Heartland Series South East Final Day preview

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There will be a sense of déjà vu for many of the teams taking part in this final day of divisional action in the 2014 Heartland Series. The venue is the same one used for the last round of South East games; the home of the Big Bucks league, Wycombe Leisure Centre, travel directions to which you’ll find in our preview of the previous game day. This epic triple header takes place on Sunday (2nd November) with doors at 2.45pm. There are limited tickets on the door at £12 a pop. With three games to fit in, there’s plenty of derby action in store. We can’t see things finishing in the hall much before 9pm, with an after party following in the town centre (at the local branch of faux Irish pub chain O’Neills). Although there’s nothing to play for in terms of qualification here – the top two teams in the division are already through as the South East’s representatives in the finals on the 23rd – every team could finish in a different position in the table to where they currently stand. In a moment we’ll hear a Bombshell’s thoughts heading into Sunday, but first here’s an almost impenetrable wall of stats and predictions…

3PM BOURNE BOMBSHELLS (5TH) v BEDFORDSHIRE ROLLERGIRLS (6TH)
Bedfordshire have yet to win a game and have lost their previous four matches by between 120 and 480 points. Climbing off the bottom of the table therefore looks a very big ask – they’d need to beat the ‘shells by over 350 points – but they will be keen to at least get a victory on the board in this final game. The Bombshells currently place 294th in Europe on Flattrackstats with 469.2 ranking points, with Beds 351st on 432.2. Splitting the difference between home team predictions on FTS (as they don’t have an option for a neutral venue such as this) sees Eastbourne given an 80% chance of taking the win. Expected points differential of around 10:7 would equate to something like a 250-175 Bombshells win.

5PM NORFOLK BRAWDS (3RD) v HELL’S BELLES (4TH)
If any game is going to have a major effect on the final placings it’s likely to be this one. What divides these two teams is essentially their respective performances against the Bombshells, with Norfolk’s victory accounting for the extra three points (and better score differential) they hold over the Hell’s Belles who Eastbourne beat. The points gap is narrow enough that Hertfordshire only need to win by 67 to take third place from the Brawds. Conversely, if the Belles lose and Bombshells win, the Herts side will drop below Eastbourne in the table. So no team has more to gain or more to lose on Sunday than Hell’s Belles. The rankings are in their favour, with Herts placed 166th in Europe (519.1 points) and Norfolk 181st (513.6). There’s not much in it, but the Flattrackstats predictor, adjusted for neutral venue, calls this as a 55% win probability for Herts, with a predicted differential of 50:47, which is equivalent to a squeaky tight 200-188 Belles win.

7PM MILTON KEYNES (1ST) v BIG BUCKS HIGH ROLLERS (2ND)
This top of the table clash features two sides who have won all four of their games so far. At first glance it doesn’t seem to have much riding on it. Both teams are through as the South East’s representatives at the Series Finals. One tangible effect of taking the win, in addition to picking up the divisional title, is that the victors will face Oxford Roller Derby in the Series quarter finals. The losers will be up against Gloucester’s Severn Roller Torrent. Which is the stronger of those potential opponents is up for argument – Oxford place higher than SRT in the UKRDA rankings (26th v 31st) but lower than them in Euro rankings (98th v 54th). Think that’s confusing? So is this South East title match itself. Big Bucks place 20th in UKRDA on 579.2 points with Milton Keynes 34th (526.3). Given home advantage the High Rollers have a massive 97% win prediction on a 53:28 differential. That would equate to something like a 265-140 Big Bucks win. Treating it as a neutral venue, which it technically is (despite being BBHR’s home turf), softens the win prediction a tiny bit. The Euro rankings, meanwhile, actually favour Milton Keynes – they place 43rd to Big Bucks’ 79th. Even with a prediction based on it being the latter’s home venue, MK are given 70% chance of the win. That rises to 77% if treated as neutral. The score differentials suggest a victory margin of around 40 points for MK based on these Euro rankings. Ah, confusing maths! Gotta lie down now…

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THE PHILOSOFEAR – BOURNE BOMBSHELLS

Your most recent Heartland Series game (against Big Bucks) resulted in a fairly heavy defeat. Was that expected, given the strength of the Wycombe side?
We went into that game knowing that it would be tough and so we were aiming to just minimise the score differential. Big Bucks are ranked much higher than us and were expected to beat us by a lot, but we actually did slightly better than the score prediction from Flattrackstats’ European rankings. We’ve had a few difficult games now in the Heartland Series and we’ve learned to focus on our blocking and strong walls rather than on jamming. Unfortunately in the game against Big Bucks we lost another player to injury (Beast Unleashed broke her ankle) so we’ve had to change our line-ups around for this weekend’s game.

You’re returning to Big Bucks’ Wycombe venue on Sunday for the final day of South East division games. Do you know much about your opponents, Bedfordshire RollerGirls?

We’ve seen them play a few times now in the Heartland Series. Booty Vicious is Bedfordshire’s player to watch out for. She’s a strong blocker and a big hitter. She occasionally jams and is very good at powering her way through walls. I would liken her to the Bombshells’ Smash’er Fierce – a strong blocker who can hold walls together and send the jammer flying.

Any Bombshells players or tactics people in the crowd should keep an eye out for? How do you expect the game to go? Care to predict the result?

According to the online predictor the Bombshells should win. However, we were predicted to win against Norfolk and we lost that one by a fair amount. There’s been a lot of change in the Bombshells ranks recently, with key players leaving and others injured, so I don’t think that the predictor is entirely accurate. Obviously we hope to win! But I think it’ll be a more even game than our last few matches. Elle Hound is a player to watch out for – she’s now a key part of our jammer rotation.

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The day’s other games are Hell’s Belles v Norfolk Brawds and Big Bucks v Milton Keynes. How do you think those two games will go? Any particular players people should look out for?
The Hell’s Belles v Norfolk Brawds game will be interesting for us as we really need the Brawds to win. If they do, and if we win our game, then the Bombshells would finish 4th in the division. On the other hand, if Hell’s Belles win, it would come down to points differential and theirs is currently much better than ours. The Belles played really well in their last bout against MK and could surprise everyone. They’ve got some great jammers (especially Dolly Spartan) who will really test the Brawds’ walls. The Bombshells are big Hell’s Belles fans and we have a recent transfer from the Belles playing with us, so we’ll be cheering for them, even though we really need the Brawds to win! I’m really looking forward to the Big Bucks v Milton Keynes game too, and I think it’ll be very close. At the moment I’m unsure as to who will win it.

How has your Heartland Series campaign compared to your expectations going into it? What have been the highlights and lowlights so far?
I’m not sure we had any expectations going into Heartland – it’s all been very new for us. Coming 4th in our division would be fantastic. For me one of the highs so far was the last jam of our game against Hell’s Belles. It was Swann’s last game with us, so we put her on to jam the final jam of the game and let her choose her ‘dream team’ of blockers so that she could go out on a high. The blockers kept the Hell’s Belles jammer contained and Swann was able to make a quick succession of scoring passes and finish the game on a very high scoring jam. The lows have been the two big injuries in our last two games – Seoul Destroyer broke her elbow in our game against Norfolk, and Beast Unleashed broke her ankle in the game against Big Bucks.

Finally, what plans do the Bombshells have going forward?
We’re taking part in the British Championships (which the Heartland Series is becoming) next year, but we don’t have much information yet on who we’re playing and when. We have a closed door game against Grid City in January. And of course 2015 will see the return of our outdoor tournament Eastbourne Extreme!

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FINALS WEEKEND & THE FUTURE OF HEARTLAND

The grand final of 2014 Heartland Series takes place on the 23rd November at Newark showground in Nottinghamshire – arguably a more Northern (and Eastern) location that the geographical spread of teams might have suggested. Milton Keynes and Big Bucks go through as the South East’s representatives, alongside teams from Gloucester, Plymouth, Oxford, Cambridge, Hereford and Merseyside. The two SE teams are in separate halves of the draw, so could theoretically meet in the final, though all eight competitors are highly ranked strong sides. Tickets are priced at £10 (plus service fee). See the links below.

This year’s Heartland Series has been the biggest and most nationwide yet, featuring 24 teams from across England and Wales, which is quite a jump from what started out in 2012 as a competition for six South Midlands leagues. Next year things get taken to a whole new level. Heartland is being renamed the British Championships and will feature around SEVENTY derby teams from across the UK competing in a football-style pyramid of national, regional and sub-regional divisions. Fixtures are being released to leagues at the moment and should be made publicly available over the coming weeks. We do know that the Bombshells won’t be the only Sussex participants, with the Brighton Rockers also taking part in next year’s competition. As we understand it, there should be a fair bit of British Championships action taking place at the Dolphin in Haywards Heath in 2015. More info when we have it.

[Photos by John Hesse, Rebecca Cornford and Daz Wilson]

LINKS
2ND NOV FB EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/291813547693603/
23RD NOV FB EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/327175307467016/
23RD NOV TICKETS: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/893466
HEARTLAND: http://www.heartlandseries.co.uk/
BRITISH CHAMPS: http://www.britishchamps.com/
CHAMPS ON FB: https://www.facebook.com/BritishRollerDerbyChamps
BOMBSHELLS: http://bournebombshells.wix.com/bombshells
HELL’S BELLES: http://www.hertsrd.co.uk/
BEDFORDSHIRE: http://www.bedfordshirerollergirls.com/
NORFOLK BRAWDS: http://www.norfolkbrawds.com/
MILTON KEYNES: http://www.miltonkeynesrollerderby.com/
BIG BUCKS: http://www.bigbuckshighrollers.co.uk/

Heartland Series South East Game Day Six Preview

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RECAP: SOUTH EAST GAME DAY FIVE

Is it Heartland Series time again? Indeed so. The previous divisional game day took place at the end of July in Hemel Hempstead. Two teams sit out each of the first six game days, with only the final triple header (taking place in Wycombe on November 2nd) featuring all six of the South East sides. July’s Day Five saw the teams placed first and second, Milton Keynes and Big Bucks, sitting the day out. With those two unbeaten and pretty much locked-on to take the two South East spots in the cross-regional finals, the day provided an opportunity for the division’s other sides to jockey for position in the lower two-thirds of the table.

Us sensible Sussexites opt for a train to St Albans rather than Hemel itself, since even with the addition of a 25 minute bus ride between the two, we save two hours and a tenner each. The venue is close to a giant ‘magic roundabout’ (voted the UK’s second worst, or possibly second best if roundabouts are your ‘thing’) and a pub overlooking some village cricket. Given that the leisure centre itself is devoid of bars (for derby? for real?) we enjoy the distractions and roll up around the same time – just before first whistle – as the announcer, former Bombshells bench coach Sassy McAwesome. It’s mildly pleasing to see that less than 10% of the crowd here are wearing Arsenal football shirts – in the town centre that figure is closer to 80%.

It’s probably fair to say this game doesn’t go well for the Sussex side. Opponents the Norfolk Brawds put up a tough showing from the outset. Six jams in, the ‘shells are down 3-30 and their new bench manager is calling a first team timeout. With previous captain Swann and vice-captain Chunder Woman having departed earlier in the summer (to Brighton and Croydon respectively), a number of newer recruits now feature for the Sussex league. One of those, the sprightly Seoul Destroyer, goes down with a serious injury shortly after play resumes, and the Bombshells will pick up other knocks as the game goes on, further reducing their options.

With Philthy Delphia and Colletteral Damage jamming in big point tallies, and the likes of Teki Bomb and Short Circuit keeping a lid on the Sussex starheads. the Brawds continue building up a sizeable lead. Although Crash, Drag ‘N’ Fly and others pick up purple points here and there, the Norwich-based side dominate lead jammer status (hitting it five or six jams in a row on more than one occasion). Whilst Philosofear and Smash’er Fierce are amongst the blockers putting in battling stints for the Bombshells, their Norfolk opponents are proving a match for them, and the Brawds go on to take the game 201-73. Eastbourne probably win the “most booze smuggled into venue by fans and NSOs in the crowd” award, although this is the most underlit sports hall in the world (is this strip-lighting powered by candles?) so those golden cans could well be caffeine-free Diet Coke rather than Special Brew. Uh-huh.

The day’s second game sees hosts Hell’s Belles up against the Bedfordshire Rollergirls. Though Beds have battled hard throughout the Heartland Series, they prop up the South East divisional table with an unenviable points differential. It stands at minus 965 going into this game and is destined to sink further today. The Belles’ loss to Eastbourne a couple of months back was something of a surprise, being the only game to go against ranking expectations in this division so far, but the Belles coming within a dozen points of mighty Milton Keynes in February was equally surprising to many. These up and down results would suggest that HB “blow hot and cold” and if that’s the case, then today they’re on the Airblade rather than air con setting. The hometown side take a 160-20 lead over Beds into the half-time break.

Dolly Spartan, putting on a burst of speed to hop past on the inside line, is a standout jammer for the Belles, with Scarlett Heartless amongst their other high scorers. Screw Luce and Kookiekat put up decent enough numbers for Beds when she gets a chance, but the likes of Vera Off Track and Les Be Avenue are tough blockers to pass. Booty Vicious and Yoho are amongst Beds’ own fiercest blocking assets, but the Hemel side have the edge throughout. The Bombshells, meanwhile, not content with dominating the microphone (Chunder joining Sassy to make up an ex-BB commentating duo) also start busting out frankly terrifying dance moves in the crowd at half-time. We blame the Special Brew, sorry Diet Coke. It would take an almost ungodly combination of both to bring Bedford back into contention here, and the Belles take it 305-60 at the final whistle. An after party in what feels like a prison canteen follows. Still, we digress. This blog is supposed to be about today (Game Day Six) not last time out, so now it is. Interviews will follow. First, a few facts and predictions…

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PREVIEW: SOUTH EAST GAME DAY SIX

Today’s games – today is Saturday 27th September 2014, by the way, just in case things exist on the internet for longer than a day (we’re not aware that they do, or at least that’s our excuse for posting this so last minute, yeah) – take place at Wycombe Leisure Centre. The centre is less than ten minutes’ walk from High Wycombe train station and has plenty of parking spaces. Trains from Sussex will cost in the region of £35 and take about 2.5 hours, including a tube hop to Marylebone. Cars will take less than two hours, but will kill thousands of bees on the way or something (*waves eco flag*). It’s a surprisingly late start for a Heartland Series double header, with doors at 4.45pm. The Belles take on MK around 5pm, with the ‘shells v Big Bucks games scheduled for two hours later. Tickets on the door are a tenner for growed ups and free for under-12s. The after party is at Scorpios, close to the train station.

Expectations wise, MK and Big Bucks have won all their games to date, and barring a ‘miracle’ will be going through at the division’s representatives in the ‘national’ finals. Their exact placing (which presumably affects seedings for those finals) could well be decided on the final SE Game Day, which is back here in Wycombe on Sunday 2nd November. The pairings for that triple header (MK v Bucks, Brawds v Belles, Shells v Beds) were surely deliberately planned to see the closest ranked teams, as far as they could be predicted, face off for positioning (1st v 2nd, 3rd v 4th, etc). If that’s the case, then what’s at stake in today’s penultimate divisional Game Day? Quite a lot actually. Points difference is used to split sides that finish on the same points, and that goes both plus and minus of course. So it’s not important just to win by as much as you can, you also need to lose by as little. At least one of the SE Division teams will likely finish below a team they BEAT.

The prediction thingy at Flattrackstats calls the Big Bucks (19th in UKRDA with 579.2 ranking points) v Bourne Bombshells (36th, 440.6) game as a 99% win probability for the Bucks with a 58:13 expected differential. That would equate, in typical derby scoreline terms, to a 348-78 home win. The European rankings give Eastbourne a marginally better shout at 98% and 3:1 (eg 300-100) to BBHR. The predictometer isn’t designed for games at neutral venues, so for the MK Concrete Cows v Belles game we’ve split the difference between their respective home and away ‘calls’. We can also only use the European stats as the Belles aren’t in UKRDA. Milton Keynes rank 45th (604.5 points) with Herts 161st (521.7) and the predicted MK win percentage is around 95% with a 35:14 differential, similar to say a 280-112 win for the Cows. Still, all this stuff is just computerised guesswork, and who knows who things will play out on track?

Either way, as things stand right now MK and Big Bucks are both on 9 from 9 in terms of points, with each having played three games and won them all – as with football it’s three points per win and zero for a loss, with no drawn games in derby. They have +919 and +535 respectively in terms of scoreline differential, hence MK’s current first place. The Brawds are 6/12 with -136. Belles and Shells are both 3/9 with +178 and -279 on the board, and Beds are 0/12 on (eek!) -1,210. So the Hell’s Belles and Bourne Bombshells are probably playing for differentials today. Even if both lose, as most stat crunchers would suggest they will [PS stuff stats, we hope both of them win, what a final day that would make for], the amount they lose by becomes an issue. Eastbourne should statistically beat Bedford in their final game (although nothing is a given in derby) whereas Herts have a tougher contest against Norfolk. Thinking about all the possible permutations makes our brains hurt, to be honest, and that’s before we even get into all the other charts and tables – most jammer points, most blocker facepaint smudges, etc – which you can find on the Heartland Series web page. The 2014 South East Division has been a wild ride, and in some ways it’s only just gettin’ warmed up…

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BEAST UNLEASHED – BOURNE BOMBSHELLS

The Bombshells suffered a fairly heavy loss against Norfolk in your last Heartland Series outing. Did you learn much from that, and how are you adapting to your recent personnel changes?
Yes indeed. We’ve reviewed the game and looked at what needed improving. Unfortunately it was a very injury heavy game for us, but luckily everyone is healing up now. We’ve had some great feedback from our new bench coach, Max Rees. We’ve been concentrating on particular line ups working well together, so as to get the best from our squad, with the help of Max and new line up manager Aladdin Sane.

One of your newer skaters, Seoul Destroyer, unfortunately broke her elbow in the last game. How’s her recovery coming along?
She’s doing good. She’s in the second plaster stage now. It was a pretty nasty break. She was so hardcore though! Fingers crossed she heals fast, as she’s an amazing jammer.

You’re up against Big Bucks today. They’re one of the favourites to top the group. Do you know much about them, and have you got any new tactics up your sleeves?
I’ve played in a mixed scrim with a few from Big Bucks and we’ve seen the Heartland games they’ve already played. They’re a strong team with tough walls, and I’m definitely keeping my eyes peeled for Mrs Sparta and A-Cute Injury. I know they’re a tough side and we’re going to have our work cut out. We’ve really concentrated on getting the best from our line ups and increasing our endurance. We know we need to focus on our own game, but I can’t reveal any tactics and I wouldn’t like to predict the outcome. It’s going to be a tough game, possibly even our toughest yet, but we won’t give up without a fight!

The day’s other game sees Milton Keynes take on Hell’s Belles. How are you expecting that one to go?
I’d expect Milton Keynes to take that one, based on our own game against MK. Hell’s Belles are so lovely. Dolly Spartan is a fantastic jammer, so I’d definitely keep an eye out for her, and MK’s The Valkyrie and Bolshevik are amazing!

You’re currently fifth in the divisional table, behind Hell’s Belles on point differential. What’s your target for this Heartland campaign?
We’d love to finish fourth and I think it is possible. If we really work together we can achieve it. This is our first year in the Heartland Series and whatever the result, we’ve loved every minute of it.

Finally, any message for any Bombshells fans travelling up to the game in Wycombe?

Cheer loads! Eat cake!

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VARIOUS FOLKS – BIG BUCKS HIGH ROLLERS

Hi. Firstly, for anyone reading this who might not be aware of BBHR, can you tell us a little about your history to date?
We were formed in July 2011 and we smashed onto the scene with some fantastic results early on. Since then we have continued to grow and evolve into a tougher and stronger league. This shows in some of our results, such as beating Portsmouth Roller Wenches 227-161. Coming joint second with Tiger Bay Brawlers in last year’s Tattoo Freeze Sur5al was also a huge achievement for us, and certainly showed other leagues that we are here to be competitive and win games.

How has your Heartland Series 2014 campaign gone to date? What are you hoping for from the tournament? And what do you know of the Bombshells?

We have won all of our Heartlands games so far and we intend to continue that pattern all the way to the final! That’s not to say it’s been easy – Hell’s Belles shook us up and put us through our paces, and we learnt a lot about ourselves from that game. With every game we play we feel stronger and more ready for the next. Our hope and focus for this series is simple – to win! As for the Bombshells, we know they host an awesome annual event on the seafront, Eastbourne Extreme, which we LOVE.

Are there any particular Big Bucks players or tactics the crowd should look out for? Would you care to predict the result?
Every single one of our players are skaters to watch. We are a united force! As for tactics, watch out for us throwing hot dogs to the crowd to get them on side, and throwing banana skins on track Mario-style. (I guess you’ll just have to come along and see our tactics for yourselves.) In terms of the result, as this stage of the competition anything could happen, so you’ll have to buy a ticket to see how it all unfolds…

Any prediction for the day’s other game, Milton Keynes v Hell’s Belles?

If derby has taught us anything it’s to expect the unexpected. Hell’s Belles are a great team and are no doubt coming out to win. Milton Keynes are under pressure to hold on to the top spot as SE Division favourites, so either way I think its safe to say that we are all really looking forward to watching that game. It’s going to be intense!

Can you tell us a bit about your skating venue and the after party?

It’s a pretty large sports hall and there will be plenty of room for everyone, whether seated, standing, or in the danger zone at the front. There’s a bar in the hall and cafeteria upstairs, and there’s plenty of parking outside. There will be tables with merch from the various teams and local derby businesses, lots of cakes and of course a raffle. We are renowned for winning after parties, so hold on to your sweaty bout tops and get your bums over to Scorpios Bar near the train station for a HUGE knees up with all the Big Bucks girls. We will be out in force and hope you’ll all join us.

Finally, any other sights or activities in the Wycombe area you can recommend?

No trip to Wycombe would be complete without a trip to the famous Hellfire Caves, once home to members of the notorious Hellfire Club. The caves are said to be one of the most paranormally active locations in the world. If you dare you can spend an evening in them with the Ghostfinder Paranormal Society, but be warned, during the last ghost hunt members of the public experienced small stones being thrown at them, terrifying growls, temperature fluctuations, physical interactions, and the presence of shadowy figures – GULP!

[Photos by Daz Wilson and Rebecca Cornford]

LINKS

FB EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/859940017364435/
HEARTLAND: http://www.heartlandseries.co.uk/
LIVE SCORES: https://twitter.com/heartlandrd
BIG BUCKS: http://www.bigbuckshighrollers.co.uk/
BOMBSHELLS: http://bournebombshells.wix.com/bombshells
MK COWS: http://www.miltonkeynesrollerderby.com/
HELL’S BELLES: http://www.hertsrd.co.uk/
BRAWDS: http://www.norfolkbrawds.com/
BEDS RG: http://www.bedfordshirerollergirls.com/

Heartland Series SE Game Day 5 Preview

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Tomorrow (Saturday 16th August) sees the Bombshells back in Heartland Series action as they travel up to Hemel Hempstead to take on the Norfolk Brawds. It’s Game Day 5 of the South East division and the Eastbourne side’s game is the first one up, with doors at 1pm for a 1.30pm start. It’s followed at 3.45 by hosts Hell’s Belles against Bedfordshire Rollergirls. Online sales have now closed, but tickets are £10 on the door, £5 for those aged 11-17 and free for younger children. The venue is called Sportspace, and is located a little to the West of the Plough ‘magic’ roundabout, which is officially the second worst roundabout in the UK (after a similar one in Swindon).

“Sportspace is brilliant,” Hell’s Belle Drac Kill’er tells us, “and there will be plenty of seating available. It’s easy to find – it’s well sign posted and is pretty big so you can’t miss it! They have a cafe on site which should be open until 6pm, but sadly there is no bar.” After party venue the Greenacres Tavern is on Leys Road, around two thirds of a mile due East of Sportspace. “The after party venue is awesome,” Drac adds. “we had our last one there and we love it. We stayed until 2am! The staff are so friendly and just brilliant. It’s only a short drive from Sportspace. Elsewhere, there are some lovely areas in Hemel to chill out after a busy day skating, as well as plenty of shops nearby. There are also lots of things to do at Sportspace.”

Travel-wise, the AA route planner estimates around two hours driving time from Sussex for a journey of 80-100 miles, depending on where you’re starting from. There is plenty of parking at the leisure centre, but you’ll need to remember to enter your car registration number into a screen by the building’s entrance to avoid getting a ticket. For those travelling by train, it’s a bit of a hike to Hemel – from Brighton, for example, takes three hours and involves three changes, including a replacement bus from Watford. We’d suggest travelling to St Albans instead. This is not only much quicker (eg 90 minutes and no changes from Brighton) but is also about a tenner cheaper. The towns are only five miles apart, so use some of the money you saved on a local bus to Hemel. It’s also worth pointing out that St Albans is home to CAMRA and therefore one of the best towns in the UK for real ale pubs – just saying, yeah.

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RANKINGS & PREDICTIONS
Flattrackstats currently place the Bombshells 226th in Europe (494.7 ranking points) with the Brawds 279th (475.2). There’s no way to specify a neutral venue on their online predictor, so we’ll split the difference between home and away predictions. This gives the Sussex side a 67% chance of taking the win, with a score differential of 12:10, which would equate to something like a 180-150 win for the Bombshells. This prediction obviously doesn’t make allowances for the fact that Eastbourne have lost a couple of senior players and their bench team recently, which may make for an even closer game. Derby Data Europe actually call this as a two point game! With the Bombshells 160th and Brawds 162nd in their table, DDE’s computer says Eastbourne will win the game 152-150. Blimey! With the Bombshells currently above Norfolk on points scored, a Sussex victory would see them cement their third place in the divisional table, whereas a loss would not be disastrous – Bourne have a game more than Norfolk left to play.

In the day’s other game, FTS rank the Hell’s Belles 193rd (504.8 points) and Bedfordshire 329th (449.3). They give the Hertfordshire league a whopping 92% chance of taking the win, and predict a score differential of 35:18, which would result in a typical derby scoreline of around 210-108 to the Belles. Derby Data Europe calls it even more strongly in favour of the home side, predicting that the 111th placed Belles will beat 207th placed Beds 300-96. These two sides currently prop up the divisional table, with both yet to take their first win. The Belles have a superior points difference to all three of the other teams at this event, however, and a Herts victory would see them leapfrog the loser of the opening game to take fourth place. Dolly Spartan was actually the highest scoring jammer in the entire division after Game Day 3 (when Heartland compiled the stats), so Beds will need to keep an eye on her in particular.

The Belles have two other Top Ten scoring jammers (DodgeHer in 8th, Scarlett Heartless 10th) as well as three Top Ten scoring blockers (Les Be Avenue 7th, Vera Offtrack 9th and Candy Cane-her 10th). Indeed, Hell’s Belles are the only side other than division leaders Milton Keynes to feature in that blockers chart. Returning to the opening game, Norfolk have three of the division’s top five skaters in the ‘most lead jammer’ chart, which might suggest they use a small rotation. Philthy Delphia is 2nd, Colletteral Damage 3rd and Yours Truly 5th – the latter also places fifth for most jammer points. Bedfordshire don’t feature in any of the divisional Top Tens, whilst Eastbourne’s only entrant now skates for Brighton. What do all these statistics mean? God knows. Maths makes our heads hurt. Let’s hear from a Bombshell and a Brawd instead…

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THE PHILOSOFEAR – BOURNE BOMBSHELLS

Hi. Firstly, how did last month’s Eastbourne Extreme derby tournament go?
The weekend went very smoothly, and thankfully the weather held out! I think the highlight was Sunday’s co ed game – the standard was very high and it was really enjoyable to watch. In terms of our own performance, we would’ve liked to have done better against Croydon and LRR.

You’re up against the Norfolk Brawds in Hemel Hempstead this weekend. Do you know much about the East Anglian side?
I’ve actually played with the Brawds before as part of The Eastern Blocks. They’re a lovely bunch and I think it’ll be quite a close bout. Philthy Delphia and Colletteral Damage are both great players and we’ll need some very strong walls when they’re jamming.

This is something of a transitional time for the Bombshells, with the likes of Swann and Chunder Woman having transferred away, and the bench team also departing. How are you adapting those changes?
We haven’t actually got a new bench coach yet, so Max Rees from LRG has kindly agreed to bench us this Saturday, which is a huge relief. Our new line up manager (Aladdin Sane) is doing really well and is getting used to the role. Swann and Chunder Woman were two of our strongest players in terms of both jamming and blocking, so we are feeling the loss. Our new players are working really hard and are progressing well, so hopefully the loss of two key players won’t have too big an impact.

Are there any particular Bombshells players or tactics people should look out for at the game? Would you like to predict the result?
I think it will be a very close game. According to Flattrackstats the Bombshells should win. I’m not sure how much the loss of Sassy McAwesome, All Seeing Ivy, Chunder Woman and Swann will affect that – hopefully not too much! Our new captain is Bullet Bomber and she’s definitely one to watch out for. She’s a great jammer.

You’re currently third in the South East divisional table, above opponents Norfolk on points difference. Is finishing the season in that position your target now?
Yes, we really are aiming for third. That would be a huge achievement for us in our first year of the tournament. I don’t think any of us expected that we would do this well. We are playing Big Bucks in September, and we know that is going to be a really tough game, but having already played Milton Keynes we learned a lot about playing teams that are better than us. We need to try and minimise the points differential in that game – it’s not all about winning and losing for Heartland rankings.

Finally, do you have a message for any Bombshells fans in the crowd at Hemel?
Our message to Bombshells fans is just to cheer lots, and also sorry, but we don’t have any fire in our skate out this time!

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PHILTHY DELPHIA – NORFOLK BRAWDS

Hi there. Firstly, for anyone who doesn’t know the Brawds, can you tell us a little about the history and achievements of your league?
The Brawds started in a tiny church hall in March of 2010. Since then we have grown to a league of over 70 skaters. In 2013 we became a UKRDA member league. In that same year we came third in the East in the Heartland Series and won the inaugural Hotrod Hayride Cup.

You currently place fourth in the South East division. How has your Heartland season been so far? Any particular highlights or lowlights?
This year has been a tough one for us. We’ve had some really strong new teams in our division as well as some changes in our roster. Both Big Bucks and Milton Keynes really pushed us. However, we benefit from having played together a lot and knowing each other well. We are determined to win our last two Heartland games.

Do you know much about the Bourne Bombshells going into this game?
Actually, we know very little about them. In other matches we have tried to work towards what we know about the other team, but it doesn’t always work. This time we’re going into it playing our own game.

Any particular Brawds players or tactics people should keep an eye out for? Would you care to predict the result?
No way are we going to try and predict a result! That’s a jinx. Don’t want to give too much away, but you might see a new face or two on the jam line.

The day’s other match-up sees Bedfordshire take on Hell’s Belles. How do you see that one going?
The Belles and Bedfordshire are two of our favourite teams. We played Beds early this season, so I’m not sure how they’ve come along since then, but we know the Belles are fielding a much stronger team than they did last year. They are definitely ones to watch.

Finally, do you have a message for any Brawds fans in the crowd at Hemel?
Keep cheering for us! It really does mean the world to us and makes all the difference in our game play.

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REMAINING SOUTH EAST GAMES

16TH AUGUST @ HEMEL HEMPSTEAD
Bourne Bombshells v Norfolk Brawds
Hell’s Belles v Bedfordshire RollerGirls

27TH SEPTEMBER @ HIGH WYCOMBE
Hell’s Belles v Milton Keynes
Bourne Bombshells v Big Bucks High Rollers

2ND NOVEMBER @ HIGH WYCOMBE
Bourne Bombshells v Bedfordshire RollerGirls
Hell’s Belles v Norfolk Brawds
Milton Keynes v Big Bucks High Rollers

[Photos by John Hesse and Pete Florey/MDP Images]

LINKS
FACEBOOK EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/1428289724127454/
HEARTLAND SERIES: http://www.heartlandseries.co.uk/
BOURNE BOMBSHELLS: http://bournebombshells.wix.com/bombshells
NORFOLK BRAWDS: http://www.norfolkbrawds.com/
HELL’S BELLES: http://www.hertsrd.co.uk/
BEDFORDSHIRE RG: http://www.bedfordshirerollergirls.com/

Bombshells v Hell’s Belles: Heartland Series SE Day 3

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We were promised a storm. News reports all week have reiterated the severe weather warning in place for the whole country today, speculating with frothy pens as to what kind of Biblical deluge we can expect. “Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies,” warned the Express. “Rivers and seas boiling, forty years of darkness, earthquakes, volcanoes…” suggested the Mirror, while the Daily Mail goes for the surprisingly subdued (for the Mail): “The dead rising from the grave, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!” In the end – here in Haywards Heath at least – it was a little bit rainy for a couple of hours this morning, but is now scorchingly hot and sunny. So much so that most of the doorways to the Dolphin leisure centre’s sports hall are wide open, framing the breeze-hungry Bombshells standing within them as silhouettes against the ferocious daylight beyond. It’s what the closing scene of Close Encounters would have looked like if the aliens played derby.

Whilst the promised hurricane force winds haven’t materialised, there is a blowout in progress. That’s the phrase used to describe high differential sporting contests, which in derby terms means a game where one team racks up in hundreds what the other does in tens. The Milton Keynes Concrete Cows, needing only a win to go top of the Heartland Series South East division, have 82 points after just four jams. Their Bedfordshire Rollergirls opponents – the division’s underest of underdogs, rankings wise – have yet to score. MK’s core jammer rotation of Terrorizinya, Magic Beanz, Huni Basher and Rollin’ Sin are proving too strong. They’re juking and swooping through and around the walls of purple, as BRG’s own jammers make repeated visits to the penalty box. Cherry Bomb is wearing the Bedford star several jams in a row now, having bought a season ticket for the sin bin, with MK starheads calling when she stands to keep her in play. She’s BRG’s top jamming threat on paper, but finding things hard going here, with a solid Betty Knox one-wall amongst the defensive tactics drawing out “Purple Double Zero” ref calls.

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With Bettie Trubble needing treatment, the already numerically disadvantaged BRG squad are at further risk of tiring faster than the Cows’ full fourteen. That’s even without the extra work they’re having to do to try and hold back the likes of Sin (finding gaps in the walls no-one else can see) and Terror, who shakes off the Beds blockers’ hits almost nonchalantly. MK are starting to mix things up jammer-wise, with the likes of Cat Clash and Hurt Nouveau getting chances in the red star – OK, gold star on red – as the game progresses. Bedford captain Booty Vicious puts in some super tough last line defending to keep the latter held back, whilst Cherry outscores the former to chalk up BRG’s first winning jam of the game, albeit a single pointer. Brothers finds herself up against a barely budging red pack next, as Terror racks up several five point passes. Terrorizinya follows this up in her next starclad outing with arguably the wiliest move of the game… Sent off a few seconds after Beds jammer Kookiekat, she blindsides her rival to overtake in the ref lane and sit down first, ensuring the earlier return to track.

An injury to Kookie later in the jam sees everyone take a knee – the lively BRG jammer is happily back on her feet after a couple of minutes of EMT activity. As if playing a team ranked 200 places above on flattrackstats wasn’t enough of a challenge for Bedford, there’s the added sting of having to face the woman who invented this whole crazy Heartland Series thing in the first place. The Valkyrie (for it is she) takes the MK star for the period’s final jam, but a forearms penalty sees her sent to the naughty seats, and Jed E Knights – assisted by some aggressive blocking from Screw Luce – takes advantage to nudge BRG above double figures. Half time score: 238-16. It will require a comeback of epic proportions for Beds to get anything from this game, though. This looks unlikely, particularly given the Cows packs’ burgeoning reputation as ‘purple people’ eaters; they chomped down hard on the similarly hued Bombshells last time out.

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Indeed, it’s more of the same in the second half. Magic Beanz jumping all over the track as the purple pack struggle to snare her. Cherry Bomb bouncing off Bolshevik’s shoulders – a regular hindrance for the BRG jammers – as she battles to break through. Yoho and Screw Luce donning the star for Beds and doing well, but the likes of Sula Riot, Blaise of Glory and Claudia Faceoff are as concrete as their team’s name in defence. Beds jammers recycled so often they’re running out of fibre. Brothers up in the star for BRG now though, delivering a hit on Betty Knox that the crowd cheers, only to have it returned to sender (with extra postage) on the next pass. T-Sharp and Booty battling hard as packs collide, but the red army march on. The only question remaining is whether the Cows can breach the 500 point mark, and they answer that one in the final jam. It ends 503-22, with MKRD moving above Big Bucks to top a divisional table now propped up by the brave and battling but besieged Bedfordshirians. The Cows take it in their stride – from bench manager OxymAndyAs to line-up Snoogins to captain Valkyrie, they *are* the Heartland Series, and they’re daring Big Bucks to say any different…

The Bombshells were represented in the first game not just by refs and NSOs, but also announcers. The Sassy & Swann Show we’re calling it, as the Eastbourne bench coach and captain made their debut as an announcing duo. They did a good job calling what (given the scoreline) must have been a tough game to keep the crowd engaged with, but of course we’re not about to tell them that, as it would only encourage them. “Not totally awful” is about the highest praise their mic work will get from anyone they know today (Heartland’s Twitter feed is much more complimentary). The Bombshells skate out, on the other hand, receives high praise from all quarters, despite being officially ‘The Worst Skate Out Ever’. Players draped in pieces of cardboard bearing handwritten admissions of shame – or in one notable case, a No Parking sign – parade around the track as fans hold up “You Suck (at skate outs)” placards. For the Sussex league, this is the start of a period of transition, with several high profile players and coaches leaving over the next couple of months, and rookies such as Jumpin’ Jack Smash, Seoul Destroyer and Von Stackit joining the gameday squad. The skate out ends in a shower of angle grinding burlesque from Lily Malicious, but will sparks fly in the game itself?

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The official prediction for this game on flattrackstats gives opponents Hell’s Belles from Hertfordshire Roller Derby a 67% chance of taking the win. The site treats all Heartland Series games as neutral, however, and though the Bombshells are new to this floor, with their previous open door venue in Hastings now banning skating, it’s probably fairer to view this as a home game. This adjusts the prediction to 56% Belles’ way, which suggests it will be close, but it’s still somewhat unexpected to see the Bombshells 21-0 up after four jams and seemingly well in control. Bullet Bomber, Swann, Crash and Dreaded Shortcake have taken successive leads for the Sussex side, with the tough blocking of Smash’Er Fierce, PhilosoFear and others keeping the Belles jammers pegged back. An out of bounds call on Bullet gives Scarlett Heartless a PJ start. Whilst Swann and Fear try to peg her back until a speeding Bullet’s return to track, Scarlett puts some points on the board for the Herts side. A lengthy stint off track for starclad Dolly Spartan – who passes the point of no return by inches and has to circle again before entering the penalty box – allows Crash to edge things up for the Bombshells. The Sussex league are giving very few points away at present.

An official time out gives experienced announcer Snoogins the chance to dispense a couple of birthday shoutouts to members of the Milton Keynes side she line-up manages. The Cows are celebrating both the earlier victory and the birthdays up in the bleachers, largely via the medium of booze. Another shoutout goes to the recently hitched DodgeHer – the Belles captain, who donned a wedding veil for the skate out, dons the star for Herts shortly after play resumes. She helps close the gap, alongside the other red jammers (both today’s games are purple v red, though photos colour corrected for the venue’s yellowy light may disagree) Scarlett and Spartan. Belles sticking with a rotation of three, whilst Bourne have double that, with Drag ‘N’ Fly and Chunder Woman joining the opening quartet. Power jam for Heartless, recycled well by Bullet and Hell Block H, but there’s more belief about this Belles side now. Track cut call on DNF, passive offence from the Belles pack, the impressive Vera Offtrack clacking her wheels on the floor to impersonate the jammer attack, all very close now. Chunder off next jam, forearms… Crash off too… Two minutes left, lead for Spartan, lead change for Spartan, 74-75. Bullet starred up, Chunder trying to clear a path, sent flying, spinning track cut Bullet, power jam DodgeHer. Half time: Bombshells trail 83-96.

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A large chunk of the crowd here today are cheering for the Hell’s Belles, and for Scarlett Heartless in particular. Many seem to be the players from the earlier game. The Bombshells are in some ways outsiders in this South East Division – most of the other teams know each other from past tournaments, and from the shared scrims, spectator trips and league transfers that come of geographical proximity. The South Coast is a world away from the South Midlands, and here, with a previously untraversed floor beneath and mixed crowd around, Eastbourne are to some extent strangers at their own party. They are, however, starting this second period even stronger than they began the first. A power jam and star pass from Swann in the second sees the Bombshells regain the initiative in style, with the scoreline now 120-96. Hell’s Belles fighting back though. Tough blocking from the likes of Les Be Avenue, Candy Cane-her and Leggett N Hide. Lots of jammer penalties and PJ starts on both sides. Belles close the gap to six points. Bombshells extend it again.

Power jam start for Smash’Er now. She sees the Herts jammer rejoining the track, and sends her to ground as soon as she crosses the tape. Bam! Gives it the full Popeye to the crowd. Rocky Bashova, Crash and Hell Block holding back the red jammer for Bullet to score next jam. Team time out for the rattled (clanging?) Belles. Successive leads for Bourne now, but little movement in the way of points. Back block called on Chunder, who looks very cross with either herself or the ref who made the call – best not to ask which, but it gives Herts the chance to close the gap: 148-140. Close as. There’s a slight, and unexpected, delay in proceedings now. It seems someone living by the leisure centre has complained about an illegal rave taking place nearby. The source of that complaint has been traced to this hall, and the not-very-loud-at-all tannoy. Roller derby must be what passes for lawlessness here in Haywards Heath at 6pm on a Saturday. (Personally, we suspect a specious complaint from someone who wanted to attend one of the weekly roller discos that had to make way for today’s event. Ho hum.)

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We quickly down all our drugs, hide all the sound systems, and the on track action resumes. The local residents have identified Dolly Spartan as the ringleader of the rave, and she’s been removed from the game. Either that or she fouled out on penalties. Bullet picks up lead either side of the break and the Sussex side now have a more comfortable 30 point lead, with about eight minutes – roughly two and a half bangin’ 180bpm choons, officers – remaining. Edging it up further now, picking up a point or two more than Herts in every jam. Swann and PhilosoFear holding back Heartless as Smash’Er extends the lead to over forty points. Swann stars up for what will be the final jam of the game, and also the final one in purple and leopard print for the Bombshells captain. Having tired of changing her derby name every few months – from Jayne Zawmasika to Toxic Block Syndrome to Swann – she’s now resorted to changing her derby league instead. She’ll be donning the cyan and black of the Brighton Rockers after today, her hair having already donned the former, and she goes out in style for the ‘shells with a swooping, high-scorin’, multiple-passin’, and – let’s be honest – show-boatin’ final Swann-song to close the game out at 214-159.

Jammer, Blocker and MVP awards for the first game go to MK’s Terrorizinya, Betty Knox and Rollin’ Sin, with Cherry Bomb, Yoho and Booty Vicious picking up the respective gongs for Beds. For Hell’s Belles, the certificates go to Dolly Spartan, Candy Cane-her and Leggett N Hide, with the Bombshells recipients being Drag N Fly, Hell Block H and Swann. Various Bourne players queue up to give the latter her leaving presents. In Swann’s own words: “They all wait until I finish crying from the previous gift/card before appearing with the next one. It goes on quite a while.” We miss all of the above, of course, as we are keen to maintain our flawless record of being the first to arrive at the after party for every derby event we attend (30 in a row now, just sayin’). When we called into the Burrell Arms earlier today, a gas problem meant Guinness and ales were off, and we’re keen to see (and praying) that’s been rectified. It has indeed, but the solution may well have involved re-routing gas from the ovens, since the venue is now doing no food. At. All.

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As hordes of ravenous rollergirls arrive at the pub, we anticipate a riot, but fortunately people are being allowed to bring in food from the adjacent pizza shop and chippy. Crisis averted. Out in the garden, the evening soon descends into Connect Four tournaments and arm wrestling challenges, with the latter, as ever, being simply an excuse for Smash’Er Fierce to hurt people off (as well as on) track. We understand that several of the Bourne and Belles side end up getting the midnight train to Eastbourne itself – a fair ways from here – and persuade a publican there to let them have a lock-in until the sun comes up. So much for it being a town full of grannies! Where next for the Bombshells sports-wise then? To Eastbourne Extreme, of course, the UK’s only free outdoor derby tournament, which takes place on the weekend of the 12th/13th July. Contrary to Sassy McAwesome’s assertions on the announcer mic, New York’s Gotham Girls aren’t taking part, but the A-team of Surrey, plus B-teams of Croydon and LRR will be facing off against the home side on the Saturday. Meanwhile, an intriguing Sunday programme sees several star-studded exhibition games in all the flavours – men’s, women’s, junior, co-ed, rookie to advanced.

That Saturday (12th) also sees the next Heartland Series South East gameday up in Norwich, with the Norfolk Brawds taking on Milton Keynes, whilst Beds face Big Bucks. MK currently sit atop the table, with the final SE day’s Cows v Bucks game increasingly looking like it will be a decider for play-offs seeding. Norfolk have strong ambitions to catch at least one of those sides, though. The Belles will be looking to build upon their strong showing against favourites Big Bucks and finish as high up the ‘mid section’ as they can. Beds, meanwhile, will be keen to nab their first win and improve their current points differential. With six of the division’s fifteen games completed, only one result has gone the way of the lower ranked team – that was Eastbourne’s victory over Herts today. This puts the Bombshells in a good position going into the rest of their campaign, albeit with what will in several areas be a less experienced squad. Today the Bourne debutants fared well in a bruising encounter. Tomorrow (or rather, August 16th) the Bombshells do Heartland Series battle again, against Norfolk in the home of just vanquished Herts. For now though, we party – remembering always the golden rule; don’t ever challenge Smash’Er to an arm wrestle…

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[Photos by John Hesse]

ANOTHER REPORT (BY MK’S BENCH MANAGER)
http://www.heartlandseries.co.uk/heartland-south-east-game-day-3-bourne-secure-first-victory-cows-win-big/

LINKS
EASTBOURNE EXTREME: https://www.facebook.com/EastbourneExtremeRollerDerby
HEARTLAND SERIES: http://www.heartlandseries.co.uk/
BOMBSHELLS: http://bournebombshells.co.uk/
HELL’S BELLES: http://www.hertsrd.co.uk/
MK COWS: http://www.miltonkeynesrollerderby.com/
BEDFORDSHIRE: http://www.bedfordshirerollergirls.com/
BIG BUCKS: http://www.bigbuckshighrollers.co.uk/
NORFOLK BRAWDS: http://www.norfolkbrawds.com/