BOMBSHELL NEWS: BRITISH CHAMPIONSHIPS ROLLER DERBY IN SUSSEX THIS SATURDAY!

British Championships Roller Derby returns to Sussex tomorrow (Saturday 2nd March) as Eastbourne Roller Derby’s Bourne Bombshells host Gameday 1 of Tier 3 South. The action takes place at the Dolphin leisure centre in Haywards Heath with doors at 1pm and admission a bargainous £5 on the door. The first game at 2pm sees Northampton’s Vendetta Vixens take on Guildford’s Surrey Roller Girls, followed by hosts Eastbourne up against Milton Keynes Concrete Cows at 4.15pm.

Car users should point their Sat Navs at RH16 1LY. Train folks should be aware that replacement buses are running from Lewes, Brighton and (for those coming from London) Three Bridges, so allow an extra half hour or so travelling time. The buses drop off outside Haywards Heath station, which is just seven minutes walk from the venue.

The leisure centre has vending machines and a licensed café in its foyer. The nearest ATMs are at the big Sainsbury’s halfway between the station and venue, and the pub opposite the train station (the Burrell Arms) is decent enough for any spectators wanting a pre-event drink. There will also be stalls and entertainment in the sports hall. Find out about those, as well as what to expect from the games, below…

PREDICTIONS AND THAT

[SPOILER ALERT: Skip to after the next photograph if you’re one of those people who don’t like to know predictions ahead of a game.] Tier 3 South of British Champs 2019 contains three teams from north of London and two from south of the capital. Milton Keynes are the best connected with their divisional opponents, being located at the midpoint of a 40 mile vertical line linking High Wycombe (home to Big Bucks High Rollers) with Northampton’s Vendetta Vixens. The southern duo, based in Guildford and Eastbourne, are 50 miles apart but know each other quite well, particular from outdoor games at Eastbourne Extreme.

Rankings wise, Big Bucks (69th in Europe) are by far the strongest of the five teams, so this gameday – which they sit out – gives the other four sides a chance to put some points on the board. In Saturday’s first game, averaging out home and away predictions for a neutral venue, Vendetta Vixens (226th in Europe) are given 65% chance of victory over Surrey (263rd). Predicted differential of 7:6 suggests something like a 175-150 Vixens win. Surrey edged the previous meeting of these two teams 164-140, but that was four years ago (both teams’ first game of the first ever British Champs in 2015) which is ages in roller derby.

In the second game, even with home advantage hosts Eastbourne (243rd in Europe) are predicted to come up a little short against the higher placed Milton Keynes (168th). MK are given 75% chance of victory here, with an expected differential of 25:18. That works out as something like a 175-126 MK win, pretty similar to the 177-119 result when these teams met in last year’s Champs. That’s what the prediction computer at Flattrackstats reckons anyway. What do the teams expect? See below…

EASTBOURNE ROLLER DERBY

Can you tell us a bit about your team’s history to date?
The Bourne Bombshells have been a team for over seven years. Six of our current roster (Bullet Bomber, Drag-N-Fly, Hell Block H, Lily Malicious, Smash’er Fierce and The PhilosoFear) played with the team back at the start. Last season we had our first junior Jazzaster age out of our New Bournes juniors to join the Bombshells. This season we have another junior, Jemma English, joining us the day after her 18th birthday in May.

What about your thoughts on British Champs?

We always really enjoy Champs. We returned last year after a season off. We had some really fun games which were all very hard fought. We finished middle of the table, which the team were really happy with. It’s exciting we have a few different teams in our Champs group this year. We have played them all at some point in the past apart from Vendetta Vixens. They will be our last game of the season and will be interesting as we have very little knowledge of their players and gameplay.

What are you expecting from Saturday’s game against Milton Keynes Concrete Cows?
We have played Milton Keynes a few times now. Every game has been a tough one as they have some very experienced players. They’re a really lovely team and we are looking forward to battling it out against them again. It will not be an easy game for us but it will be fun.

Any particular Eastbourne players the crowd should look out for?
Over the last year Lily Malicious has been jamming more for the team and is definitely one to watch, but I’m not going to tell you more about her jamming otherwise I may give away her secrets. InnsterSlam, our pocket rocket, is a double threat with excellent speed and agility when jamming and excellent track awareness pivoting. She is one to watch out for – that is if you can see her! The Bombshells are a team of players who have been together over a long period of time and it’s hard to select one standout blocker as they all work together so well to create solid walls. I’m sure the jammers on the opposing team will remember Smash’er Fierce and Jazzaster’s hits, though.

Any thoughts on the other teams in your Champs group?

It’s always interesting to see the other teams play against each other to see what new tactics they have, since teams and gameplay change so much from year to year. It will be nice to face Big Bucks again after a few years of not playing them, and we have never played against Surrey in a Champs game, so that’s going to be an interesting one too.

What else can we expect from tomorrow’s event?
We have a cake stall with delicious home-baked goods. The very awesome Roller Dirty Soaps will have a stall so make sure you take a look. There will be merch stalls from the teams. During the half-time of the first game we have the fabulous Sussex Supreme Baton Twirlers doing a performance. Then during the half-time of the second game we’ll have our raffle draw with merch and cash up for grabs.

Any words for the Eastbourne fans in the crowd?

Don’t forget to set aside the weekend of 13th & 14th July for Eastbourne Extreme. Planning is in full swing and the summer can’t come quick enough!

MILTON KEYNES ROLLER DERBY

Can you tell us a little about your history?
MKRD was founded in May 2010. In 2011/2012 we created The End of the World Series tournament for five local leagues in which we were undefeated. The EOWS led to The Heartland Series in 2013 and MKRD remained heavily involved in the organisation. This tournament then developed into the British Championships tournament that we know today.

What are your thoughts on Champs as a league?
We’ve loved playing British Champs and continue to do so. Seeing the growth and organisation of roller derby in the UK is amazing, and getting to play both new and familiar teams is really fun. We had a really enjoyable Champs season last year especially and hope to continue to have more fun in 2019. We’ve been working hard on our plays and tactics so will be looking to put those into practice.

Do you know much about the other teams in your division?
We’ve played Eastbourne a few times now and they’re a really fun team to play against and wonderful hosts, so we’re looking forward to Saturday. They have some really nippy jammers and powerful blockers so we’ll be looking to shut them down. Our division is looking really interesting this year. We know the Vixens quite well and they’ll be a force to be reckoned with! We haven’t played Big Bucks in ages and it’ll be interesting to see them on track again. Eastbourne are going from strength to strength and Surrey are a rather unknown quantity to us so we’re looking forward to the season ahead.

Any words for the MKRD fans in Saturday’s crowd?
Oh lawd, she comin’!

SURREY ROLLER GIRLS

Can you tell us a little about your league?

Based in Guildford, Surrey Roller Girls were founded in December 2011. We are a friendly bunch who love cake and cuddles, as well as bashing each other about on track.

What are you expecting from Champs this year?

SRG have taken a year away from British Champs in 2018 to develop and grow as a team and what a year we have had! Not only have we enjoyed welcoming many new skaters, we have also had the pleasure of playing many friendly games with our Southern counterparts.

And from Saturday in particular?
We have been training hard in the lead up to British Champs and are ready to show the other teams what it means to be a Surrey Roller Girl. Excitement is brewing for our game against the Vendetta Vixens on Saturday, who I’m sure will be a formidable opponent.

What can we expect from SRG on the day?
Surrey will arrive on gameday with glittered faces, short shorts and a fierce spirit. We will battle hard and (whatever the outcome) we will hug it out at the end and hunker down to watch Eastbourne v Milton Keynes, which I’m sure will be an epic pairing. For any Surrey fans cheering us on in the crowd, cheer loud and clear: WHO ARE WE? SRG!

VENDETTA VIXENS

Can you tell us a little about your history?
The Vixens began in early 2011 and competed in the End of the World Series coming a respectful last place. Over the years we have lost more games than we have won, but what we lack in points we have made up for in team spirit and perseverance. We’ve been fortunate enough to be part of the tournaments preceding Champs and very much enjoy meeting and playing new teams. We learn so much and generally have a wonderful time during the tournament season.

What are you hoping for from Champs this year?
Last year saw a turning point for the team and we won more games than we lost. We hope that the hard work and determination that we have put into training has started to show on track and we continue to progress this year. 2019 also means playing our neighbours the Concrete Cows and facing new opponents in Eastbourne and Big Bucks.

Any particular expectations for Saturday’s games?

In the other game we will be hoping for a win for the Concrete Cows as our neighbouring team and friends, but wish all the teams taking part a happy, safe and successful gameday. Last time we played Surrey in 2015 it was a really close game – we’re obviously hoping to take the win this year. In terms of Vixens to watch our for on track? Watch out for us all! Everyone brings something different and unique, and it wouldn’t work without every single person on the team and those who constantly support us.



BIG BUCKS HIGH ROLLERS

Can you tell us a little about your league?
Big Bucks High Rollers 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 as a league.

What are your thoughts ahead of the 2019 Champs season?
BBHR decided to focus on rebuilding our team last year. Now we’re back in Champs and feeling stronger than ever! We have a great line-up, including a mix of veteran and newer skaters, and are really excited for them to experience their first Champs game.

What are the (dis)advantages or not playing Gameday 1?
Sitting out the first gameday makes us itch to be on track, although it allows us a cheeky peak at our competition before we get started. We are up against some tough teams, which is a challenge we have been training hard for and we can’t wait to meet everyone on track. We can, we will – BBHR!

[Photos by John Hesse, Eastbourne Roller Derby, Vendetta Vixens & Big Bucks High Rollers]

LINKS
FB EVENT PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/events/238370273750413/
BRITISH CHAMPS: https://www.britishchamps.com/

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Eastbourne Extreme 2015 Preview

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This Summer is a busy time for roller derby in Sussex with no fewer than three British Championships events at the Dolphin in Haywards Heath in a five week period. For many people the highlight of the Sussex derby year takes place not there, but outdoors on the tarmac just off Eastbourne seafront. This weekend (Saturday 18th & Sunday 19th July) sees the return of the annual event Eastbourne Extreme, which features two full days of roller derby once again.

Saturday sees a six team tournament featuring two A-teams, Surrey and the hosting Bourne Bombshells, plus the London Rockin’ Rollers B-team, Croydon B (a Croydon side has won the tournie every year so far), Wycombe’s Big Bucks B and Extreme debutants, Brighton Rockers B. Sunday features a variety of games, including women’s, men’s, co-ed and junior matches, with the highlight being a clash of the Bristol and Croydon A-teams. There are also mini boot camps, Chicks In Bowls sessions (quad skating on skate ramps), Fresh Meat sessions, after parties and more.

The event is open to spectators and is totally free of charge, with action from roughly 9.30am to 6.30pm both days. The venue is around 20 minutes walk from Eastbourne train station. The easiest route is to hit the seafront, turn left and walk for about a kilometre (post code BN22 7AA). There are seats, vendors, a nearby coffee hut and toilets, the occasional appearance of an ice cream van and more. The main Eastbourne Extreme drag is nearby and features various food and drink outlets. The nearest pubs, off licences etc are a few minutes away on Seaside Road.

Before we hear from some of those taking part, here’s an overview of the history of the event and what to expect this year…

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ROLLER DERBY AT EASTBOURNE EXTREME: A HISTORY
BY THE PHILOSOFEAR (EASTBOURNE ROLLER DERBY)

Eastbourne Extreme started out as a skating event and was run by our sponsor Tim Wheals from Eastbourne Sk8School. It later developed into an extreme sports event. In 2011 there was roller derby at Eastbourne Extreme for the first time, but there was only about half an hour of a game outside at The Cage before heavy rain stopped play. In 2012 the Bourne Bombshells decided to have a full day of roller derby at Extreme, but at the time the team was very new and no one had passed Minimum Skills. So the Bombshells didn’t play and just ran the event instead. The Seaside Sirens, Oxford Roller Derby, Croydon Roller Derby, Bristol Harbour Harlots, Big Bucks High Rollers and The Beasts of Bodmin all took part. The final between Big Bucks and Croydon was nail biting, with Croydon taking the win by just a few points.

By summer 2013 the Bombshells had enough skaters to compete in the tournament. The Saturday was for newer teams, with the Bombshells playing against Surrey, Basingstoke Bullets and Mean Valley B-team. The final was between Mean Valley and the Bombshells, and Mean Valley won. The Sunday was for more established teams; Croydon, Portsmouth, Kent and Big Bucks played, with Croydon taking the win for the second year in a row.

In 2014 the format was changed slightly. The Saturday remained as a tournament, with The Bombshells taking on Surrey, Croydon B-team and London Rockin’ Rollers B-team. Croydon won again! The Sunday became a day of mixed games – rookie women, juniors, intermediate women, advanced women, men and co-ed. This was very popular and the co-ed game was amazing to watch. However, the organisation of all this was immense, with Polka Dotty, who was doing the organising, spending ridiculous amounts of time organising teams and T-shirts.

For 2015, we’ve kept Saturday as tournament day. The Sunday still has a variety of different games, but rather than mixed team games our new co-ed team (the A-Bombs) will be playing, as will our men’s team Bomb S’Quad and many other sides.

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SATURDAY 18TH: THE TOURNAMENT (TRACK 1)

GROUP A
9.30 Surrey Rollergirls v LRR Rising Stars
11.30 Bourne Bombshells v Surrey Rollergirls
13.30 Bourne Bombshells v LRR Rising Stars

THE PHILOSOFEAR, BOURNE BOMBSHELLS: “The Bombshells are the lowest ranked of the six teams, but we’re very much looking forward to taking on our opponents in the group and whoever we meet in the playoffs. This year we decided to make it a B-team level tournament, as reflected by our rankings. It’s an opportunity for some higher ranked local teams to test out their B-teams in real gameplay. Of the leagues taking part in Saturday’s tournament, Brighton are the only ones who haven’t played at Extreme before – it seems that once a team plays at Extreme, they want to come back and do it again! As the new Brighton B-team haven’t played a ranked game yet, they are something of an unknown. [The old Brighton B-team, the Bruisers, are on Flattrackstats, but the new B-team, the Rockerbillies don’t contain any members of the old team.] Therefore, we are very unsure as to how they will place against the other teams. Having trained with the Brighton A-team, they are sure to have some strong players and great tactics. In terms of rankings, LRR’s B-team are the highest ranked, followed by Croydon’s B-team. Last year, these two teams made it to the final, with Croydon winning – they are starting out in separate groups this year, so could meet in the final once again. Surrey have played at Extreme for the last two years, but recently they have been moving up the rankings very quickly and doing well in their British Champs games, so it’ll be interesting to see how much they’ve progressed over the past year.”

CRAZY CAT LADY, SURREY ROLLERGIRLS: “Extreme is the highlight of my derby year. I get the chance to play the most amazing sport outside (hopefully) in the sun, with some of the best skaters and my favourite opposition. The Philosofear in particular is my outdoor nemesis, and I’ve always had the most fun skating against the Bombshells. LRR Rising Stars are an unknown quantity to me, which is exciting in itself. This is also the first year my son Short Round is competing too, in the junior expo game on Sunday morning, which makes this year even more exciting.”

DISORDERLEE, LONDON ROCKIN’ ROLLERS RISING STARS: “While there are a few stalwarts of last year’s team, half the team is new and we are looking forward to seeing how we fare this year as we know that both Bourne and Surrey’s teams have changed significantly too. Also, this time around we get to sit and watch a bit more of whoever we might be up against later, so we are liking the new structure.”

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GROUP B

10.30 Brighton Rockerbillies v Croydon Vice Squad
12.30 Croydon Vice Squad v Big Bucks Rough Diamonds
14.30 Brighton Rockerbillies v Big Bucks Rough Diamonds


CHLOE COLOSSUS, BRIGHTON ROCKERBILLIES:
“We foolhardily decided to play our first ever B-team game against Croydon Vice Squad not long after we formed, and we got our butts kicked. So I’m aware of just how good (and terrifying) they are. We have pretty good links with the Bombshells; we’ve trained and scrimmed against/with them in the past. I don’t know much about the other teams in the tournament, but I look forward to getting to know them on the track. We’re a fledgling B-team with a broad range of skill levels and experience and only a few games under our belt, so anything could happen. Can we beat Croydon? Nope, but I might have a different answer for you in a year’s time!”

GOLD N MALICIOUS, BIG BUCKS HIGH ROLLERS: “With our A-team firmly focused on the British Championships, Eastbourne Extreme is the perfect opportunity for Big Bucks High Rollers B-team, the Rough Diamonds, to get stuck into some tournament roller derby. BBHR played Extreme for the first time in 2012, just a few weeks after celebrating our first year as a team. With torrential downpours the night before, we were sure the tournament would be cancelled, but the sun came out, the track dried up and we all got sunburnt! We came a close second behind Croydon and are looking forward to facing their B-team, the Vice Squad this year. We will be facing some tough opposition but we have been training hard (and obsessing over the weather of course!) and can’t wait to battle it out with our fellow B-teamers! WE CAN WE WILL! BBHR!”

AGENT COOPER, CROYDON ROLLER DERBY: “Eastbourne Extreme is a bit of a rite of passage for Croydon skaters now. Some of our new blood have never played an outdoor game before, so we’ve been ruthlessly practicing on concrete in preparation. We know the teams are really gunning for Croydon, because of our record in the tournament, and we are going to bring it.”

PLAYOFFS
15.30 3rd Place Group A v 3rd Place Group B
16.30 2nd Place Group A v 2nd Place Group B
17.30 1st Place Group A v 1st Place Group B (FINAL)
18.20 Tournament Awards

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SATURDAY 18TH: ULTRA RARE FRESH MEAT (TRACK 2)

Sessions at 9.30, 12.30 & 14.30

BEACHY HEADCASE, EASTBOURNE EXTREME: “The Fresh Meat sessions are a chance for non-Minimum Skills passed skaters to have a go on an outdoor derby track. What will the sessions involve? Basically it’s derby without the hitting. Weaving through cones, skating forwards, skating backwards, can you skate a lap in 13 seconds, and so on.”

SATURDAY & SUNDAY: CHICKS IN BOWLS (SKATE RAMPS)

12.00 & 15.00 Saturday / 11.30 & 14.50 Sunday

BEACHY HEADCASE, EASTBOURNE EXTREME: “This year we have exciting slots lined up on the ramps exclusively for the use of Chicks in Bowls crews. There are four 15 minute slots over the two days. I am reliably informed that the ramps are accessible all the time for general skating.”

FLAMMERS, CHICKS IN BOWLS:
“Skate parks are feeling the shock wave of roller derby skaters looking for a new challenge, fun, additional skate training, or in some cases just a pure love of skating parks. What you will see at the Eastbourne Extreme event are a bunch of CIB UK crew skaters showing you their favourite moves, skills and love of ramp skating. The tricks are adapted from skateboarding, inline skating and the pioneers of quad skating who are still shredding skate parks today. It’s not a new thing – men and women have been skating parks on quads for years – but what is new is the roller derby community shifting towards ramps. This is bringing a whole new style, level of ability and passion for the skate park. The Chicks in Bowls chapters are like an extended family. We all encourage and support one another, either in the park or via social media. There are over 100 chapters world wide; get involved, find a skate crew and have some fun. There is no right or wrong. Go have fun and create your own moves and tricks.”

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SUNDAY 19TH: A FULL DAY OF DERBY ACTION (TRACK 1)

9.30 SOUTHAMPTON CITY ROLLERS V EASTBOURNE EXTREME ROOKIES

BEACHY HEADCASE, EASTBOURNE EXTREME: “The first game on the Sunday sees Southampton City Rollers in their first open game I believe. They will play a mixed team we have put together of new skaters from various leagues across the South, including Bourne Bombshells, Brighton Rockers Roller Derby, Basingstoke Bullets and Rochester Royal Rollers, amongst others.”

WHITE LIGHTNING, SOUTHAMPTON CITY ROLLERS: “Southampton City Rollers are pumped to be a part of Eastbourne Extreme this year. Not only is it our first outdoor event, it’s our first public game! Unfortunately in the past few months a number of our players have suffered non-derby related injuries so we’ve had to rope in skaters from other teams to pad our numbers out, but we’re excited for the opportunity to skate both with and against fellow rookie skaters. Our main aim for this game is to have fun and learn lots along the way. We all love roller derby, we love our team, and we love the atmosphere at all derby events! Bring it on!”

11.00 JUNIORS EXHIBITION (INC EASTBOURNE’S NEW BOURNES)

BEACHY HEADCASE, NEW BOURNES COACH: “We’re really excited for the kids game this year. So far 18 kids have signed up. We have been practising scrimmaging twice a week since March, as well as footwork and blocking skills. For the last four weeks we’ve been skating at the seafront once a week to get the hang of outside conditions. We’ve also practised a lot of entering and exiting the penalty box! I think all the kids will enjoy the experience of skating with a full ref crew. Junior derby is still relatively new to the UK, but our league has a regular hardcore of players who are learning and having fun. We plan to continue to grow our team and Extreme is a bit of a foundation for this. The New Bournes head coach deserves a special mention; Drag N Fly has coached virtually every session since the New Year, ensuring the kids are game ready. All the kids are stoked for Sunday and can’t wait for the experience.”

JEMOLISH, NEW BOURNES SKATER: ” New Bournes have been training outside in preparation for Extreme. We are really excited to play our game because we haven’t played properly since last year due to lack of other local junior leagues. Also we have improved so much as a team. We are very excited to have skaters from other teams joining us at Extreme.”

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12.00 MEN’S: BOMB S’QUAD V SURREY JAMMERWOCKIES

BEACHY HEADCASE, EASTBOURNE EXTREME: “Eastbourne Roller Derby men’s team Bomb S’Quad are playing their first open roller derby game against a ‘mostly’ Surrey Rollerboys team (some skaters will be from other leagues). This is their first year bouting and the men have prepared for Extreme by playing a number of closed door games since the start of this year. I can’t wait to see how they fare on their first open outing. Watch out for Tenacious P’s trademark trot and players like Nut Basher and Chasin’ Status taking out their opposition in style.”

TENACIOUS P, BOMB S’QUAD: “So what’s better than playing roller derby for the first time at Eastbourne Extreme? Playing TWICE in the same day! I’ve been to the last two Eastbourne Extremes. The first one was as a spectator with little or no knowledge about derby. But it was fun enough to give me a desire to play and it wasn’t long before I’d gone from non-skater to Fresh Meat. The second Extreme I was still “in training” so I had to sit on the sidelines and watch my derby brothers in their mixed game (inbetween making cups of tea and selling cakes of course). It was a thrilling game and just made me want to play even more. This year I’m jamming in both the open door bouting debut of the Bomb S’Quad *and* for the newly created A-Bomb’s co-ed league. So to say that I’m more than a little proud and excited to be representing Eastbourne Roller Derby twice in one day is a touch of an understatement. Extreme is unlike any other roller derby tournament in the UK. Not only is it outdoors (somewhat of a rarity) but also it’s mostly being viewed by people with little or no knowledge of the sport. So we have to make sure we bring our A-game and make it as thrilling to watch for both derby and non-derby people. So no pressure then! As for our opposition, the mighty Surrey beat us in our first ever closed door bout, so we have a friendly score to settle there.”

SAMUEL L SMACKS’EM, SURREY ROLLERBOYS: “Eastbourne Extreme has become a bit of a ritual for myself and the other Jammerwockies. For the past two years, I’ve tagged along with the Surrey Rollergirls but this is the first year I’ve been playing and also happens to be my first outdoor game. Mega exciting! We’ve all been buzzing about it since we found out we were playing and a large part of that is down to our friendship with the Bomb S’Quad. They’ve been close friends of ours since SRB began and this is the second time we’ve had the pleasure of meeting them on track. Last time was so much fun that we couldn’t say no to another round! We took home the first win but both teams have been training hard since so we’re expecting a very exciting game and a weekend of great derby.”

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13.30 TEAM DRAGON RD v TEAM NO FUSS

BEACHY HEADCASE, EASTBOURNE EXTREME: “All of Saturday’s games are notable. Team Dragon RD are coming down with their nurturing, and some say bloodthirsty, Mother of Dragons to take on the mighty Team No Fuss. Both these challenge teams are building quite a name for themselves, becoming the go-to method of getting in your roller derby fix for top players across the South of England. I can’t give away names yet, but I do know that both teams are pulling out the stops. They’ve been rattling their sabres at each other since Team No Fuss beat the Dragons at their inaugural game last November. The Dragons are coming into Extreme following a run of victories; they’ve bolstered their stable and are coming together as a team – I can’t wait to see what happens.”

MAMA, TEAM DRAGON BENCH COACH:
“Team Dragon was formed last year, just before the last Eastbourne Extreme. After meeting Polka Dotty at the event we talked about arranging a bout between us. So she formed a side, Team No Fuss, and last November we played a mini three team tournament with them and Team Crazy Legs. No Fuss narrowly beat us in the final (192-145) and this is the first revenge game since! Dragons have a real mix of skaters in the team. Some have been skating under a year, with several recreational skaters plus a few more experienced skaters, so I have no idea what the result will be! We’ll spin the wheel and give it our best shot.”

CHUNDER WOMAN, TEAM NO FUSS: “We’ve put together a really strong roster for Sunday, with a lot of experienced skaters. You’ll recognise some of us from previous Eastbourne Extreme tournaments. Some of the ones to watch will be Little Miss Mischevil, who put in a very strong performance in last year’s co-ed bout; Gin Atomic, who has taken part in Extreme every year since the beginning; and of course we’re reuniting the former dream team of The Philosofear and myself. Buffy Smothers’ bare belly is another Extreme tradition that we’ll be happy to see return this year. The Dragons are fielding an impressive roster, and we’re particularly looking out for Rusty Stiletto and I Eat, who gave us a lot of trouble last time. They’ve added some excellent skaters to their line-up since then, so we’re expecting a hard fought game. I’d say we have the advantage in terms of our experience of outdoor skating, but it’s anyone’s game!”

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15.00 CO-ED: A-BOMBS V PORTSMOUTH SCURVY WENCHES

BEACHY HEADCASE, EASTBOURNE EXTREME: “We are rolling out the Eastbourne co-ed team for the first time. A-Bomb-iNations will be playing the Scurvy Wenches from Portsmouth. The Scurvy Wenches are going to provide some tough opposition in the form of ex-Southern Discomfort player Noise Tank, Portsmouth Roller Wenches team captain Dropkick Molly and founding member of the Wenches (and ex-LRG player) The Duchess of Crutches. Co-ed games are hard-hitting and great fun to watch.”

PONT BLANK, A-BOMBS: “As a relative newcomer to the Bomb S’Quad and now Eastbourne Roller Derby, I haven’t really known any difference when it comes to playing co-ed, as training has been co-ed for some time now. I gather, however, that this wasn’t always the case, and it has taken some time to get people on-side with it. Personally I think it’s great, as it’s a chance for us all to be involved as a league together, and in particular has allowed us newer members of the Bomb S’Quad to draw on the experience of the Bombshells, who have been around a lot longer. So when it was announced that we would be looking to make up a co-ed team drawing on members from the two teams, I jumped at the opportunity to get involved. Co-ed roller derby is definitely on the up and more and more Leagues are starting to combine their respective teams in order to form very strong co-ed rosters. We’re obviously aware of the challenge that awaits us in the form of Portsmouth Scurvy Wenches, as both the Roller Wenches and Scurvy Dogs are formidable opponents in their own rights. With skaters like Noise Tank, Danderson, Kaizen, RIP McMurphy and the Duchess of Crutches at their disposal, they’re going to be able to field a very impressive team. But that’s not to say that our team won’t be impressive as well.”

ROLLSCHACH, PORTSMOUTH SCURVY WENCHES:
“This is the first outdoor game the Scurvy Wenches have taken part in as a team, although some of our members played at Eastbourne Extreme last year; and being from a seaside town, our players often get experience skating outdoors. A smart and adaptive team, we are more than up to any challenge! Portsmouth have worked with Eastbourne players in previous mixed bouts, but never against one another as a full roster. We take part in co-ed training as often as possible which has solidified us as a very strong team. Co-ed derby is a perfect hybrid of two very different games. Original [women’s] roller derby is a very tactical sport with grace and agility, whereas men’s roller derby is based more upon big hits, although men’s derby is learning from the ladies’ game and making the plays a lot more intelligent. Co-ed derby is still in its infancy, but it’s quickly growing into its own sport. Watch this space derby fans!”

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16.30: CROYDON ROLLER DERBY V BRISTOL ROLLER DERBY

BEACHY HEADCASE, EASTBOURNE EXTREME: “The highlight of the day is definitely the game between Croydon Riot Squad and Bristol Roller Derby. Both teams have history at Extreme. Croydon has won the tournament every year since it started, and some of the Bristol skaters played at the first year of the tournament in 2012 as the Harbour Harlots. This year we thought we’d add in an advanced game to round off the day. Croydon Riot Squad stand 19th in the UKRDA rankings, with Bristol’s A-team two places ahead in 17th. In the European rankings, however, Croydon have the upper hand in 22nd compared to 31st place Bristol. The prediction computer at Flattrackstats picks a different winner depending on which ranking you use! Add in the outdoors element and this really could go either way. I can’t wait to see how things play out on the track.”

BLACK THORN, BRISTOL ROLLER DERBY:
“Bristol have played at Eastbourne Extreme once before, back in 2012. Five of us who took part are still playing for Bristol, and have been sharing horror stories of sun and gravel burn. We haven’t played roller derby outdoors since, but Chicks in Bowls Bristol has a huge BRD contingent and we’ve been getting of plenty of outdoor practice on the ramps. We played and beat Croydon indoors in 2012 (207-138) but I am sure both teams have seen massive changes since then. Not least that we’ve stolen President Garfield from Croydon (she’s ours now!). They’re ranked quite a bit higher than us in the European table and we’ve climbed significantly since we started our British Champs campaign, but we’re hoping that this works in our favour as we’ve had some tough games against tough opponents this year. We’re hoping for a fun and physical game, away from the more pressured Champs environment. A couple of the usual suspects on our roster have had the audacity to go on holiday, so look out for a deeper jammer rotation than is typical for us, as well as two players new to the A-team in the form of Rip Tease and Hard N Sharpe.”

AGENT COOPER, CROYDON ROLLER DERBY:
“As far as Bristol are concerned, we have heard that they are seriously not to be messed with. Our plan is to give them one of the best games Eastbourne has ever seen.”

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SUNDAY 19TH: FREE MINI BOOT CAMPS (TRACK 2)

11.00 FOOTWORK WITH GIN ATOMIC & NOISE TANK

GIN ATOMIC: “Myself of the Brighton Rockers (ex-Croydon Roller Derby) and Noise Tank (Portsmouth Scurvy Dogs, ex-Southern Discomfort) are running a short footwork boot camp for intermediate skaters. It’ll consist of various drills to work on improving manoeuvrability. People won’t need to bring anything specific for the boot camp, but I would say to anyone playing outdoors to bring spare toe stops and don’t wear shorts. And of course bring your sun cream!”

12.00 BLOCKING WITH THE DUCHESS OF CRUTCHES

DUCHESS OF CRUTCHES: “I’m a coach and the A-team captain at Portsmouth Roller Wenches and I will be putting on a mini blocking boot camp focused around partner blocking and traversing the track. I was happy to be asked to help out and put something on at Eastbourne Extreme. I have a great love for blocking and look forward to sharing some of my joy, along with skills and drills that I hope skaters will find useful and take away with them.”

…AND THE AFTER PARTY (CROWN & ANCHOR)

BEACHY HEADCASE, EASTBOURNE EXTREME: “On the Saturday most of us Eastbourne Roller Derby types need to get an early night, but parties will be going on all along the seafront; live bands, beach BBQs and a roller disco at MySkateWorld, to name a few. On Sunday evening you can find us at the newly refurbished Crown & Anchor, our favourite pub, which is on the seafront a little way East of the pier (about ten minutes walk from the derby). The roller derby crew have been given exclusive use of the upstairs bar. Expect human pyramids.”

EASTBOURNE EXTREME ON FACEBOOK

https://www.facebook.com/EastbourneExtremeRollerDerby/
https://www.facebook.com/events/812866462140436/

[Photos by John Hesse]

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/

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/

Heartland Series South East Matchday 2 Report

MKR0

They say you don’t need to actually watch a roller derby match – which is what we’re calling them now in protest at WFTDA changing the official term from bout to game – to know how tough and hard hitting it was. You can find that out just from the state of the players’ shoulders at the final whistle. Ideally, of course, you’ll need a copy of the chart created by Roman physician Ignius Solarus in around 110 AD. It was used to quickly assess sunburn levels – in order to most effectively distribute available ointment – of soldiers/legions marching long distances in the Roman Empire’s Middle Eastern extremities. Whilst said ancient chart would need to be adjusted for derby and altered for individual players’ ethnicity, skin tone and lifestyle (from tanned beach bunnies to daylight-averse Goth punks), it would likely go a long way towards telling you who was throwing or receiving the hardest hits, as well as giving you an overall ‘shade’ of toughness for the match.

The shoulders of some here (Smash’Er Fierce and Rocky Bashova from the Bourne Bombshells, Claudia Faceoff and Betty Knox from the Concrete Cows, amongst others) lie towards what must have been the severest end of Ignius’ chart, being a Pompeii lava hued red in colour, and no-one’s looking much below a two ladles of ointment level, so it’s been a tough battle. Don’t go looking for a copy of this Roman sunburn chart in WH Smith, by the way, as you’ll be out of luck. Partly because, although referenced in later writings, the chart itself is lost in the mists of time. Partly because, if you happen to be in Bletchley, Buckinghamshire (as we are) on a Sunday (as we are) you’ll find that WH Smith is closed. As is Boots, and indeed the entire Brunel Shopping Centre. Call us self-entitled townies if you like, but we can’t remember the last time we encountered a WH Smith that closed all day Sunday. Even the ones on tiny uninhabited islands open for a few hours in the morning, don’t they? Either way, the good people of Bletchley take this state of affairs in their stride. Asking a passing local where we might go to buy a newspaper, he looks at us like we’re mad. “A paper? It’s Sunday, mate.”

Suddenly it makes sense that there are so many roller derby leagues in this part of the world. Enough, indeed, to have set up the UK’s first meaningful year-long tournament. The Heartland Series is now in its third year, including a first under a different name. These towns that the Series grew out of seem almost saturated in derby. Let’s do the maths. The whole of Greater London contains at the last count four senior derby leagues (including a male one that’s largely based outside London anyway), whereas this ‘Heart of England area’ – with less than half of London’s population – contains around twenty women’s leagues, plus a bunch of merby sides too. Towns like Northampton, Bedford, Hertford and here in Milton Keynes are each home to two senior women’s leagues, and some places have three. Heck, it goes to figure. After all, if there’s nowhere to buy a paper on a Sunday, what the hell else are you gonna do but skate?

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Even the local Mayor has been driven by the lack of comment pieces to read (or crosswords to complete) to attend today’s double header. Disappointingly, he’s not on skates, but he does do the honours of blowing first whistle for the day’s opening match. Divisional favourites Big Bucks High Rollers in green are up against the navy blue clad Norfolk Brawds. Although the latter actually top the table on points going into this contest – these being the two winning sides from the first South East region matchday – the Wycombe side are keen to reassert their ‘top seed’ status, and they score 27 without reply over the first three jams. The strong El E Copped Her, pacey Agent Sparling and fleet-footed Miss Pain Maple prove a particular handful for the Brawds blockers when starred up for Big Bucks. Defensively, it’s a slow paced positional battle, with the East Anglian jammers struggling to break through the Wycombe walls.

Colletteral Damage looks the Brawds’ biggest jamming threat, and the Norfolk league are putting a few points on the board now, but the green machine is very much in control. The harder skating style of the Wycombe league is having an impact on the turn two track tape too. Located in front of the Big Bucks bench, the punishment it takes during line-up swaps is the source of much fraying, wire showing and several reparatory official timeouts. As the first period comes to an end, its 91-25 scoreline eminently bridgeable – if Norfolk can just get their jammers out quicker in the second half – one wonders what kind of tactical track tape the Brawds bench have to hand. Something to repair the frays Big Bucks have caused to their gameplan?

With no alcohol on offer in the leisure centre, and the nearest pub – possibly the only pub, if they’re anything like Sunday newspapers round here – six minutes walk away, we resort to wandering the centre’s corridors. During the course of this, we discover what looks like a brilliant new sport. There’s a table tennis table in the middle of a squash court. Table squash? Brilliant! What sort of ball is used? What different tactics are in play for when it bounces from table to wall and back again? We ask a passing member of staff, who looks at us like we’re mad. “We just store the table there. It’s Sunday, mate.” Back on track, it’s business as usual for the team in green. Sparling, Liddy Savage, Lolly Chunders, Rucking Hostile, Toxic Tinkerbell and others are keeping the Norfolk jammers pegged back, the two-walls of this strong and physically commanding Wycombe side often proving as effective as a three or four-wall. A-Cute Injury bustles through in the star to add to the green machine’s points total, as Big Bucks seek to put behind them the surprisingly small margin by which they edged past Hell’s Belles in the last round (223-211) and start racking up differentials more worthy of the Division’s highest ranked team.

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Largely sailing into the wind throughout, Norfolk’s jammers are nonetheless pulling hard and tacking points here and there. There are some valiant starclad showings from players like Philthy Delphia, Penny Slain and Yours Truly. The last-named has been carving out a sideline as a derby announcer (we caught her debut in that role in a greenhouse 40 miles North of here last summer) and is now widely known for sporting the most flamboyant hairpieces in UK derby; sadly this skill is not displayable where a helmet is required. Philthy, meanwhile, is also proving an important part of many Brawds packs, saddling up alongside Cruel Runnings, NoTorious, Teki Bomb, Slammin Siren and others to try and hold back the green wave. It’s a battling performance from the East Anglians. Ultimately, though, the High Rollers (playing in their own county, albeit at the opposite end of it) are good value for the 100-odd places above Norfolk they stand in the European rankings, and they extend their lead to a final score of 213-46.

Whilst this is a setback for the battling Brawds, it’s also a shot across the bows for the Bedfordshire side the Norwich fleet defeated 234-111 in their previous South East Division outing. What potential differential might that side face when they line up against Big Bucks in July, and how can they best prepare? The Bedford crew may not be taking part today, but they’re surely watching; some in person, some on Twitter, some when updated at their next training session by those in the former categories. This is the Heartland Series, after all, and almost everyone involved in it is watching out for upcoming opponents and other team’s results, even though most will pretend they aren’t. This year sees the most ambitious Heartland Series to date. Indeed, the most ambitious multi-location tournament in UK derby history. There are 24 teams separated over four divisions, and 22 of those have already played a match in this year’s Series. Several have already played twice.

Today’s hometowners Milton Keynes Concrete Cows and opponents Bourne Bombshells are the final leagues making their 2014 Series debut. That’s where the similarities end, though, as MK were heavily involved in setting this tournament up, won it in its first year (when it was called the End of the World Series) and remain at the heart of the Heartland organisation. For the Bombshells, this is their very first appearance in the tournament. Whilst most of the other leagues taking part know each other well – and not just from Heartland – this is a world of new for the Sussex squad. A quick glance at the map goes a long way towards explaining why. Although this is the South East Division, that compass point is largely in terms of the Midlands. The Bombshells are the only team from South of the Thames taking part in this group, and whilst Norfolk are equally removed geographically, the other four sides are near neighbours. In many ways, this whole Heartland experience could be a (very useful) baptism of fire for the Eastbourne league, and that’s certainly the case with today’s match-up.

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The opening jam – Terrorizinya lining up against Bullet Bomber in the star – is taken 15-0 by MK, with the Bombshells at one point having a full sin bin and a sense of relief that this is the first Heartland matchday played under the 30 second penalties rule. This is a sign of things to come, as a series of insanely well marshalled MK packs (their solidity worthy of the Concrete in the team name) keep the Sussex jammers pegged back. The Cows starheads have time for a pass or two before their opposite number breaks through and forces the call. A pattern is being set, and in what feels like no time MK are 48-2 up with the Sussex points both being last gasp singles on the whistle. A few jams later the Bombshells bench coach, Sassy McAwesome, calls a team timeout. Opposite number OzymAndyAs, possibly the calmest and certainly the most sensibly dressed bench manager in the whole of UK derby, can afford a wry smile. Milton Keynes are very much in control here.

Generally speaking, this game is being played at a somewhat faster pace than the previous one. Whether that’s through Eastbourne looking to disrupt the MK packs to give their speedy jammers more of a chance to break through, or the Cows being happy to adapt to any pace if it means the Bombshells tiring earlier, who knows? Certainly, the home side are often happy to let lone blockers such as The Valkyrie (super quick of both foot and mind) keep the Sussex starhead pegged back as the rest of the pack bridge or aid their jammer. It takes the aforementioned being sent to the box, with Bombshells jammer Drag ‘N’ Fly drawing the penalty, for the Sussex league to get some better points on the board. The juking runs of DNF look Eastbourne’s best hope of scoring in general, as even their most physical jammers Toxic Block Syndrome and Smash’Er Fierce are getting little change from the local defence force.

The team in purple and leopard skin are also proving no strangers to the penalty box, and a series of power jams – on top of picking up lead jammer status 80% of the time – sees the Cows stretch their lead still further. The wheels are coming off for Eastbourne; quite literally, as one of Dreaded Shortcake’s decides to head off on its own, and she sits out the rest of the jam on the inner track to re-attach it to her skate/foot. The pounding that the pace and physicality of this match is taking on players’ equipment claims an even bigger scalp a few jams later as one of Chunder Woman’s skates explodes. OK, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but the boot and plate are having a trial separation and it looks serious. It will take half an hour of kind help from Swift Customs (the skate store run by local men’s teamer Swiftyfool) and a bag of bits to get them back on speaking terms.

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As Chunder’s skate undergoes major surgery, we take a half time stroll around the hall. As is usually the way in derby crowds, roughly 5% of those present are on crutches, with another 10% bandaged in some way (Bombshell Beast Unleashed forming part of the latter, still cheerily waving from the crowd when her name was announced as part of the skate out). As is also often the way in derby crowds, roughly 0.4% of those present are Team England men’s skater and off-duty High Rollers ref Sutton Impact, bedecked in more sponsored clothing than the average F1 racing driver. We’ve long since stopped keeping track of the scoreline in our notebook, by the way, but the screen in the corner tells us MK are winning 156-37. I guess if you’re gonna make your debut in the Heartland Series (the closest thing to a national league in the UK) you might as well make it as hard as possible by (a) being away, (b) being away to the guys who invented the Series and won it the first year, and (c) having several of your key players’ skates shed parts mid-jam!

The Bombshells have battled damn hard, and will continue to do so in the second period. The Philosofear, Smash’Er, Toxic and others working overtime in the Sussex pack – giving as good as they get when the hard hits come flying – with the starclad likes of Hell Block H, Chunder, Bullet and DNF battling for every track inch they can eek out of the steely mean Concrete Cow defence. Still, despite the Eastbourners’ best efforts, MK will come out head and (Pompeii lava red) shoulders above in almost all respects on the day. Their blockers, particularly the fearsome Betty Knox, hard hitting Bolshevik and fast moving Valkyrie are an immovable force. Their jamming roster, including uncontainable Magic Beanz, flighty fighty Huni Basher and just back from long term injury Nucky Studs, are an irresistible force. The Cows are awesome, but of course MK got to where they are by being on the opposite end of results/days like this. Indeed, their most recent outing – a 304-72 reverse at home to Croydon – is a case in point, and the one they’re responding to here. Often you learn more from losing (and how you come back from that in your next match and beyond) than you do from winning. Or, as more eloquently put by some philosophy dude: “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

The second half goes much the way of the first, although the points hauls are lower on both sides. The MK jammers prove resistant to most of the hits thrown at them, although a few solid blows from Smash’Er in particular take ’em down. A very long official review (called for by The Valkyrie) confirms a jam’s end star pass from Philosofear to DNF was in fact legal, and gives the crowd a four minute ‘singing and swinging along to the music’ break. Whilst Bullet is finding it tough to break through the MK packs, especially where Knox is involved, she’s so fast when through that she forces a number of early calls from her opposite numbers. Philosofear picks up a good PJ-assisted 15-pointer as Bullet holds up and Smash’Er fells penalty box releasee Valkyrie. Ultimately though, Terrorizinya, Huni, Beanz and Nucky rack up the points to lengthen MK’s lead and take the differential over 200 on the final jam. The match ends 265-59 to the home team.

MKR6

We dropped by the after party venue earlier in the day, where we were excited to see signs everywhere advertising two Jägerbombs for a fiver, then slightly less excited to be told: “We don’t have any Jägermeister, we haven’t had any for weeks”. Less an offer, then, more of a taunt. This slightly odd venue, with huge windows proudly overlooking a roundabout, fills up after the event – although, as it’s a school night and two of today’s teams hail from over 100 miles away, few but the hometown side and a smattering of Big Bucks will stay for long. The home side give The Philosofear the Best Blocker award, with Bullet Bomber picking up Best Jammer and Smash’Er Fierce as MVP. Chunder Woman’s skate plate traumas merit a special Triumph Through Adversity certificate, and Toxic is given a Leader of the Pack title that she presumes is code for ‘Loudest Shouter’. The Eastbourne league vote Magic Beanz the best opposing jammer, Betty Knox best blocker and The Valkyrie MVP, with their special certificates going to Bolshevik (for Sportsmanship) and Big Bucks’ Miss Pain as Fairy Skate Mother. The High Rollers’ own Blocker, Jammer and MVP winners are Lolly Chunders, Agent Sparling and Toxic Tinkerbell, with NoTorious, Philthy Delphia and Teki Bomb picking up the respective awards for Norfolk.

Over on platform four of Bletchley station, our wait for one of the rare trains that stop here late of an evening feels somewhat longer due to all the fast ones racing through. This is of course the West Coast Main Line (the UK’s most important intercity route) and every couple of minutes a train rattles through in too much of a hurry to think about stopping here. To keep ourselves entertained we replace a few of the words in the tannoy announcement that precedes each of these platform-rattling passthroughs, drunkenly imagining it to be some kind of commentary on today’s matches: “Stand well back from the platform edge inside line at platform turn two, the approaching train jammer does not stop here.”

Two of today’s teams are back in action on Saturday 7th June when the mighty Bourne Bombshells host the next Heartland Series South East Division double header at the Dolphin in Haywards Heath. Milton Keynes will be taking on Bedfordshire Rollergirls, and the Bombshells face Hertfordshire’s Hell’s Belles. Doors are at 2pm and tickets are on sale now at £8 each for adults (free for under 12s) or six for £40. The Bombshells have a lot to work on in response to their opening match of the campaign, and with two months to do it in they’ll be coming out tougher and stronger than ever… be scared Hell’s Belles, be very scared. MK Cows, meanwhile, will be hunting the win over Beds that would see them take over top spot in the table from Big Bucks. With three of these four leagues still looking for their first win in the 2014 Heartland Series, and a load more matches to come between now and November’s play-off finals, there’s everything to play for and a thrilling afternoon of roller derby for Sussex to look forward to. Go buy all the tickets now, yeah.

[MK Cows v Bombshells photos by John Hesse. Big Bucks v Brawds photos by Pete Florey of MDP Images]

LINKS
JUNE 7TH TICKETS: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/heartlands-south-east-division-bout-day-3-tickets-11368648935
JUNE 7TH FB EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/536554199787495/
HEARTLAND SERIES: http://www.heartlandseries.co.uk/
BOURNE BOMBSHELLS: http://www.bournebombshells.co.uk/
MK ROLLER DERBY: http://www.miltonkeynesrollerderby.com/
BIG BUCKS HIGH ROLLERS: http://www.bigbuckshighrollers.co.uk/
NORFOLK BRAWDS: http://www.norfolkbrawds.com/
HELL’S BELLES ROLLER GIRLS: http://www.hertsrd.co.uk/
BEDFORDSHIRE ROLLERGIRLS: http://www.bedfordshirerollergirls.com/