This Saturday the mighty Bourne Bombshells return to Heartland Series South East Division action as they host their home double header. This takes place at the Dolphin leisure centre in Haywards Heath, which is building up something of a reputation for quad skating. It’s played host to many Brighton Rockers home games, the occasional Croydon Roller Derby home game, and is also the regular venue for the National Roller Figure Skating Championships. Boasting one of the fastest floors in the region, the sports hall has plenty of room for spectators, and the venue is also home to two bars – a bright cafe style one in the foyer, plus a more booze-focused health club bar (with a strange policy of paying somewhere different to where you collect your drinks) a few corridor turns past the hall. As is the way with leisure centres, you’ll also find vending machines, the whiff of chlorine, and clusters of small children dressed for judo.
Doors open at 2pm, with Milton Keynes Concrete Cows taking on Bedfordshire Roller Girls at 2.35, followed by the Bombshells against Hertfordshire’s Hell’s Belles around 4.35pm, then after partying down the road from 6.30ish. Tickets are £8 in advance (£10 on the door) from the link at the bottom of this piece. There’s a ‘buy five get one free’ deal, and under 12s go free. The leisure centre is on Pasture Hill Road, around seven minutes walk from Haywards Heath train station (turn left and follow the handmade signs). There’s a large Sainsbury’s halfway along the route, should you require supplies. The pub opposite the station, the Burrell Arms, is decent enough for a sports bar – home to the more civilised rugby rather than football type this Saturday – and will be hosting the after party. Those travelling from further afield who plan to stay over will find little in the way of accommodation in Haywards Heath itself, but Brighton is less than 15 minutes away by train and boasts a plethora of options, from backpacker hostels to pop star frequented designer hotels.
MK Cows currently place second in the SE table, behind Big Bucks High Rollers, who have the weekend off (as do the Norfolk Brawds). MK’s score differential is superior to BBHR’s, so any victory will see them go top. Saturday’s other three teams are all awaiting their first win – although Hell’s Belles came close against leaders Big Bucks – and take the 4th to 6th spots based on points scored v conceded. The Bombshells currently place bottom, so have the most to gain, and could climb to as high as second with a big win, although fourth would be more achievable. The predictor at flattrackstats gives MK (ranked 73rd in Europe) a 97% chance of beating Bedfordshire (268th) with an expected score ratio of 47-17, which would equate to a typical derby scoreline of around 235-85. The Bombshells v Hell’s Belles game is expected to be much closer, with the 179th placed Belles given a 56% chance of beating Eastbourne (223rd) and a score ratio of just 16-15, equivalent to a 144-135 Belles win. As ever, take any predictions with a pinch of salt. We’ll leave you with a few words from departing Bombshells player-coach Lois Swann (formerly Toxic Block Syndrome) and Night Cub from Hell’s Belles…
LOIS SWANN – BOURNE BOMBSHELLS
The Bombshells kicked off their Heartland Series campaign a few weeks ago in Milton Keynes. What did you learn from that game?
Oh, we learned a ton. It was our most difficult game to date, and when we finished we were pretty certain that we’d done everything we could, and we couldn’t have done any better. Having done a lot of footage review since, however, we spotted many silly mistakes that I hope we’ve resolved now. We have got a couple of new skaters in the line-ups on Saturday, and we’re playing with a full squad of fourteen for the first time since (I think) August. We’ve just really drummed in everything we should have been doing in the last game. Hopefully it will pay off.
Do you know much about Saturday’s opponents, the Hell’s Belles? Care to predict the result?
We don’t know an awful lot about them, to be honest. I’ve never come across any of their players anywhere, but I’m aware that they’re coached by [Men’s Team England star jammer] Reaper, so I hope their jammers haven’t picked up too many of his tricks! We’ve seen some footage of them from earlier in the year, and I think if we’re both having a good day, it’ll be a tough, competitive game. I’d like to think it will be nice and close, and then we’ll edge ahead to a comfortable lead in the second half.
With your traditional Hastings venue no longer allowing skating, this will be the Bombshells’ first outing at Haywards Heath’s Dolphin. Do many of you have experience of the floor there?
Not really. We have a handful of girls who originally started out with the Brighton Rockers, who also use it as their home ground, so a couple of them have skated there. Generally speaking, we’re going in a little bit blind, though. We’re just going to have to show up super early!
The double header’s other game sees Milton Keynes take on Bedfordshire. What are you expecting from that game? Any standout players to look out for?
Most of the teams in our division are ones we’ve never really come up against before, so Bedfordshire are a little unknown to us. I attended a bootcamp with them several months ago, though, and if their attendees were reflective of their bouting team, I’d speculate that Milton Keynes will have the edge. The MK walls are just so solid, and difficult to move or break up. The Valkyrie and Bolshevik gave our jammers an awful lot of trouble, and Magic Beanz was a really fun jammer to block against.
It’s not long now until Eastbourne Extreme (July 12-13th). Are preparations going smoothly?
Sassy McAwesome has got it all under control with her committee. Everything’s going great, so long as we don’t talk about the weather. We’ve opened the Sunday up this year to be a true expo event, showcasing all the different kinds of derby on offer. We’ve got three women’s mixed games (rookie, intermediate and advanced), a men’s game, a co-ed game, and a junior demo, so there’ll be something for everyone. The uptake has been amazing and we’ve got some great players on the rosters, including a handful from various national teams!
Finally, we understand Saturday will be your last game as a Bombshell. Eep! Tell us more…
It will indeed. I have my first training session with the Brighton Rockers two days later (Mon 9th), which is pretty exciting. I’ve been with the Bombshells since the very beginning, so obviously leaving was a big decision and one I feel very sad about, but it was just time for me to move on. I feel like I’ve given all I can to them as a coach and I need some time to focus on my own development, so I can push myself to the next level. I don’t know if or when we’ll meet again on the track, but the Bombshells and Bomb S’Quad are like my extended family. They’re already talking about how excited they are to see me play with the Rockers if I get rostered, and of course I’ll always be their biggest supporter, so I don’t think it’s the last we’ll be seeing of each other.
NIGHT CUB – HELL’S BELLES
For those who don’t know the Belles, can you tell us about your history to date?
The Belles were founded in 2010 and since then we’ve grown as a league, and we’re now establishing ourselves as Hertfordshire Roller Derby, with the Belles still being our main travel team. We competed in [Heartland Series predecessor] The End of the World Series in 2012, as well as being part of the Heartland Series itself in 2013 and 2014.
Have you learned a lot by playing in a big tournament like the Heartland Series?
The Belles developed significantly as a team over 2013, gaining a few of our travel team players from last year’s fresh meat courses. Playing all the Heartland games, as well as extra scrims and bouts, has developed us to work as a team. We’ve come a long way and we are quickly learning what works for us and how to play ‘our game’.
Are there any particular Hell’s Belles players the crowd should keep an eye out for?
We recently did an article for the Heartland Series website, ‘Stars on the Rise’, introducing some of our newer team players. Scarlett Heartless is one of our newest league members, joining us from Big Bucks last summer. She’s a quick thinking jammer, with equally quick footwork. Candy Cane-Her is one of our strongest blockers, having no problem with wiping opposition players off their feet and off the track. Les Be Avenue is a skilful blocker, and like Candy emerged from one of the more recent fresh meat courses. She has good knowledge of the game and its tactics, which she regularly puts into practice.
Do you know much about the Bourne Bombshells?
We haven’t played the Bombshells before, so we look forward to pitching our skills against a new team.
What are you expecting from the day’s other game, MK v Bedfordshire?
The Valkyrie, Bolshevik and Cherry Bomb are three players to watch out for. We’re sure we will enjoy some high quality derby from both these teams.
Finally, do you have a message for any Belles fans in the crowd on Saturday?
Our message for the Belles fans is lots of cheering and wearing red and black. We hope you enjoy the bout too!
BUY TICKETS: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/heartlands-south-east-division-bout-day-3-tickets-11368648935
FB EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/536554199787495/
HELL’S BELLES: http://www.hertsrd.co.uk/
MK COWS: http://www.miltonkeynesrollerderby.com/
[Photos by John Hesse and PolaDroid/Chris Yarrow]