This Saturday (May 9th) sees the mighty Bourne Bombshells kick off their British Champs campaign in Stevenage. Champs has evolved from a small South Midlands tournament, via a couple of incarnations of the Heartland Series – Bombshells took part in 2014’s – into this year’s huge 72 team thirteen division truly national tournament. The ‘shells, now rebranded under the umbrella name Eastbourne Roller Derby, are part of the Tier 4 South East Division, which kicks off on Saturday at the Arts & Leisure Centre in Stevenage, Herts.
Things get underway at a frighteningly early 11.30am (first whistle) with the Bombshells taking on Chelmsford’s Killa Hurtz and hosts the Herts Breakers – part of the Full Metal Roller Derby league – facing Suffolk. Tickets are available on the door at £10 for adults or £5 kids. This is the most handily placed derby venue we know of for train travellers, being literally across the road from Stevenage station, which is one stop from London King’s Cross on the East Coast Main Line (slower Great Northern services are more regular).
Splitting the home and away predictions at Flattrackstats, as there is no neutral option, gives Eastbourne (ranked 248th in Europe) roughly an 18% chance of beating the 137th placed Killa Hurtz. The predicted score differential is around 7:4 in the Essex side’s favour, equivalent to something like a 245-140 scoreline in Killa Hurtz’ favour. The website is unable to predict anything for the day’s other game, since the hosting Herts Breakers are so new they’re totally unranked. Now let’s hear from some of those taking part…
BULLET BOMBER – BOURNE BOMBSHELLS CAPTAIN
Hi there. Can you sum up the Bombshells’ 2014 Heartland Series for us?
As a team we were happy with where we finished in the tournament. We came fourth in the division which was a place above where we thought me may come. It was our first year being part of the series and I think we learnt a lot last year about our strengths and weaknesses as a team.
Heartland has grown into the British Champs in 2015, featuring 72 women’s teams across 13 divisions. You currently sit on top of the T4 South East table, albeit through alphabetical order. Is holding onto that position your aim for the season?
Of course holding the top position will always be our aim. We are looking forward to playing some new opposition, but are also interested to see how we fare this year against opponents we played last year. With more teams being involved in the Champs, it means that our group is going to be near to us in ranking, which should mean we have some interesting games with closer scores.
Your opponents in Stevenage on Saturday are Chelmsford’s Killa Hurtz. What do you know of them? Any particular Killa Hurtz players you’ll be looking out for?
We will be watching out for Killa Hurtz’ small nippy jammers, Snarley Quinn and Rakey Breaky Face, as they sneak through the smallest of gaps; as well as keeping an eye on Killa Hurtz stronger pushyer jammer Mother Mercy. Blockers who may cause us trouble are The Beckoning, Mother Mercy and Clark Smash. They are big hitters, so our jammers will be looking to stay quick on their feet around them.
Any particular Eastbourne players people should be looking out for in this game, and throughout the Champs season in general?
This season the Bombshells to watch out for are Von Stack It and Jumping Jack Smash. They have both become formidable blockers, and are also both shaping up to be fast nippy jammers. With our training now co-ed with men’s side Bomb Squad, it has toughened the whole team up, hopefully giving us an edge.
Saturday’s other game sees hosts FMRD’s Herts Breakers take on Suffolk Roller Derby. How do you expect that one to go?
Full Metal are a total unknown as they are not yet ranked on Flattrackstats and no one has seen them play (not sure if they’ve had a bout yet either). Suffolk have some good jammers, particularly Yvonna Bone, Malicious Wishes and Minnie Minx. Suffolk Punch is a double threat to watch – when blocking she holds the walls together and keeps control, and when jamming she can always fight her way through.
Finally, what else do the Eastbourne leagues have planned for this year?
We are launching ourselves as Eastbourne Roller Derby this year, with our four teams; Bourne Bombshells ladies team, Bomb Squad men’s team, New Bournes junior team and our new co-ed Team A-bominations. All four teams will be playing at Eastbourne Extreme on 18th & 19th July. We are really excited that our first open door men’s game and co-ed game will be on home turf (tarmac). The Men’s team will be facing Surrey Jammerwockies and the co-ed team will be playing Portsmouth Scurvy Wenches. The Men’s team have had a few close door games this year in preparation for Extreme and we are currently arranging co-ed closed doors. Our junior team will this year be playing at Level 2, which is a great progress from last year. The team’s numbers are slowly growing and another training session has been added. So this year is looking like it’s shaping up to be a fun year for all four teams.
CLARK SMASH – KILLA HURTZ ROLLER DERBY
For anyone that might not know of the Killa Hurtz can you tell us a little of your league’s history and achievements to date?
The team started in October 2011 and has gone from strength to strength with a solid foundation of skaters who live and die by the skate! In 2013 we took our only five skaters to Rookie Sur5al at Windsor, where we finished in the Top 5. We have a vivid memory of walking around the sports hall overhearing other skaters saying “who the hell are the Killa Hurtz and where did they come from?” That was pretty memorable! We have since taken part in many tournaments and now have a full bouting team. Last year we were lucky enough to have our coach, SDRD’s Blitzkrieg, fall into our laps (not literally, thankfully, he’s big guy and partial to wearing leggings) when he moved to Essex and was looking for a team to coach. Together we have gained skating momentum. Last year saw us become a bouting team with our first game in June against our derby sisters from another mister, Suffolk Roller Derby, who took the win at home. Since then, the purple train have been getting around, taking a very close win over Grid City away, hosting and beating Suffolk (making it one apiece), then taking on the mighty Portsmouth B who took the win towards the end of 2014. This year we’ve had a couple of blinding bouts including a nail biter against LRR B in the capital and a tough and physical game against Rebellion at home. We won both those games which brings us to this, our first British Champs game.
As a fairly new to bouting team, what are your expectations going into the 2015 British Champs season?
We are very new to bouting. We have been bouting less than a year but what a year it has been! We will take each game as it comes. Regardless of stats or predictions, you can never take another team’s track record or an expected win for granted. So we shall focus on being the best we can be as team and see where that gets us. Obviously we would like to ride in on our purple machine of awesome, win every game and be promoted to Tier 3 at the end of the year, so we’ll strive for that! The tournament itself we think is a great opportunity for British roller derby, and we hope that having the Championships in place will shine more light onto the sport in terms of community involvement and funding. It’s also brill that teams will know where they stand in terms of league tables etc. Our ambitions as a league are to keep growing and eventually get to the point where we can have an A- and B-team, even a C-team eventually; have inter-team and intrateam games; and find a suitable venue to rent, to enable us to train as and when we like rather than having to fit around badminton and their shuttlecocks. For the time being, what is most important to us is enjoying ourselves, skating as much as we can get away with, and nurturing all the derby love we have in our team.
Your first Champs game is this Saturday against Eastbourne? Any particular Bombshells players/tactics you’ll be looking out for?
Our game against the Bombshells is going to be tough, but we can’t wait. We have not yet encountered the team or seen them play, but we know of the lovely Philosofear, as she quite often comes and takes pictures at games/tournaments we are playing in. She admitted to spying on us at our last home game v Rebellion, so touché my darlings! Let’s see what happens on Saturday.
Any particular Killa Hurtz players/tactics people should look out for in the game? Care to predict the result?
We can’t tell you all our secrets! We like the element of surprise. We wouldn’t like to predict a score or result, but we most certainly will guarantee some awesome roller derby.
Saturday’s other game sees hosts Full Metal Roller Derby’s Herts Breakers take on Suffolk. How do you expect that one to go?
We haven’t seen the Herts Breakers play but we know Suffolk very well. Players to watch out for include Suffolk Punch, who is a very versatile player and has no problems blocking or jamming, a real double threat. Malicious Wishes is another one to watch out for; a former banked track skater, her booty is a weapon! One of their new skaters, Driving Destructor is another to keep an eye on. They also have their coach back, who was away on tour when we last played them, which can only mean good things for them.
HOUND – FULL METAL RD BENCH MANAGER
Hi there, for anyone who might not know of FMRD can you tell us a little about your league’s history and achievements to date?
FMRD formed around three years ago with a dream to promote roller derby in Hertfordshire. Our main objective was to create a co-ed league with a core ethos of co-gender roller derby. To date we have been building our ranks and branching out into the local community.
What are your ambitions for this inaugural British Champs season? What are you expecting of the other sides in the T4 South East division?
We aim to have as much fun as physically possible! FMRD can’t wait to stake our claim and get out there into the UK derby community. Our fellow T4 teams should give us a good run for our money and were expecting to both practice and expand our skills. By the end of the Championship we hope to be an infinitely stronger team ready for the next challenge.
Your first game is this Saturday at home to Suffolk Roller Derby. What do you know about them?
Truth be told we don’t know a great deal about SRD. They must be kickass awesome folk though. We’ve done a little research but have focussed more on our own tactics and hosting our first ever game.
Any particular Herts Breakers players people in the crowd should look out for? Care to predict the result?
We have a very mixed bag of players ranging from both graceful and bruiser jammers to brutal or sneaky blockers. This game will be a trial by fire for us but we hope to come out swinging. I couldn’t predict the result but we feel that playing the game is enough of a “result” for us. We are truly proud to be a part of Champs 2015.
Saturday’s other game sees Bourne Bombshells take on Killa Hurtz. How do you expect that one to go?
Again we haven’t spent much time researching our T4 comrades. This will be our girls’ very first game together, so we’ve invested in focusing on our girls. FMRD are looking forward to seeing what Blitzkrieg has been up to with the lovely Killa Hurtz
Finally, you’re hosting the action on Saturday. What can you tell us about your venue, the after party and Stevenage in general?
Our venue boasts tiered seating and an onsite café and licensed bar. We also have several local businesses selling their wares as well as derby owned vendors setting up shop. Our venue is located a stone’s throw from all of Stevenage’s transport links; access via train, bus and road is easy as pie.
Our after party is another story all together. We’ve secured one of our favourite watering holes the Tom Tiddlers Tavern (Or 3T if you’re down with the kids) We’ve landed a kickass band in “Fallowfields”. We may not win the game but we’ll damn sure win the after party! Our venue is moments from Stevenage Town centre which offers more shopping opportunities than you can shake a stick at. One of our lovely friends (Limited Edition Comics) will be open for all you Marvel/D.C. addicts out there. Why not pop over before the games and say hello?
SUFFOLK PUNCH – SUFFOLK ROLLER DERBY
Can you tell us a little about Suffolk’s history and achievements to date, and your ambitions going forward?
We started as a co-ed (men and women mixed) league in Bury St Edmunds in 2012, becoming Suffolk Roller Derby at the end of 2013. Our women’s team won their first game in June last year against the Killa Hurtz (their first game too!) at home. We then went on to play the Cambridge B-team Blockabillies in August with a narrow defeat in the last jam, and the return game against the Killa Hurtz in November, in which they took the win. We train completely co-ed; both our men’s and co-ed teams will hopefully have their first games this summer. We’ve been building our team over the winter, and we now train three nights a week in Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich. So we have some great new recruits coming up through fresh meat to join our more experienced skaters on the team this year.
What are your ambitions for this inaugural British Champs season?
We are very excited to be part of the British Championships. It’s the first tournament we’ve been involved in. Its great to have a season and scheduled games with potential progression to aim for, and has really motivated us to up our game. We know a fair amount about most of the teams in our division, and often scrim with the Killa Hurtz and Norfolk Brawds, so there’s bound to be some local rivalry in our division for fans to look forward to! I think it’s a very interesting mix of teams. The Norfolk Brawds are obviously the most experienced, but the Bombshells have been re-building their team and the Killa Hurtz are looking stronger all the time, beating Rebellion a few weeks ago. I think anything can happen, and there will be upsets!
Your first game is this Saturday away to Full Metal’s Herts Breakers. What do you know of the Stevenage side?
Full Metal is the team we know the least about, so we’re not really sure what to think going into our first game against them. We are just planning to focus, play our game and do the best we can. I know all the other teams in the division are also keen to see what they pull out of the bag on their public debut, and will be scrutinising and taking notes for future games. The one thing we have in common is that we are both fully co-ed, so we’re looking forward to flying the flag for co-ed with them.
Any particular Suffolk players or tactics people in the crowd should look out for? Care to predict the result of the match?
Well, we don’t want to give too much away. Anyone who has seen our team or any of our players skate can make up their own mind. We have been training hard and I can say both our jammers and blockers are strong and we are confident in our teamwork. Listen out for the American accents; we have strong links to the US Airforce bases in Suffolk, with several of our members either active duty or dependants.
Saturday’s other game sees Eastbourne take on Killa Hurtz. How do you expect that one to go?
The Killa Hurtz are like a sister team to us, so there is a lot of love there. They have some strong skaters – The Beckoning, Clark SMASH, Mother Mercy and Snarley Quinn, to name a few – and together they are formidable. We also think the Bombshells are awesome. Several of us skated in the mixed games at Eastbourne Extreme last year and had the best time, and we can’t wait to see their renewed team on track.
[Photos by John Hesse]