Shove Me Tender: Bombshells v Bullets bout report


Exactly ten weeks have passed since the Bombshells took to this Hastings track in front of a paying baying audience for the very first time. That meeting with Croydon’s B-team is best described as ‘a learning experience’. This afternoon we’ll discover exactly how much was gleaned from that lesson, plus two subsequent mixed-up closed doors and various scrimmage appearances from the lively ladies in velvet and leopard skin. Today’s opposition come from the wilds of North Hampshire. Of all the Facebook good luck messages posted on the Bombshells page in the run-up to the Croydon bout, the one from the Basingstoke Bullets – incorporating the Eastbourne league’s “tick tick BOOM” rallying call – was probably the most touching and heartfelt.

These sides have rolled a very similar development path these past two years, you see, meeting on track in several closed door bouts and scrimmages along the way; not just in the yellowy electric haze of Hampshire and Sussex sports halls, but also the glorious sunshine of the Bombshells’ outdoor derby tournament. That this initials-sharing pair know each other well and take the whole concept of ‘sister leagues’ to a whole new level is bo(u)rne out with a pre-bout display that even veteran [NB as in experienced not as in old] derby announcer Smashlyn Monroe has “never seen anything like before”. Instead of two separate skate outs, we get a combined one as a Bombshell and Bullet take to the track in pairs, skating around hand in hand as their names are announced. The whole thing ends with the teams parading side by side around the track, as the two captains each wave the other league’s flag. No really, it’s just something in my eye… *sniff*


Of course when the first whistle sounds the mutual love-in has to take a back seat. For the match-up itself these thirteen pairs of derby sisters get competitive. Very competitive. This is going to be a fairly penalty filled bout for both sides. The Eastbourne league get the best of the opening few jams with successive lead calls for Toxic Block Syndrome, Bullet Bomber, Chunder Woman and Hell Block H, together with the first of many jammer box visits for the Hampshire side. The Bombshells lead 15-0 as Basingstoke take their first time-out, or ‘bullet-time’ as fans of The Matrix might call it. Time hasn’t slowed enough for the visitors though, as The PhilosoFear – making a rare appearance in the star – adds another eleven for Eastbourne in the next jam. A brief scoreless sixth sees the Bullets speeding the pack up to try and outrun Dreaded Shortcake as both sides have two blockers sent to the box. Belle Mortez takes the star for Basingstoke in the seventh and makes use of a power jam to close the gap substantially, the Bullets now sitting on the soft side of a 27-14 scoreline.

Jam 8 is probably the biggest of the first period. Na Trash’Her finally battles her way past tenacious blocker Beast Unleashed to take lead for Basingstoke, but she ends up in the box shortly after. Drag ‘N’ Fly passes the Eastbourne star to Bullet Bomber. This will happen several times in today’s bout, and it will possibly confuse the refs a little bit. You see, in this room full of derby sisters, this Bombshells duo are actual sisters and similar looking enough twins to make following the star passes between them tricky for the folks in zebra stripes. (Indeed, midway through the second half the Bombshells will start a jam with a pivot on track, despite having a star passed jammer in the box; whilst the refs don’t notice, said pivot will realise this mid-jam and turn down the offer of a panty pass from the once released penaltyee, figuring quite rightly that the sight of the other pivot cover appearing might just give the game away somewhat. Personally, we’re more confused by Bullet Bomber being an amalgam of both these sides’ names. We’ll refer to her as BB from now on in this report, confident that this won’t remotely make things any more confusing.) So it’s BB of BB v BB, and the breathless jamming machine, who is able to find an outside line where none would appear to exist – her overtaking lane swoops around the bemused Hampshire pack will be a major factor in today’s result – hits this power jam hard and cranks up the points gap. BB 46 – BB 14.


As an official time out is called, Toxic and PoiSin Cherry are lined up to jam. Eastbourne’s head coach and probably their most experienced player versus the pink-haired refugee from roller hockey who, whistle in mouth, had coached the Hampshire league’s pre-bout warm up. Looks like the big guns are rolling out now. PoiSin takes lead but Toxic is right on her heels and forces the call. That’s the story of the next few jams as the teams eke out a few points each; a couple to Basingstoke’s Bruise Payne, Ninja Knut Job and Little Miss Mischevil, with similar hauls for Crash and BB. Time seems to stop still in Jam 13 as Bruise and Toxic swap over in the box. 61-31. PoiSin dances through the Eastbourne pack for eight. Crash puts up a gutsy battle to break through a tough Bullets pack for three. Rocky Bashova and PhilosoFear two-wall Darth Smaul brilliantly in the seventeenth, but the going is getting tougher for the Bombshells now. The physicality of the Basingstoke packs are forcing exasperated Sussex jammers to call upon star passes with increasing frequency. Captain and ex-Portsmouth Roller Wench Atomic Affliction in particular is putting up a fierce performance in the Bullets defence; not just tough, derby tough, as is amply demonstrated when she almost takes down half the crowd with hand-slaps at the end of the bout.

As the half time whistle sounds (92-52 to the home team) we head for the café bar, hoping they’ve learned their lesson from the previous bout when they decided to shut it despite the presence of dozens of very thirsty roller derby fans. This time it’s open, but fans of another sports event in the centre – possible something swimming related – are queuing up and ordering ever more elaborate types of hot beverage; half decaf half cocoa, camomile tea with lemon and cinnamon, double decaf with orange zest and pixie dust, coffee and chips (thinking about it, the last one might have incorporated a food order). We reach the counter before the rest of the derby mob, but booze-wise there’s no beer, ale or cider, just five mini-bottles of rosé left in the entire place. Conscious of the queue that has built up behind us, we decide not to be greedy and only buy four of them. In the hall, announcer Smashlyn won’t be winning first prize in the raffle this time as she didn’t buy a ticket. Instead, the prizes are snapped up by an NSO, a birthday celebrating Bombshell in the crowd, Crash of the Bombshells, a Bullet, Crash again, one of the medics, Crash, Rocky’s mum, Crash, a guy in a hat, Crash and Crash. Smashlyn gets one of the aforementioned to admit to having a raffle ticket addiction. (Clue: It’s not Rocky’s mum or the guy in a hat.)


Dropkick No Mercy is all over Toxic in the opening jam of the second half, trying to bustle the Bombshells jammer off track. It’s a valiant defensive performance, but she picks up a penalty call and is off to join another Bullets blocker in the box. Their jammer Bruise Payne had taken lead and tried to call when Toxic broke past DNM, but she picks up a penalty herself and Toxic makes no mistake with the power jam  –  20-0 for the jam, 20-0 for the period, 112-52 for the bout – but then she picks up a penalty right on the two minute whistle. The second jam starts with no jammer on track, before Bruise is released to pull back ten points before calling it when she sees her star-clad rival standing. There are many blockers but few jammers in the box for both sides for the remainder of the bout. Eastbourne are continuing to edge up the differential. Every time the Bullets claw back four or five, the Bombshells get seven or eight shortly after. Basingstoke coach Scrim Reaper, delightfully dapper in his bowtie and braces, flirts with the NSOs and announcers, but – despite hard hitting pack work from the likes of Dropkick, Affliction and Mischevil plus relentless jammer runs from PoiSin, Payne, Trash’Her and others – this bout is slipping beyond the Hampshire side’s reach now. With Lily Malicious, Smash’er Fierce, Bashova, Crash and others forming well marshalled Eastbourne packs – bolstered by bunny ears, face paint and devil horns – and the likes of Hell Block, Chunder and BB edging out a last few jam’s worth of points, the Bombshells bench are now pondering whether they will go up or down in the rankings. It’s all down to the winning points margin, y’see.

Rankings, oh rankings. Everyone pretends not to care about them, but everyone does. At the after party, taking place in the Union Bar (which looks awfully similar to the Tubman where the Bombshells held their last after party) we inform inquisitive bench coach Sassy McAwesome that by our reckoning her side’s 206-128 win was 0.87 points less than predicted and might result in a slight ranking points drop. As it happens maths is hard, and the Bombshells will actually see a +0.3 points rankings rise, taking them up two places to 171st in the whole of Europe. (NB bear in mind roughly half the teams above them are intraleague etc rather than travel teams, so you can probably halve that 171 for a more realistic Euro A-team ranking.) Toxic picked up the Best Blocker award and a foul out, with Chunder picking up Best Jammer and PhilosoFear MVP. For Basingstoke, PoiSin Cherry took Best Jammer and Affliction took Blocker with Dropkick as MVP. (Um, we think. We’re basing this all on who looks to be holding up what certificates in photos, as we were already in the pub by then to be honest, so sorry if we’re wrong.) As the two teams toast each other with cake – and indeed toast the whole concept of cake itself – and the barometer starts teetering towards raucous, we head off back to the civilian world. Where 2014 will take these two track hungry and ambitious teams is yet to be seen. Whatever happens, as Ms Franklin almost sang, derby sisters are doin’ in for themselves.

[Photos by John Hesse]

ADDENDUM: Most leagues hibernate in terms of public bouting for a couple of months over the winter. The last bout in Sussex this year will see the Brighton Rockers take on Birmingham’s Central City Rollergirls at Haywards Heath this Saturday (23rd Nov) at 3pm, so check that out if you need another local derby fix before 2013 is done. Leagues are up for hearing from people interested in getting involved in the sport at any time, so please visit the websites of the Bombshells, Bullets or whoever your local league is and get in touch if you want to know/do more about the fastest growing, most woman and alt-friendly, coolest damn sport there ever was. Cheers.



Block Hop: Bourne Bombshells v Basingstoke Bullets preview


Following on from August’s bout against Croydon Vice Squad, the Bourne Bombshells are back in action on home wood this Saturday 9th November with first whistle at 4.30pm at Hastings’ Summerfields Leisure Centre. The opponents for the mighty Bombshells at this – only the second home open door in their history –  are Hampshire’s Basingstoke Bullets. Regarded as each other’s ‘best friend league’ the two teams have met several times on track before; a mixture of closed door bouts, scrimmages and tournament play in the sunshine at Eastbourne Extreme.

The Bombshells have a slight edge in terms of past results, and the main derby ranking siste ( rates the Eastbourne league as 173rd in Europe with 524.6 rankings points. Basingstoke have 487.2 ranking points and occupy 264th place. The web site’s (to be taken with a pinch of salt) online result predictor gives the Bombshells an 86% chance of taking the win, compared to 14% for the Hampshire league. The site’s predicted score ratio of 47:29 equates to a typical bout score in the region of 141-87 in Eastbourne’s favour.

Has the prediction algorithm got it right? Find out by snapping up your tickets now for a bargainous £5 plus small booking fee.

Doors are at 4pm, the leisure centre’s only seven minutes walk from Hastings train station (Coastway East trains are not affected by the engineering work blighting several Sussex lines that day), there’s a licenced cafe on site and an after party to follow. The day’s theme is 50s hop/rockabilly, with fancy dress encouraged. We caught up with a member of each team to find out more about what to expect from the bout:



The Bombshells staged their first home open door bout a few weeks ago (v Croydon’s Vice Squad). How did that go, organisationally etc? It must have been a big milestone in the league’s history.
Absolutely, a huge and very exciting milestone! I think once you’ve run Eastbourne Extreme two years running, everything else is easy though. We have a few amazing core team members who do a vast amount of organising and preparation – I thank them humongously for this – and the rest of us run around on the day helping to keep everything running smoothly. It was great having announcers and a real public audience, and of course our own proper after party, which I am assured we did all the winning at.

Since then, you’ve been keeping busy with a few closed doors and many players taking part in mixed scrims. Have you progressed much as a league since the Vice Squad bout. Do you have any new skills or tactics to unveil against Basingstoke?
I think we learned more then we realised playing against the Vice Squad. I personally think we have progressed more between that game and now then we had in the few months leading up to our first home bout. We’ve really renewed our focus and completely revamped the way we play in bouts. I couldn’t possibly spill info about skills or tactics before a game, but anyone who saw us play the Bristol B team a couple of weeks ago would have seen it was a very different game to that which we’ve played before. We’ve all been putting in a lot of track time at the closed doors and mixed scrims to really get our heads into it, and I think as a team we have really started gelling and working together so much better.

You’ve played the Basingstoke Bullets quite a few times before, and they’re seen as something of a ‘sister league’ to the Bombshells (and not just because of the matching BB initials!). You must know them quite well. Are there any particular players or tactics from Basingstoke that people at the bout should keep an eye out for?
We love the Bullets! They are all so lovely. Like us, they seem to develop each time we meet or see them, and I know they have been playing a lot more since we last met up at Extreme. I always watch out when PoSin Cherry is jamming, she’s brilliant! We caught a bit of a glimpse of Dropkick No Mercy and Little Miss Mischevil at a mixed scrim last weekend, so we know everyone has been training their sweaty skate socks off. I’m excited to see what new skills and tactics they will bring to the table since we last met up.

Similarly, for anyone coming along to Block Hop who might not have seen the Bombshells before, are there any particular Eastbourne players or tactics to look out for?
All of us! Watch out. We really do have a great collection of players, all with their own strengths and special skills. Coach/captain Toxic Block Syndrome aka Scary Shiny Helmet likes to hit and hit hard! Bullet Bomber is super quick and super nippy. Smash’er Fierce is just brutal, and Dreaded Shortcake will never give up. I could go on. I think we have such a great diversity of players everyone will be able to pick their own favourites. Then make sure you come to our next bout bearing posters, T-shirts and cakes with your favourite Bombshells on! (We will happily eat cakes with our own faces on.)

Are you expecting a tough bout? Would you like to predict the result/score?
I think you should go into every bout expecting it to be tough. I think mental attitude is a huge factor in playing well, and we desperately want to show the home crowd how awesome we really are. I would love to come out with a convincing win, via a well matched toughly fought bout.

Finally, what advice can you give to anyone watching roller derby for the first time at Block Hop, who might be a bit bewildered by what’s going on? Any tips/advice for anyone in the crowd who might want to give the sport a go themselves?
Absolutely let yourself get swept up in the spirit and enjoyment of the game. Cheer, shout, scream and wave your arms about! If you have absolutely no idea what is going on, there is always someone in a roller derby crowd happy to explain, and we usually have a little ‘how derby works’ demo in our programme. If you’re still lost at half time I recommend accosting one of the sweaty girls in skates (usually in the toilets, as that is what happens at bouts!). We run newcomer programmes a couple of times a year called ‘Fresh Meat’ which we advertise on Facebook and on our website, so keep an eye out. Anyone is welcome to get in touch at any time – we take on players, refs, NSOs (Non Skating Officials), women, men, dogs and bakers (we like animals and cake). The guys team have called themselves Bomb S’Quad, and they’re looking for new members as well. They have just taken part in their first mixed public bout and they all have the derby bug. Roller derby really is an amazing sport, played by all kinds of people with all kinds of skills and lots of dedication. It’s fun to watch, better to play and completely amazing to be a part of. We look forward to meeting you all!



For anyone who might not be aware of the Basingstoke Bullets, can you tell us a little about the league’s history and achievements to date? What plans do you have going into 2014 and beyond?
The Bullets were initially formed under a different name, but when the full group of skaters (most of whom are still with us) got together we renamed. We have been together since summer 2011. None of us knew much about derby. Billie Horrorday our coach had just moved from Plymouth where she used to skate with PCRG, and PoiSin Cherry we poached from Roller Hockey. We skated outdoors for a few months as we really struggled to find an indoor venue. 2013 has been massive year for the Bullets with our first closed door, the Eastbourne Extreme tournament and hosting our first open door bout. 2014 is shaping up to be a fun and busy time for the Bullets.

You’ve met the Bombshells a few times before, and are something of a ‘sister league’ to them. Does that make you extra keen to get one over on them?
We love our sister league! But it’s our turn to win. We always have a good time because they are the loveliest team of people. We may hit them a lot on track, then hug a lot off track.

Are there any particular Bombshells players or tactics that you’re wary of? Who do you expect to be the biggest threats in their side?
We know most of the players really well, so that should go in our favour. A few of us scrimmaged against a few Bombshells last weekend at an Oxford Wheels of Gory mixed scrim. After watching this years Sur5al, I know Bullet Bomber and Toxic Block Syndrome are really strong players. The PhilosoFear’s backwards blocking can really hold up jammers.

Are there any particular Bullets players or tactics people in the crowd should keep an eye out for?
I can’t share tactics. As for players we get quite a mix of after game awards for MVP, Best Jammer and Best Blocker. We’re using a bench and line up that we haven’t publicly bouted with before, but we have every faith in them.

Would you like to predict the result/score?
If we keep focused we can play really well, and hopefully we will come away with a win.

Do you have a message for any Basingstoke fans in the crowd at Hastings?
Cheer loudly with Bullet pride!

[Photos by John Hesse]