sees the arrival of one of Croydon’s most iconic skaters, Gin Atomic. The South Londoners receive Rockers ref Banger as part of the transfer fee.

Gin has barely trained with the Rockers when she’s thrown into action, with the league sending a small mixed level squad up North to play Manchester Roller Derby on the 22nd. (REPORT) As with the Lille trip, the result might not be the one Brighton wanted, but the opportunity to give some newer skaters gaming experience could prove invaluable. Especially as the Rockers – who have never really had that big a roster – will need to select a 20-woman squad for British Champs. BRATS celebrate our second birthday by shamelessly interviewing ourselves. (BIRFDAY) We also fix it for a new board game to feature a zombie version of Sham in her Rockers kit as one of its figures. (ZOMBN1) The year comes to an end, as most years do, in December, which is pretty quiet. Keep an eye on this website for our 2014 Awards, plus a look ahead to the Rockers’ much anticipated 2015 National League South campaign. Yay!

2014r5

ROCKERS 2014 OPEN DOOR RESULTS
15th Feb: Rockers All-Stars 174 v Rainy City 163
15th March: Rockers All-Stars 178 v Paris Rollergirls 174
10th May: Rockers All-Stars 123 v Middlesbrough 230
7th June: Switchblade RollerGrrrls 171 v Rockers mixed level 136
26th July: Rockers All-Stars 163 v Croydon RD 151
20th Sept: Rockers All-Stars 277 v Bristol Roller Derby 209
25th Oct: Portsmouth Roller Wenches 159 v Rockers All-Stars 221
22nd Nov: Manchester RD 243 v Rockers mixed level 115

ROCKERS 2015 BRITISH CHAMPS FIXTURES
Note: British Champs released the incorrect fixtures/venues online.
The ones we carried here previously were wrong. These are correct.

21st Feb v Seaside Sirens (in East London)
21st Mar v Bristol Roller Derby (in Southend)
9th May v Royal Windsor Roller Girls (in Bristol)
11th July v Portsmouth Roller Wenches (Haywards Heath)
8th Aug v London Rockin’ Rollers (Venue TBA)

[Photos by John Hesse]

LINKS
BRIGHTON ROCKERS
BRITISH CHAMPIONSHIPS

Manchester Roller Derby v Brighton Rockers report

mrdr1

It used to be all fields around here. Still is, if one Rocker’s Sat Nav is to be believed, taking her as it does upon a grand tour of various green spaces where the team’s hotel is supposed to be. The Brighton league have sent up a small squad – a mixture of A-teamers, recent arrivals and upcoming rookies – to take on Manchester Roller Derby this weekend. Much of the trip will be spent expeditioning to and from said hotel, for it is only nominally in the City of Manchester, the same way that Luton and Stansted Airports don’t really merit their London prefixes. We could have warned them of the amount of commuting their choice of accommodation would entail, as it happens, since we’ve been doing some work for a television company in this very suburb – Didsbury – and soon cottoned on that Stockport rather than anything with Manchester in its name was the closest large train station. (Feel free to check out some of said TV work by clicking HERE to watch a script about roller skating we writ for three year olds. The BRATS beer fund is boosted by 0.002p in royalties for every online view. But we digress…)

The venue for today’s game is itself in one of Mancunia’s distantest suburbs. The evocatively named Urmston is home to the George H Carnall, a small but perfectly formed leisure centre attached to a school. Few Rockers make it across the plains of Stretford in time to catch the start of the men’s game that precedes their own. The Manchester league is home to several flavours of derby (women’s, men’s, co-ed) and their geezers A-team New Wheeled Order are taking on Team Boy Division here. The latter is a team assembled from members of various other (mostly Northern) men’s leagues. As one would expect, the Manchester side are better organised than their mixed league opposition, although Boy Div have a lot of very strong individuals in their ranks. The visitors are playing with a very small jammer rotation here (3-4) with some players you might have expected to star up, such as Southern Discomfort’s Shrooms and Inhuman Leaguer Doug Hisgrave, sticking to defensive duties. The pyjamas-legged Jim Jams and Lt Damn are among the home team’s most dangerous jammers. Though NWO are on top for much of the first half, their lead at the break is fairly slender (91-59).

mrdr2

The Brighton players have spent much of the multi-car journey up here trying to guess what music was playing in the other vehicles based on their occupants’ dancing. Now it’s time to get serious, celebrating the relative novelty of a derby venue having lockers, before finding out if the skating surface is as slippery as advance warnings have suggested. With their practice laps complete, the Rockers entourage take to the bleachers for the second half of the men’s game. Just ten skaters here for Brighton, along with bench coach Mistress and line-up manager Racey. The latter caused something of a fluster in UK derby’s counter-clockwise circles earlier this year with a blog post that suggested (not unreasonably) that not every single advanced boot camp should be purely co-ed. Some people took this post to mean that she wanted all male derby players to be castrated, before being thrown onto a bonfire that she would personally dance around, laughing maniacally whilst reciting feminist poetry. Security are understandably keeping an eye on her, but Racey somehow resists the temptation to Emily Davison herself under the NWO pack, and has an alibi for the incident that sees Lt Damn spend several seconds face down on the track. The Manchester men take the win 165-102.

The last (and only previous) time Brighton took a small mixed level squad to an open door away game, in Lille earlier this year, they were beaten fairly convincingly. The rankings would suggest that something similar is on the cards here today. Manchester are only five places behind Brighton’s All-Stars in the European table, suggesting that even the full Rockers A-team would be in for a very tough battle here. It’s not that Brighton are underestimating their opponents, just that at this time of year, with many players taking breaks from skating or otherwise occupied, these are the only game-ready travelable players the Sussex league have at their disposal. There would have been eleven here, as it happens, but a slight knock caused the late withdrawal of a temporary transfer from French Canadia. With just ten in the squad, two distinct line-ups of five is the obvious way to go. One of these contains Enyo Face, Kapow, summer transfer Swann, highly rated rookie Obliviator, and a recent transfer from Finland, Harriet Hotter. The other features Rose Bleed, Chaka Carnage, Emma the Condemner and Irish Mist, along with Gin Atomic, here making her Rockers debut after recently joining from near neighbours Croydon.

mrdr3

There’s something of a North-South divide in English roller derby, one that is particularly felt if you’re based as far South as the Rockers are. You get to know players from other leagues through taking part in scrims and watching other games, and for Brighton’s players that ‘circuit’ barely extends to Birmingham, let alone further up the country. Consequently, all that the majority of the Rockers know about Manchester Roller Derby can be summed up in three words: Vic Tori Bee. The England training squad member and Queens Of The Sin Bin sponsored skater is one of the rising stars of UK derby and, as expected, will prove to be Brighton’s tormentor-in-chief here today. Tori is part of a small MRD jamming roster, alongside GoGo Chanel and Smack Mamba. Even though Brighton only have ten skaters, they’ll stick with a typically large starhead rotation: Obliviator, Kapow and Enyo for one line-up; Gin, Emma and Rose for the other. Indeed, all ten Sussex skaters will get at least one outing in the star, although in some cases not for long – Irish Mist passes the star over the pack straight from the whistle when it’s her turn!

Brighton are going into this game with fairly low expectations, having had very few opportunities to practice these line-ups in advance. Indeed Gin, who only joined the Rockers a couple of weeks ago, has only skated alongside Rose once prior to today, and that was at England tryouts. We’re not sure whether this explains the debutant picking up five penalties in the first half, though, but a clean second sees her stay in the game. The Sussex side are a good match for the hosts in the early running. Although Manchester are first to put points on the board, high scoring jams from Enyo and Gin see Brighton leading 45-40 five jams in. Sadly it’s not to last – the small rotation and long journey (most of the team have been up around 12 hours now) will take a toll, as will the all round strength of the MRD Checkerbroads. Obliviator is putting in a strong and determined performance. She looks a little bewildered by the jammer-on-jammer hits Tori Bee throws her away – not something she’s encountered before – but holds up well. During the warm ups, the Rockers had identified the imposing Psycho Sis as an opponent to beware of, and the powerful blocker metes out hard hits to meet those expectations. With Emma off for a track cut, Tori puts in a 20-point jam and the hosts go into half time 110-69 up.

mrdr4

While the skaters take a break, the infield is given over to some bizarre Northern pastime that involves rubber ducks. It’s best we don’t explain further. Quite a partisan home crowd here, as one would expect, and the Checkerbroads have them cheering further as they win all but one of the second period’s first nine jams. A knock to Enyo sees her having to sit out three jams, temporarily reducing Brighton to a single digit squad. Manchester varying their rotation a little, giving Iko and Sirenide a turn in the star. Rockers putting Swann into jam more now, with Chaka and Harriet also getting star-clad cameos. The latter’s debut in the Brighton star doesn’t quite go according to plan, as she manages to pick up four jammer penalties in a single outing – Sirenide clocking in 22 points in the process – but the game has long since drifted out of the Rockers’ reach. GoGo has been a particular menace to the Sussex side, whilst the blocking of Psycho and captain Price has kept Brighton’s starheads at bay. The captain picks up the Best Blocker award, with Jammer going to Vic Tori Bee and MVP to Smack Mamba. Best take out (the hitting kind not the food kind) goes to Kate Push for spectacularly upending Gin at high speed. For the Rockers, Kapow picks up Best Jammer, Swann takes the Blocker award and Gin picks up MVP on her Brighton debut. Rose wins best take out, despite insisting she’s never taken anyone out ever. Final score: Manchester Checkerbroads 243 – Brighton Rockers (mixed level) 115.

The Rockers will miss much of the after party as they have to go back to their hotel first. As we’ve already established their hotel is so far out from the centre it’s practically in Wales. Whilst waiting for taxis to the party, they toast their defeat with Prosecco served in teacups. Stay classy, Brighton. Despite the result, it’s been a productive trip, giving a lot of newer players a chance to line up with established stars in a competitive match. With the numerically limited Sussex league having to put together a tournament roster of 20 for next year’s Championships, some players from outside of the Rockers’ traditional A-team fourteen will be getting a chance to shine. General consensus is that Obliviator in particular is a potential star in the making – a few days after the Manchester trip she will pick up the league’s Skater of the Month award. For now, she joins the rest of the Northern expedition in the Courtyard, a crowded student sports bar in Central Manchester. The long day catches up with the Sussex squad, who bow out of the noisy pub early for the relative sanctuary of a nearby Nando’s. The next day sees a sauna and swim before the journey back South, although a serious problem with Rose’s car means a somewhat longer vacation in the fields of Didsbury for some of the Brighton crew.

mrdr5

The Rockers round off 2014 with a mixed scrimmage in Hove, featuring a lot of skaters from the Croydon and Eastbourne leagues alongside Rockers and others. It’s a real nailbiter and goes to an overtime jam – a steward’s inquiry will later reveal some creative score tracking at work to make the scores level at full time. So onto 2015 then. What’s happening next year? What’s happening is the first ever British Championships, that’s what. A whopping 72 women’s teams in thirteen divisions (plus three men’s divisions) forming probably the biggest league programme in world derby. The lowest tier features six divisions of five teams each. Above that four divisions of six teams. Then the top two tiers, which are for UKRDA member leagues only. The top division features powerhouses Glasgow Roller Derby, Auld Reekie (Edinburgh), Tiger Bay (Cardiff), Middlesbrough, Rainy City (Manchester) and Central City (Birmingham). Brighton wouldn’t look out of place in such a division, having beaten two of those teams, lost to three and never met Tiger Bay. For now the Rockers start, as do Manchester, just below in one of the two tier two divisions. Manchester are the lowest placed team (22nd in the UKRDA rankings) in a very strong National North division, where they are up against Leeds (6th), the other Leeds league Hot Wheel (7th), Newcastle (12th), Nottingham’s Hellfire Harlots (14th) and Hull (20th).

Such is the strength of Northern leagues – note that there’s no Southern sides in the very top division at all – that the National South division looks marginally weaker by comparison. Brighton are actually the highest ranked side in the division (9th) and will be facing Royal Windsor (10th), London Rockin’ Rollers (13th), Portsmouth (15th), Southend’s Seaside Sirens (19th) and Bristol (25th). Brighton have the upper hand in games v LRR, Portsmouth and the Sirens, have won one and lost one v Bristol, and have surprisingly never met Windsor. The 2015 Rockers roster is going to be fairly different from that which has brought the league to their current position in the rankings, so it should be an interesting tournament. All game days are double headers apart from the final day which is a triple header. This means (we think) that Brighton will play one home game and four neutral/away. There will be other non-Champs games next year too, although we suspect the Rockers might try to avoid playing potential Champs opponents in these (they could face the National North sides in play-offs). Overseas opposition seems quite likely. The Rockers ‘owe’ Gent a rematch in the UK and are similarly due a trip over to Paris – neither of these would surprise us. Who else? Hmmm… Whilst we consult the rankings sites to guess potential opposition, grab yourself a mince pie and a pint of brandy – or whatever people are supposed to drink at Christmas – and we’ll see you in the New Year. Merry festives one and all.

[Photos by Shirlaine Forrest. Thanks to the Rockers who spoke to us for this report.]

LINKS
BRIGHTON ROCKERS: http://www.brightonrockers.com/
MANCHESTER ROLLER DERBY: http://manchesterrollerderby.com/
BRITISH CHAMPS FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/BritishRollerDerbyChamps
BRITISH CHAMPS WEBSITE: http://www.britishchamps.com/