A busy 2013 for the Bombshells saw the league’s first ever open door bouts (two of them at home) and a debut appearance – and runners-up spot – at their own outdoor Eastbourne Extreme tournament. There was also a first continental road trip, a swathe of scrimmage and mixed team appearances, and more. The Bombshells now share the town with a sister (or brother?) men’s league, the Bomb S’Quad, as well as a newly formed junior league, the New Bournes for 11-17 year olds. We’ll be talking to people from both of those leagues on this website in the next week or two.
First up, though, we wanted to find out about the Bombshells’ own thoughts for the year ahead. 2014 sees the Eastbourne league’s first appearance in the Heartland Series, which runs through much of the year. The South East region kicks off this Saturday (22nd Feb) but the Bombshells sit out the first bout day, before swinging into action with a trip to Milton Keynes on 6th April. The Bombshells host Hertfordshire’s Hell’s Belles at Haywards Heath on 7th June, with the day also featuring an MK v Bedfordshire bout. The Sussex league then face the Norfolk Brawds in Herts on 16th August, with a tricky away trip to play Big Bucks on 27th September. Their final SE Division opponents are Bedfordshire on 1st November, with the final day’s triple header location yet to be decided. Should the Bombshells finish in the top two, the series finals weekend follows three weeks later.
Packed though this schedule is, the Sussex side’s plans for the year don’t end there and one or two other home bouts may well be scheduled. The highlight of the league’s year is as ever the Eastbourne Extreme tournament, which takes place on the 12th & 13th July. This year the Sunday features mixed teams of a variety of different types/standards (including experienced, rookie, women’s, men’s, co-ed and junior). The Saturday sees the Bombshells competing against a tough trio of opponents in Surrey Rollergirls, Croydon Vice Squad and London Rockin’ Rollers B. Anyway, that’s enough from us. Now let’s hear from someone ‘in the know’ about the Bombshells’ plans and ambitions for 2014 and beyond…
CHUNDER WOMAN – BOURNE BOMBSHELLS PLAYER/COACH
2013 saw a lot of milestones for the Bombshells. How important a year was it for the league and what were the highlights for you?
It was a massive year for the Bombshells. We went from not having enough players for a full travel team, to having a full roster of experienced and tough skaters. I think everyone learnt a lot from all our games last year, but it was our big loss at our first home bout (v Croydon B) that taught us the most, and we’ve upped our game significantly since then. A big highlight for everyone was playing in Eastbourne Extreme for the first time, and coming within a couple of points of the win. We also had an amazing time on our big road trip to Mons in Belgium (and the beer at the after party went down a treat). I would say my personal highlight was my first time coaching the team. I was terrified to begin with, but it’s become something I really look forward to every week.
Moving on to 2014, the Bombshells have entered the Heartland Series. What do you know of the five sides you’ll face in the South East group?
The Heartland Series is something we’ve wanted to do for a long time, and we couldn’t be more proud to be a part of it for 2014. We haven’t played any of the other teams before, which is great as it gives us a chance to test ourselves against a whole new set of opponents. Our first game sees us facing Milton Keynes, who are one of my picks to win the whole division. A few of us have been lucky enough to skate with some of the MK girls at mixed scrims, so we have a bit of an idea of what to expect. Another big challenge is going to be Big Bucks High Rollers, but fortunately we have until the Autumn to see how much we can improve before we take them on.
The Bombshells are hosting a Heartland double header in June. Is it more of a challenge putting on a two bout event?
The Bombshells have a great bout production team who I’m sure will be more than up to the challenge. Double headers are exciting, and the fact that it’s a Heartland Series bout day should make for a great atmosphere. As people know from Brighton Rockers home games, the Dolphin Centre in Haywards Heath (where we’re holding the event) is a great venue for roller derby.
You’ve chosen a tough trio of opponents for Eastbourne Extreme. What do you know of those leagues and what are your expectations for the tournament?
We’ve tried to pick teams that will be very evenly matched, so it’s impossible to predict the outcome until we get there. Having said that, we’ve played two of the three other teams before. Our game against Surrey at the last tournament was very close, and Bombshells narrowly edged it by one point in the end. Who knows what might have happened had it continued? We’ll have a chance to find out, as all the games are going to be 10 minutes longer this year. When we last faced Croydon’s Vice Squad, they annihilated us. However, we went away after that and completely overhauled our style of play. We now have a totally different line-up system, and our bench coach Sassy McAwesome has been working incredibly hard to improve our strategy and overall gameplay. I suspect the result will be very different come July.
Whilst the year is already pretty packed – Extreme and Heartland accounting for at least eight bouts – do you have any other matches planned for 2014?
At the moment the short answer is no, but I suspect that will change in the coming months. We’ll be travelling for most of our games this year, so we’d like to book a few at home for the local fans to enjoy. It’s also common to take turns hosting games, so there’s always the possibility of inviting some of our previous opponents back for a rematch. One team I’d personally like to face again is Belgium’s Freaky Mons’ter Derby Ladies, who gave us a real run for our money the first time around. Now that two of their players have made the national squad, I imagine they’ll be even more of a challenge. They were also excellent hosts, so it’d be great to return the favour.
Do the league have any non-bout events planned for the year?
The PhilosoFear, Pettichoke and I are going to be skating six miles in aid of Sports Relief at the end of March with a lovely bunch of ladies from the Rochester Royal Rollers. Then in August a big group of Bombshells are taking part in the Spartan Race – a brutal 5km obstacle course. I don’t know what we were thinking! On a lighter note, you can usually spot a boozy group of Bombshells in the annual Hastings Pram Race.
2013 saw the formation of two other derby leagues in Eastbourne – the Bomb S’Quad men’s team and New Bournes juniors. Do the Bombshells have much involvement with those leagues?
A few Bombshells are involved in coaching and running the Bomb S’Quad, which was set up by our refs Harry Trotter, Filthy Lorenzo and Electric Lee Charged. They’ve had quite a few of our ladies join them at their weekly practices, which is great for the development of both teams. I’m personally hoping to train up as one of their refs, as I think it’ll give me a bit of an edge on the track (I do get quite a lot of penalties). Beachy Headcase and Drag N Fly came up with the idea for the New Bournes after their own kids became obsessed with roller derby. While the team is still in its infancy (pardon the pun), kids have such a great capacity to learn that there’s no telling where they’ll be at the end of the year. They’ll have a chance to show what they can do at Extreme, as we’ll be showcasing some junior derby. The kids are really excited, and it’s refreshing to see so much enthusiasm.
You’ve recently started training at Eastbourne’s My Skate World roller rink. Does the new venue bring any benefits over Shinewater Community Centre?
We’re currently splitting our time between the two venues, with Sunday training led by Toxic Block Syndrome at Shinewater, and Thursday training led by yours truly at My Skate World. The new venue is very useful, as there isn’t enough room for a regulation size track in Shinewater. It’s also good to be practicing on two very different surfaces, as it’s easy to get too used to a place.
What are the ambitions of the Bombshells in general (and yourself in particular) for 2014 and beyond, derby-wise?
The Bombshells’ main ambition is total world domination, but we’ll settle for winning a few of our upcoming games. We’re still a relatively new team, and South East England is home to some of the best sides in the country. We’d like to prove ourselves to the derby community and show them how our hard work has been paying off. My personal ambition is much more vain – I love winning awards at bouts. I even stick them up on my wall like a proper sad case. So yes, I want to have a few more to display by the end of the year.
Finally, do you have any advice for anyone reading this who might be interested in taking up the sport of roller derby themselves?
Just do it! Look up when your local team is next recruiting, get some skates and practice your arse off! I was absolutely rubbish when I first started, and spent most of Fresh Meat on the floor. Now derby is a massive part of my life. I’ve made lifelong friends and found a real source of personal pride. Ignore any doubts you might have and take the plunge.
[Photos by John Hesse]