RETURN OF THE CHAMPS: THIS SUNDAY IN SUSSEX!

British Championships Roller Derby returns to Haywards Heath after a two year gap this Sunday 11th March, hurrah! Eastbourne Roller Derby’s awesomes Bourne Bombshells are hosting the event and will be taking on Plymouth City Roller Derby, whilst the day also features a game between the Milton Keynes Concrete Cows and Bridgend Roller Derby. This is the first Game Day in Tier 4 South of the 2018 British Championships tournament. This division features a total of five teams (including Oxford Wheels of Gory who don’t play on Sunday) who will each play the other four across five Game Days between now and July. The top two teams in each division are promoted to Tier 3 for next year’s competition. It’s the biggest national roller derby tournament in the world, apparently!

Sunday’s action takes place at the Dolphin Leisure Centre in Haywards Heath with a fairly early start. Doors for spectators are at 11.30am with the first game Milton Keynes v Bridgend taking place from 12.30-2.00pm, followed by Eastbourne v Plymouth from 3.00-4.30pm. Adult tickets are £6 online in advance (see the link at the bottom of this piece) or £7 on the door, but under 18s and (’cause it’s Mother’s Day) mums get in for free with a ticket holder – awww! The venue is seven minutes walk West from Haywards Heath train station and there’s a big Sainsbury’s (open 10am-4pm on Sundays) on the way. Car users should point their SatNav at RH16 1LY. Set off a bit early if coming from Eastbourne/Hastings way, as there are a few train issues (ie replacement bus to Polegate) plus rolling road closures along the A27 due to the transportation of a 300 foot electricity pylon. Yes really!

PREDICTIONS

[*SPOILER ALERT: SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW HOW THE FLATTRACKSTATS COMPUTER EXPECTS THE GAMES TO GO*] With at least one team not UKRDA ranked, we’re going to use the European rankings for both matches here. Bridgend place 200th on 492.6 rankings points, whilst Milton Keynes are 254th on 471.6. The online prediction machine gives the Welsh side 66% chance of victory here, with a predicted differential of 37:30 mathsing out as something like a 185-150 Bridgend win. In the day’s second game, Plymouth place 174th (508.7) whilst hosts Eastbourne are 193rd (495.3), with a predicted differential of 8:7 suggesting something like a 200-175 victory for Plymouth. As far as the Euro rankings and FTS are concerned, both games are being called as pretty darned close – at least in roller derby terms!

TEAM TALK
We round off with some thoughts from all four teams taking part on Sunday…

“We’re looking forward to playing against Eastbourne, who are an unknown quantity and therefore a new and exciting challenge! This year PCRD arrive with an updated compilation of skaters consisting of hardened veterans – including founder and Roller Derby City owner Slams – alongside fresh talent in both blockers and jammers, all bench coached by Team Ireland men’s jammer Abnorman! As for what PCRD’s tactics will be for this year’s round of Champs matches… well, oh… is that the time? See you on Sunday!”
HOT TOPIC – PLYMOUTH CITY ROLLER DERBY CAPTAIN

EASTBOURNE ROLLER DERBY: BULLET BOMBER

The Bombshells took part in the first year of British Champs (2015) then withdrew for two years. What has brought you back to the competition in 2018?
We decided to rejoin because as a team we felt like we would like a new challenge this year. We will be playing several teams we have never played before, and we’re all really looking forward to these games.

Any particular Bombshells players or tactics the crowd should look out for on Sunday?

We don’t like to reveal any of our tactics before a game. The main thing we all aim to do is give 100%, work together as a team and enjoy the game. Our squad has a few seasoned players who played in 2015 Champs and its predecessor Heartlands, so you’ll likely recognise the names of the ones to watch. Amazing Graze continues to wow crowds with her strong and consistent jamming, and will also probably be wowing the crowds with her trademark smiley face shorts. The blockers to watch will be Smash’er Fierce and Crash who have been with the Bombshells from the very beginning. Both have their own style of blocking which I’m sure Plymouth City will remember afterwards! For supporters who know the Bombshells well, you’ll be surprised to see Hell Block H and Drag-N-Fly not skating, but don’t worry they are still part of the team. Hell is our bench coach any Fly will be line-up managing.

What do you know of your opponents Plymouth City? Care to predict the result/score?
We don’t know much about the Plymouth skaters, but we do know they are a strong and well established team. I wouldn’t like to predict the result as you never know how a game may go.

The day’s other game sees Milton Keynes take on Bridgend. Any thoughts re that game?
It will be great to watch. We’ve played Milton Keynes a few times over the years, and it will be good to see them play and catch up with some of the players we know from our previous games. We haven’t seen Bridgend play before. We’ll be instead to see how both teams play and what strategy and tactics they use.

Finally, what should people expect from the event venue-wise?
We will be selling cakes and team merch in the hall, and there’s also a cafe and vending machines at the venue for any other refreshments people need.

MILTON KEYNES ROLLER DERBY: TEAM REPLY

For anyone reading who might not know of MKRD what can you tell us about your league’s history and achievements?
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, which saw MKRD retain a solid place in Tier 3 until 2017.

Any particular Concrete Cows players or tactics the crowd should look out for on Sunday?

Concrete Cows are known for being solid and hard hitting. Look out for Bolshevik and Poled As Ice, both of whom pack a mighty punch. Not literally – we know that’s illegal!

What do you know of your opponents Bridgend Roller Derby?
It looks like they’ve taken some time away to rebuild their team, which we’ve also had to do. They seem to have played some good games last year as well. Hopefully it will be a good match between us, though obviously we’d like to start Champs off with a win!

Any thoughts on the other Tier 4 South teams: Eastbourne’s Bombshells, Plymouth City and Oxford Wheels of Gory?
We played Eastbourne in a friendly last year as a Champs warm-up. Unfortunately we lost, but hopefully we’ll make up for that this year! We’ve not done our homework on Plymouth yet, but they will be formidable opponents. We know Wheels of Gory as they’re gepgraphically close to us, but we haven’t had chance to play them so that will be fun.

Finally, any message for MKRD fans in Sunday’s crowd?
MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!



BRIDGEND ROLLER DERBY: TEAM REPLY

Can you tell us a little about Bridgend Roller Derby’s history and achievements?
Bridgend Roller Derby (also known as BRD) was founded in 2014 and consists of our main competing team, plus the recently formed Bridgend Men’s Roller Derby who made their debut at the end of 2017. We decided our team goal last year was to focus on developing as a unit, so we opted not to compete in Champs and focus on improving our teamwork and going up the European rankings. We had a phenomenal year, entering our first game at the beginning of the year at 330th and ending on the massive high of 148th. This reflected the development of our team and highlights all the work that we put in. We have had a wobbly start to 2018 with a number of injuries and illnesses which has meant we have needed to adapt to some changes, but with our team goal this year to win Champs, we have pulled together and trained hard, and now feel we are in a good position to compete to win.

Any particular Bridgend players the crowd should look out for on Sunday?
Jonesing For Destruction, affectionately known as Penjen. She’s a fantastic, tenacious jammer and one of our unsung heroes. She doggedly racks up points for us and never gives up. This is the last game she will be playing as part of BRD as she is moving back home to Canada. We are all going to miss her terribly as she has played a big part in our team. She is level headed, very chilled, incredibly determined and she really loves cats.

What do you know of your opponents Milton Keynes Concrete Cows? Care to predict the result?
We don’t tend to spend a lot of time looking at the opposition. We have our own game which we adapt as we need to to be at our most effective. MKRD are quite far from us geographically so we have never had the opportunity to play them before. Flattrackstats predicts a close win for us, but we shall see what happens.

Any thoughts re the other three teams in this division?
We want to win Champs, so our only thoughts are on our own game and our training, and developing our players throughout the coming season to ensure we are competitive.

Finally, any message for any Bridgend fans in Sunday’s crowd?
Thank you Dan for all your support!

[Photos by John Hesse]

LINKS
TICKETS: https://www.tickettailor.com/events/eastbournerollerderby1/146719
FB EVENT PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/events/157334044899955/
BRITISH CHAMPS: https://www.britishchamps.com/
EASTBOURNE RD: https://www.facebook.com/EBRollerDerby/
PLYMOUTH RD: https://www.plymouthcityrollerderby.co.uk/
MILTON KEYNES RD: https://www.miltonkeynesrollerderby.com/
BRIDGEND RD: https://www.facebook.com/BridgendRollerDerby/

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There Are No Sussex Teams In British Champs 2016. But Here’s A Preview Anyway… :)

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As 2015 draws to a close, roller derby directors and committees across the UK are looking over lists of fixtures and checking their calendars. British Championships has sent out next year’s schedule to the (now) 68 women’s and twenty men’s leagues taking part in the 2016 tournament. These fixtures likely won’t be released to us unwashed public for a week or two, not until all the competing leagues have signed off on them. There’s a very big clue as to what to expect from next year’s tournie, though. This comes in the form of a Google map that Champs have made public; one which shows every side taking part and what division they’re going to be in. The BBCD combined this 2016 map with printouts of the 2015 Champs tables and a couple of bottles of wine, and came up with this preview of all 16 divisions in next year’s tournament…

To say there are a lot of changes is something of an understatement. The situation is still quite fluid, in fact. As we were putting this piece together news filtered through that the mighty Bourne Bombshells, although featured on the original map sent out, have now withdrawn from the competition. Geographical factors were quoted as the reason. All four of the leagues Eastbourne were due to face were different to their 2015 Champs opponents. Whilst this year for the Bombshells was dominated by trips to the South Midlands and East Anglia, next year was to have featured opposition from Wales and the South West, and the league decided there was too much travelling involved, especially for a team that includes many with young families.

Sussex neighbours the Brighton Rockers have also withdrawn from the tournament for 2016, something they announced just before their final Champs game in August. The absence of both Sussex leagues will affect the make-up of the Southern groupings throughout the pyramid. So who else has withdrawn from the tournament? As far as we can tell, another nine teams (so eleven including Brighton and Eastbourne) from 2015’s roster of 72 women’s leagues have walked away. Whilst this is roughly what we had been expecting numbers-wise, it’s somewhat surprising to see that most of the departures have come from the higher echelons of the tournament.

The Rockers mentioned wanting to concentrate on their WFTDA Apprenticeship as one of their reasons for leaving Champs, and it appears that big name teams with strong WFTDA ambitions have prioritised similarly. Meanwhile, the high retention rate at the lowest levels suggests it’s perhaps the ‘smaller’ teams that are getting most of out of British Champs. Having a structured fixture list to follow and building friendly rivalries with other teams from their region looks to be a great step in the development of such leagues. This perhaps shouldn’t come as a surprise, since it’s largely the Tiers 3 and 4 sides of Middle England from which (via End Of The World and Heartlands) Champs has evolved. In percentile terms, we have departure rates of 16.7% (2/12) in Tier 2, 4.2% (1/24) in Tier 3 and 10% in Tier 4 (3/30).

So which leagues have withdrawn from the tournament? [NB All of this piece is based on our reading of the map issued by Champs – if we’ve got anything wrong, let us know and we’ll change it asap. This article will be rewritten as and when we are informed of any errors or any further withdrawals.] As well as the Bombshells, Tier 4 sees the disappearance of Full Metal Roller Derby from Stevenage. This side was in Eastbourne’s division this year and hadn’t even bouted in public prior to their Champs campaign. It’s fair to say the young side had a fairly torrid season with the worst differential in the entire tournament (an average of -455 points per game). Also leaving from T4 are Central Scotland’s Voodoo Roller Dollies, who finished fourth in their division with one win and three losses. The only departure from Tier 3 is the Hereford Roller Girls, who finished mid-table in this year’s T3 West. We’ve already mentioned the withdrawal of the Brighton Rockers. Although they took part in T2 South this season, their relegation means it’s in Tier 3 that their space will need to be filled. The other Tier 2 departure comes as something of a shock, being that of Nottingham’s Hellfire Harlots. Hellfire actually won promotion to Tier 1 in the playoffs, so their withdrawal from next year’s Champs seems somewhat surprising.

Not half as surprising as what’s happened to Tier 1 itself, mind you! Of the six teams that took part in the top division this season, no fewer than FIVE have withdrawn from Champs. That’s an 83% (5/6) departure rate! The tournament is saying goodbye to Cardiff’s Tiger Bay Brawlers, Edinburgh’s Auld Reekie, Greater Manchester’s Rainy City, Central City from Birmingham, plus the Middlesbrough Milk Rollers. The only team from this year’s Tier 1 that remains is Glasgow Roller Derby, who actually won the inaugural tournament. We’ll assume that’s not the reason all five of the teams they played on the way to the title have quit! Whilst eleven women’s teams have left Champs, six more teams have signed up to take part, so overall there’s minimal change to the size of the women’s tournament, which is down five to 67 participants. The men’s tournament, meanwhile, is expanding from fourteen teams to twenty, so Champs in general will contain more teams than ever (well, one more) next year. So what are 2016’s hugely changed divisions going to look like? Let’s find out…

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Whilst the Tier 1 format was structured so as not to impinge too much on participants’ other tournament commitments (taking place over three summer weekends rather than seven game days across the year) only Glasgow remain from the 2015 roster. Newcastle Roller Girls are also in Tier 1 on merit, having won promotion in the T2 playoffs. That leaves four places to be ‘artificially’ filled. It looks as if Champs has chosen to promote the highest placed side remaining in each T2 division, so Southern champions Royal Windsor join T1 despite losing in playoffs. Leeds Roller Dolls, who finished third in T2 North, join them in the top flight. This arrangement could be viewed as incredibly unfair on Southern runners-up LRR, but we’re sure the reasons have been explained to all parties, and Leeds certainly place much higher in the rankings. As for the other teams making up the division, both [now one] are new to Champs in 2016…

As hinted at in an interview the Champs media director gave the Brighton Rockers fanzine earlier this year, the tournament has twisted its rules to allow a B-team to take part. This is the one specific second team they wanted in the tournie from the start; the Brawl Saints of all conquering London Rollergirls. For many years they placed second to only their own A-string in the European rankings, so the Brawl Saints will be amongst the favourites for the 2016 Champs title. Will their inclusion set a precedent that might see the B-teams of other big names (such as some of those 2015 Tier 1 sides who have quit) take part in future years? Maybe so. The other new addition would have been Dublin Roller Derby, who would have been very competitive at this level, but they have now chosen not to be involved and to focus on expanding derby in Ireland instead. There may well have been governance issues (UKRDA v IRDA) too, but Dublin are one of our favourite leagues and we are very happy to doff our caps to them in general.

There was actually a huge bit here about how their involvement might have been the early stirrings of a Europe-wide Champs here, something similar to football’s Champions League, but since Dublin aren’t actually taking part now it’s all gone to Planet Deleted. Back to the big question though: Who’s going to win Champs in 2016? On the face of it, Glasgow must be the bookies favourites to make it two titles on the trot. They place 4th in the current European rankings, with only Brawl Saints (8th) alongside them in the Top Ten. The Londoners do have the resources of one of the biggest roller derby leagues in the world behind them, of course, so can’t be written off by any means. We’re expecting this to be a pretty close two horse race. Newcastle rank 13th and should slot into third at the season’s end. With virtually nothing separating Leeds (22nd) and Windsor (23rd) in the rankings, we wouldn’t want to predict anything for the bottom half of the Tier 1 table. There’s also the question of whether it will be a five team or six team division now. There’s certainly a strong case for LRR (see below) taking the place that had been set aside for Dublin here.

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The second level features just four of the twelve teams that took part in this year’s Tier 2. With two extra teams promoted and the relegated Tier 1 sides withdrawing from the tournament, Champs were faced with eight empty slots here rather than four. That’s quite handy in maths terms as it means all eight of the teams from Tier 3 playoffs (rather than just the victorious four) get to step up a level. Whilst that does render the whole playoffs process pointless in retrospect, it certainly seems a better option than the alternative of sparing relegated sides. Better to reward success than ameliorate failure, yeah? So with the top two from each Tier 3 compass point (the North, South, East and West divisions) funnelled into the second tier, where is the North/South line on the Tier 2 map drawn?

There’s a lot of familiarity to T2 South, with three of this year’s sides – Bristol, Portsmouth and LRR – returning. These are joined by Croydon, SWAT (from Devon & Somerset) and Wycombe’s Big Bucks. The UKRDA rankings suggest this could be an insanely close division, with barely a slither separating all four of Bristol (15th), LRR (16th), Portsmouth (17th) and Croydon (18th) in the rankings. LRR fared best of the returning trio in the 2015 campaign, but Bristol grew increasingly confident as the season progressed. Keep a close eye on Croydon too – the South Londoners have been rocketing up the rankings since joining the UKRDA earlier this year. SWAT (22nd) and Big Bucks (23rd) aren’t too far behind in the rankings themselves, but we think it could prove difficult for either to escape the relegation slots.

There’s a world of change in T2 North, with only Leeds league Hot Wheel remaining from the 2015 line-up. The Yorkshire posse place 13th in UKRDA, which only looks good enough for another mid-table finish in a very tough division. The North looks like being much the stronger half of the second tier once again. Birmingham Blitz Dames (6th) and Belfast Roller Derby (10th) head up the new arrivals. Birmingham won the entire T3 playoff process last year and have the benefit of the de facto home of UK derby (Birmingham’s spacious Futsal) as their venue. It should be remembered that the Blitz Dames only finished second in their T3 division last year though, so nothing should be taken for granted. Liverpool (19th), Cambridge (21st) and Cumbria’s Furness Firecrackers (24th) are a closely matched trio, albeit one likely to be battling it out in the lower part of the table if the rankings are to be believed.

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The upcycling of the four playoff losers leaves Tier 3 short of teams, but in a repeat of the T2 solution all twelve of the Tier 4 playoff teams (rather than the originally planned eight) are promoted. That still leaves two gaps in T3 due to the withdrawal of Hereford Roller Girls plus the Brighton Rockers – the latter’s relegation would have placed them in this tier for 2016. One of these places goes to Champs newcomers Roller Derby Leicester, whilst one of the eight relegated sides is spared the demotion to Tier 4. Conspiracy theorists might note that the team gifted survival (Milton Keynes RD) is the one that many of the organisers of Champs come from, but they did have by far the best season’s record (a minus points differential in the dozens rather than hundreds) of all T3’s relegation spot teams.

Some geographic redistribution (Kent sent South and Oxford West) means the aforementioned MKRD are the only team remaining from last year in T3 East, with three promoted sides (Norfolk Brawds, Hertforshire’s Hell’s Belles and Essex based Killa Hurtz) joining newcomers Leicester and the relegated Seaside Sirens of Southend in the Eastern quarter of the tier. At this level of the pyramid not every league taking part is a member of the UKRDA, so we’ll have to switch to the European table to compare rankings. Norfolk (68th), Leicester (71st), Milton Keynes (77th) and the Sirens (82th) place fairly close together and are likely to be fighting it out at the top, with Killa Hurtz (96th) and Hell’s Belles (135th) ranked a notch or so lower. With just 67 places separating the six teams, this is likely to be a tighter race than the other Tier 3 groupings.

The Northern division features two sides from 2015’s Tier 2 in Manchester Roller Derby (58th) and Hull’s Angels (99th). With Sheffield Steel having been moved across to the Western division – a geographically strange move, but perhaps designed so they aren’t paired up with city/venue sharers Hallam – only Dundee Roller Girls remain from the previous North grouping. The Taysiders rank 91st in Europe, a notch above Falkirk’s Fierce Valley (124th). Preston (149th) and Hallam (154th) look closely matched at the lower end of the range. At the other end Manchester, who beat Hull by 74 points on the last day in Tier 2, look early favourites for the title.

Over in the T3 West are three teams that played at this level in 2015. Such is the compass point reshuffling that these took part in three different divisions, with only Swansea City returning to same regional grouping. Oxford have ported over from the East, while Sheffield Steel come from the North. There’s a very noticeable rankings spread here, with Swansea 40th, Oxford 61st and Sheffield 103rd. The last of these may be destined for a bottom half battle with two of the promoted sides, Wolverhampton Honour Rollers (85th) and North Wales (141st). The team to watch here is the Wirral Whipeteres, who rank an astonishing 24th in Europe at present. That’s above all but one of the Tier 2 sides, which is quite a position for a team that played in the fourth tier this year. Indeed, the Wirral side are only 0.1 ranking points behind Tier 1’s Windsor! The UKRDA table tells a somewhat different story, though, with Swansea ranked well above the Merseysiders (and most of Tier 2), so the final outcome here could indicate which rankings system we should be putting more faith in.

Finally, the South division is the only T3 group with two returning members. The shape of Britain means that these, Cornwall (73rd) and Plymouth City (91st), know each other well. Also from the Western side of the country are the promoted Bath Roller Girls (111th) and Devon’s Grin N Barum (205th). Surrey Rollergirls (170th) and T3 East transfer Kent (69th) are the South East’s representatives in this very West-titled division. The rankings suggest a coast to coast battle between the sides skating out of Herne Bay (Kent) and Penzance (Cornwall) for the title here.

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If the geographical tweaking in Tier 3 was confusing, that in Tier 4 is even more widespread. Much of the reason for this is that the fourth tier is shrinking from six divisions to four. This makes a lot more sense as they now match up in name with T3’s compass points – we were awfully confused by 2015’s T4 North and T4 Central North, for example – and promotion/relegation becomes less of a juggling act. There’s no point us saying who has stayed in the same division as 2015 here, since the axing of two groups means it’s all change all round. We can say that three teams have withdrawn (Voodoo Roller Dollies, Eastbourne and Full Metal), two new teams have joined at this level (Durham and Rebellion) and four teams have been sent down to the brand new Tier 5.

Had they not withdrawn late on, the Bombshells would have been taking part in T4 South, where their shortest journey would have been to that other ‘Bourne’. Bournemouth’s Dorset Rollergirls (123rd) are likely to be battling it out with Gloucester’s Severn Roller Torrent (113th) for the title, with the lower half of the table likely to be a tussle between the Welsh duo of Bridgend (232nd) and Newport’s Riot City Ravens (184th). With only four teams remaining, the fixtures for this division will take a little tweaking. Curiously the T4 Northern division contains six teams, whilst the East and West each contain five. All the T4 groups had five teams in 2015, and we wonder whether Champs might be tempted to try and shuffle the packs to balance it out. If so, this would likely involve a team from the West joining the South division (which is actually more West than the West!) and a North side replacing them. It’s possibly too late in the day for that, now.

The Bombshells’ only 2015 opponent remaining in the fourth tier is Suffolk Roller Derby, who have been placed in T4 East for 2016. The Ipswich league rank 273rd in Europe, making them – like the Bombshells prior to their withdrawal – easily the lowest ranked side in their division. The incorporating of seven relegated sides amongst T4’s 21 seems to have strengthened this tier throughout. The favourites here are the Lincolnshire Bombers (159th). This grouping is very closely located not just geographically, but also in ranking terms, and we can expect some pretty close games amongst the trio of Peterborough’s Borderland Brawlers (206th), Northampton’s Vendetta Vixens (208th) and Champs debutants Rebellion from Bedford (213th).

Whilst the East has a lot of closely matched teams, the rankings spread in the T4 West is huge. This grouping features three teams that finished fourth (with one win and three losses) in their respective Tier 4 division this year. These are Mansfield Roller Derby (249th in Europe), Evolution Rollergirls from Shrewsbury (316th) and Coventry City (363rd). The favourites here will be Nottingham Roller Girls (102nd) and Leicester’s Dolly Rockits (156th). These two sides know each other well, having been relegated from the T3 West together. Nottingham won the Tier 3 encounter by a squeaky close single point (162-161 on the final day) so it would be brave person to predict the table topper here!

Finally the six team T4 North. Again, the sides that have come down from Tier 3 are the highest ranked here, being Aberdeen’s Granite City (105th) and Halifax Bruising Banditas (165th). Both Harrogate’s Spa Town (172nd) and the Blackpool Roller Coasters (180th) did well at this level in 2015 and look like giving the Banditas a run for their money. Champs newcomers Durham place 224th in Europe and might find the division a bit of challenge. This is certainly true of Livingston’s New Town Roller Girls (379th), whose -1507 differential from their four Champs games in 2015 was the tournament’s biggest deficit after that of Full Metal (who aren’t taking part in 2016).

The newly formed Tier 5 consists of a single division of six teams. It might seem strange to not divide the lowest level by regions – increasing the travel times and costs of the competition’s newest/smallest leagues – but most are located across a broad swathe of Wales and Middle England. Or Middle Earth even, since ‘The Shires’ are well represented in Cheshire Hellcats (ranked 310th in Europe), Wiltshire (342nd), Bedfordshire (376th) and indeed West Yorkshire’s Wakey Wheeled Cats (265th). Neath Port Talbot (266th) and Swansea’s Reaper Roller Derby (unranked) provide the Welsh element. Of these six sides, Cheshire and Reaper are new to Champs. If the rankings are to be believed, this division could be a two-way tussle between the Wakefield and Neath sides. Since we have based our preview on nothing more than a map, we’re not entirely sure how promotion and relegation between Tiers 4 and 5 will work, so keep an eye on the British Champs website and Facebook for news of that and the official release of the fixtures.

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It’s not all about the women in Champs, and (in keeping with the rapid expansion of men’s roller derby in the UK) the male element of Champs has grown by nearly 50% for 2016. Instead of fourteen teams taking part there are twenty. But is the battle at the top of Tier 1 going to be as close as this year? Southern Discomfort won the title with +1 points differential over South Wales Silures, beating them by exactly enough on the final day to nick the title. In fact three teams tied on six points this year, with third place Tyne And Fear the only team to beat SoDisco. The Londoners currently place 7th in the world in men’s derby, with the Geordies 9th and the Welsh 10th. Add the fourth returning T1 team Lincolnshire Rolling Thunder (13th) to the mix and you can see how closely matched these teams are. Of the two sides promoted from Tier 2 to make this a six team division, Manchester’s New Wheeled Order place 16th and Cumbrian side Barrow Infernos are 23rd. By our maths that’s 25% of the Top 24 sides in the MRDA (ie global men’s derby) right here in this little division. Strewth!

The second tier remains at six teams, with Sheffield’s The Inhuman League (34th in the MRDA) the highest ranked team here. Of the other teams spending a second year in Tier 2, only Milton Keynes based The Quads Of War (38th) have an MRDA ranking, although the Crash Test Brummies joined the organisation this year and should be ranked soon. The Super Smash Brollers (Nottingham) is the other T2 returnee, and this quartet are joined by the promoted Kings Of Block And Roll (Devon & Somerset) and Wirral Pack Animals. The Sheffield and Birmingham sides are probably the ones with the biggest title aspirations here; TIL won the two sides’ 2015 Champs game by 54 points.

The biggest expansion is at the bottom of the men’s pyramid. This year’s Tier 3 consisted of a single four league division, whereas 2016 features two of that size. In the T3 North, only Aire Force 1 from Leeds took part in the 2015 tournament. They’re joined by the Sons of Icarus (North Wales), Skateful Dead (Halifax) and Teeside Skate Invaders. The Southern division features the Bristol Vice Quad alongside three debutants; Suffolk Roller Derby, Nottingham Outlaws and Hereward Hitmen. The last of these are something of a mystery to us. We couldn’t find any information about them online and the Champs tournament map shows them as being based in a field in the East Midlands miles from civilisation. They sound pretty feral, huh? Logic suggests the two T3 teams with experience of this year’s Champs should be favourites in these divisions, but with so many unknown quantities involved, we wouldn’t want to predict anything here. In summary, we hope this (typically overlong) piece has been of interest to someone somewhere. Do keep any eye on British Champs’ own website and Facebook for the release of the 2016 fixtures. Cheers muchly.

LINKS

http://www.britishchamps.com/
https://www.facebook.com/BritishRollerDerbyChamps/

British Champs T4 South East Day Four preview

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This weekend (Saturday 15th August) sees British Championships Roller Derby action in Haywards Heath, as Eastbourne Roller Derby’s Bourne Bombshells host two games in Tier 4 South East, together with a ‘bonus’ men’s game. We’ll be hearing from the Bombshells and their three Champs guests (Suffolk, Norfolk and Herts’ Full Metal) in a moment, but first here’s a quick summary of the Tier 4 South East season to date…

GAME DAY ONE: 9TH MAY @ STEVENAGE
Our story begins, like most stories do, in Stevenage one May afternoon. With pre-season favourites the Norfolk Brawds sitting out this first game day, it’s a chance for the other four sides to show us what they’re made of. One thing the day demonstrates is the disparity that exists even between teams in the same division. It’s interesting to ponder exactly how many Tiers the British Champs would need to ensure all the teams in each were of a fairly similar level. Ten? Fifteen? Certainly more than four, as the hosting Full Metal Roller derby’s 15-396 loss to Suffolk attests. The Herts Breakers put in a spirited performance, but the Suffolk packs prove too sturdy and the visiting jammers, such as Maltese Mayhem and Indi-Hannah Jones, too difficult to contain. With Suffolk the lowest ranked of the four teams Full Metal share a division with, this looks like being a tough season for the Stevenage side.
    Things get off to a bruising start for the Bombshells too. The predictor at Flattrackstats expects opponents Killa Hurtz to pick up seven points here for every four points the ‘shells get. In fact, Killa Hurtz pick up more than seven points for every *one* that Eastbourne manage. Ouch! We had suspected that the Essex side were ranked far lower than they should be; although new to bouting, they have several in their ranks who recently transferred from Southend’s well established Seaside Sirens, and surely have an eye on climbing the Champs pyramid. Bombshells breakout star Amazing Graze fares best out of the Sussex jammers, but a super tough Killas defence – including the likes of The Beckoning and legendary announcer Mother Mercy – keeps the Eastbourne side to a few points here and there. Essex starheads such as Snarley Quinn and Bonty Python outwit the best efforts of The PhilosoFear and co in the purple packs, and the Killa Hurtz run out runaway winners. The Bombshells keep them to below a 300 differential (just) at 43-342.

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GAME DAY TWO: 6TH JUNE @ NORWICH
Whilst Stevenage wins our praise for best located derby venue (being literally across the road from the station), the University of East Anglia sports hall, although a bus ride from civilisation (well, Norwich), wins it for pretty much everything else. The Norfolk Brawds’ home features probably the largest vendor village we’ve seen at derby. A good sixteen stalls here and room for sixteen more. Hundreds of fans on the bleachers with room for hundreds more. A separate bar/café room with seating, burgers (inc veggie) and three quid pints on stillage of the Brawds’ own golden ale. If that’s not enough, at what other derby venue can you visit an art gallery in the interval between games? The Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts is a five minute yomp across campus. The BBCD’s Chief Art Critic reports: “There’s a nice curly blue thing, a big oil painting of London Bridge station by someone who has clearly never been there, the world’s tiniest Picasso sketch (8cm x 8cm) and some caveman type stuff. Outside are a few Henry Moore sculptures and an installation presumably called ‘six stoned students sitting in an empty paddling pool’. Thinking about it, the latter might be part of the neighbouring accommodation block rather than the gallery.”
    The day’s first game sees the two teams panned in Stevenage face off against each other. The result of this one is further proof of our ‘few close games in Champs’ adage. Indeed, it takes until the sixth jam for Full Metal to put their first points on the board, with the Bombshells 47-4 up. The amount of jammer penalties the Herts side are picking up isn’t helping, with one of their starheads accruing three in a single outing. Amazing Graze picks up 27 points in a jam, and she and Crash in particular are twisting the vice on Full Metal. A power jam sees Nitrous Bloxide pick up thirteen, but that’s as good as things get for FMRD, with a confused end to the period (with Herts lining up on track while the previous jam is still underway!) and a half time score of 161-28 to Eastbourne.
    As the second period gets underway, some great blocking from the ‘shells (here rocking a shiny new white kit) prevents Trixie Blitz from taking advantage of a PJ. Some great offence from defence from Crash, clearing a path for Graze, next as Eastbourne increase their lead. Full Metal are much less penalty heavy at present and start eking out points hither and thither. Double threat Hale Storm is proving a strong blocker for the Herts side, pegging Graze back well before taking a turn in the star herself. This leads to a little more confusion as she successfully calls off a jam she isn’t lead in. Personally we’d send the refs to the box in such a case, but as per the rules it’s Storm that’s penalised. The final whistle blows with the scores at 362-48. As the Bombshells congratulate the Breakers on surviving another tough Champs game, and local meatheads in the audience shout “hurry up” as they’re impatient for the next game, the announcer says that a member of Norfolk men’s team the East Anglo Smacksons is about to be waxed. There’s no mention of exactly how much of him is being waxed, but we play it safe by heading off to look at some art instead…

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The day’s second game sees the hosting Norfolk Brawds up against Killa Hurtz. Early indications are this could be the game that decides who will top the final divisional table, and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s clear from early on that this is going to be a fairly low scoring game. Both teams’ packs are super fierce, with the likes of Mother Mercy and Melef!cent throwing big hits for Killas, whilst Short Circuit, Political Vagenda and others do likewise for Norfolk. Things start out resolutely even, with both sides gaining lead status four times in the first ten jams of the game, but the visitors have a very strong final third of the period and take an 89-49 lead into the break. They increase that gap early in the second half (54-107 at the widest point) before a resurgence sees the Brawds begin to chip away at the lead. Killa Hurtz calling a team timeout.
    The Essex side are only 121-105 ahead now and Norfolk have the momentum with 7’49” left on the clock. Philthy Delphia claws it back to 114-126 as the crowd go wild. Khilleesi four and call. Star pass to Cruel Runnings, who looks at the scoreboard as she passes. There’s been a lead change! 135-130 to the Brawds. Crowd going wilder. Failed star pass from Zippy to Runnings. Snarley Quinn ties the game at 135 apiece, but is sent off as she tries to call. This final jam runs the full two minutes. The refs confer. The crowd wait for the scoreboard to update. 144-138. Norfolk win the game (and quite possibly, come October, the division) but heck it’s been a close one. We order multiple pints of Bonny’s Gold to calm our nerves. Yeah, most Champs game are foregone conclusions, but when they’re close… damn they’re close!

GAME DAY THREE: 11TH JULY @ IPSWICH
It’s business as usual on Day Three. Full Metal suffer their biggest pounding to date at the wheels of Killa Hurtz, with the Essex side rolling out 613-30 victors. Meanwhile the hosts Suffolk go down 63-243 to their Norfolk neighbours. The Bombshells sit out this day, which is just as well since they’re all super-busy preparing for the following weekend’s Eastbourne Extreme tournament. Killa Hurtz currently sit on top of the table, but have played one game more than Norfolk who will go four points clear if they beat Full Metal (fairly likely, we’d say) on Day Four. Meanwhile, the Bombshells will go third if they beat Suffolk. So when is Day Four then? It’s only TOMORROW!

GAME DAY FOUR: 15TH AUGUST @ HAYWARDS HEATH
Yep, the British Champs Tier 4 South East kicks back into action tomorrow (15th August) at the Dolphin Leisure Centre in Haywards Heath. Doors are at midday, with the first game at 1pm. Tickets are £7 on the door. The venue is six minutes walk from Haywards Heath train station (turn left and follow the signs stuck to lampposts) which is around 45 minutes from London Victoria, with several trains an hour. There’s parking at the leisure centre and a large Sainsbury’s halfway between the station and the venue for any last minute supplies. The venue has vending machines in the foyer, as well as a café bar doing sarnies, salads, hot and cold drinks. Booze-wise, if they’ve remembered to stock up, there should be bottles of Magners, Peroni, London Pride, vinegary wine and maybe more. No formal after party has been announced, but the nearest pub is opposite the train station (the Burrell Arms). It’s an odd mix of rustic decor, football fans and flustered looking staff, but is friendly enough and has a large garden out back. Beware of the tables out front. They’re a haven for wasps – one nicked our pint here last weekend!

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GAME DAY FOUR: STATS AND PREDICTIONS

1PM: NORFOLK BRAWDS VS FULL METAL ROLLER DERBY
Anyone thinking the divisional system (teams places in Tiers according to rankings) used in British Champs might have resulted in a lot of close games has surely been disavowed of that notion by now. At every level the national tournament has seen only a handful of nail-biters and far more 200+ victory margins. Such is the nature of this sport that a team just a couple of ranking places above another is often 100 points stronger when it comes to a game. So things aren’t looking good here for Full Metal. With one team sitting out each game day of this five team division, this is Full Metal’s fourth and final game of the Champs season, and perhaps couldn’t come soon enough for them. The Stevenage side rank 365th in Europe (caveat: there are 365 teams in the table) with 348.7 rankings points. Norfolk place 101st on 539.9 points. Whilst that gap doesn’t look huge in terms of ranking points, the online predictor gives Norfolk (whether home, away or neutral) “more than 99%” chance of the win here, a figure we’ve never previously seen from the predictor. Norfolk are expected to score seven points for each one Full Metal get. This would equate to something like a 518-74 final score. The Brawds have three of the division’s Top Ten scoring jammers (Philthy Delphia 7th on 118, Khilleesi 9th on 86, Zippy 10th on 85). Full Metal’s top scorers are Revengineer (25th, 20) and Cleo Catch Ya (26th, 19).

3PM: BOURNE BOMBSHELLS V SUFFOLK ROLLER DERBY
Having said that there are very few close games in Champs, this could well be one to savour if it proves as evenly matched as the computers at Flattrackstats expect. Both sides are on one win and one loss in Champs so far, so the winner here will take third place in the table going into the final round of games on Oct 17th in Chelmsford. The Bombshells currently place 249th in Europe (470.7 points) with Suffolk 271st on 462.9. That’s pretty close on rankings points, and the predictor gives the Eastbourne side 67% chance of the win when the Bombshells are at home. If predicted as a neutral venue (the ‘shells have skated at the Dolphin before, but not often) that drops to 60%. Predicted score differential is 41:34 for the Bombshells (37:34 if neutral) which equates to something like a 205-170 Eastbourne win. Both sides are well represented in the performance tables. Suffolk’s highest scoring jammers are Miss Behave (5th with 128 points) and Maltese Mayhem (6th, 121). For Eastbourne, Amazing Graze (8th, 116) and Bullet Bomber (11th, 77) are the ones to watch. In terms of blockers, based on points scored by their own jammer when they were in the pack, Suffolk’s Driving Destructor places 7th and Absinthe Minded 10th in the division, with Eastbourne’s Smash’er Fierce (8th) and The PhilosoFear (9th) sandwiched inbetween.

5PM: BOMB S’QUAD V SUFFOLK RD (MEN’S, NON-CHAMPS)

With both the Eastbourne and Suffolk leagues including a men’s team in their set-up, the decision to add a bonus ‘third game’ to the day’s proceedings makes a lot of sense. Both of these teams are fairly new and both are unranked. This means no statistics or predictions are available, so we’ll have to make some up. Bomb S’Quad have 2.5pi squared chance of a 4-4-2 compared to Suffolk’s 73% swing vote in the lane two marginals. Tenacious P (8th in Geography) and Evil Quad-nevil (0b11110110101) are the ones to watch. If this game was a colour it would be viridian.

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THE PHILOSOFEAR – BOURNE BOMBSHELLS

Hi there. Your British Champs season so far has seen a huge loss and a huge win. Are these the results you were expecting?
We were expecting a very tough game against Killa Hurtz. They are a great team and I would expect them to move up to Tier 3 next year. I don’t think we expected quite that big a loss though. Their offence was especially good, and it made it really hard for us to keep our walls together. After that game, we really needed the win against Full Metal. It was great to see so many of our jammers and blockers on the Top Ten tables after that game.

After two games with huge points gaps, the game on the 15th looks like being a lot closer. Eastbourne and Suffolk look quite closely matched. What do you know of the SRD team?

A couple of months ago, the Flattrackstats score predictor was giving this is a 50/50 chance of each team winning this game. Now the predictor gives the Bombshells the edge, but only just. The players I’ll be watching out for are Suffolk Punch, Malicious Wishes and Yvonna Bone. Suffolk Punch is a great blocker and jammer, plus she has great track awareness and knowledge of the game. Malicious Wishes and Yvonna Bone are both strong jammers, and our walls will need to be tight to hold them back.

Any Bombshells players or tactics the crowd should look out for on the day? Would you like to predict the result?
Smash’er Fierce is always a good Bombshells player to watch, as she’s a big hitter and can send jammers flying. Some of our newer jammers like Amazing Graze and Von Stackit have been working hard and have become very important in our jammer rotation. I think the result will be very close! Which will make it a good game for fans to watch.

The day’s other Champs game sees the Norfolk Brawds take on Full Metal. How are you expecting that one to go?

I would expect Norfolk to take the win, although since starting Champs, the Full Metal Herts Breakers have learned a lot and are becoming stronger with every game. They’ve got some really good jammers – Hale Storm was the one who gave us the most trouble. Norfolk have so many great players to watch, but I would especially look out for Khilleesi jamming and Short Circuit blocking.

As well as the women’s match-up, the Eastbourne and Suffolk men’s teams will be meeting on track too. What should people expect from that game? Any players to look out for?
Both men’s teams are quite new, but have some very strong players. Pont Blank is definitely one to watch on Bomb S’Quad. He hasn’t been playing for long, but he has become very good, very quickly, and will be a strong double threat. Aladdin Sane’s blocking is also excellent. I don’t know many of the Suffolk men except for Tubesock Shakur and Evil Quad-nevil, so I’ll be keeping my eye on them! We would definitely like to get the Bomb S’Quad playing at as many future Eastbourne events as possible. It’s great to have the whole league involved in our open door games.

Finally, you’re hosting the action tomorrow. What can people expect from the venue and from the after party? And what else can you recommend to see or do in the local area?
The Dolphin is a great venue, with loads of parking and it’s close to the station. There’s a café and a bar. In terms of vendors we’ve got Hoodlum Fang and Kitty Bang Bang coming. We’ll also have the usual epic Bombshells cake stall! We haven’t planned much in terms of an after party – it’s likely that we’ll just all walk up to a Haywards Heath pub. There are some lovely places to see in the mid-Sussex area. So if people are travelling down and have some time before the games, I would recommend Wakehurst Place near Ardingly (beautiful gardens) and Nymans (gardens and ruins) which is north of Haywards Heath near Handcross. Of course, Brighton is also nearby and has lots to do, such as the Sea Life Centre, Brighton Eye and Pier, The Lanes and North Laine for shops and cafés, etc.

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SUFFOLK PUNCH – SUFFOLK ROLLER DERBY

Hi there. You’re on one win and one loss after your first two British Champs games. Is the season going the way you expected?
Hi! We are really enjoying our season so far. It’s great to have so many scheduled games and be an active part of the local derby community. We really didn’t know what to expect from our first game against Full Metal, as they were an untested team. We were obviously very pleased with our result, however, so this would probably be our highlight. We were disappointed with our last game against the Norfolk Brawds. I think the pressure of hosting got to us and we really missed a few of our key skaters. However we have channelled our frustration, upped our intensity at training, and we are planning to come back strong!

The rankings suggest yourselves and the Bombshells are fairly evenly matched. Do you know much about the Eastbourne women?
We’ve watched the Bombshells play a couple of times now, and one of our new skaters was in a rookie game at Eastbourne Extreme. The PhilosoFear has a lot of experience and tactical awareness, with Bullet Bomber and Hell Block H both very solid skaters. We have learnt a lot from our last game, and will be focusing on playing our own game as a team, rather than being distracted by individual skaters.

Who should people look out for from the Suffolk women’s team? What kind of a result are you expecting?
We are at full strength for this game with the return of our Yvonna Bone, making her debut in the British Championships series. We are hungry for the win in what should be an exciting game.

The day’s other Champs game sees the Brawds take on Full Metal. What are you expecting from that game?
The Brawds are an experienced team, and are on course to finish at the top of our division with their two wins so far. However Full Metal have been improving every game and have been out and about locally getting more game experience and some guest coaching. We still think the Brawds will take the game, but look forward to seeing the awesome Full Metal fighting spirit making it a bit more difficult.

As well as the women’s match-up, the Eastbourne and Suffolk men’s teams will be meeting on track too. Any players to look out for there? How does men’s derby differ from women’s?
Our men had their first game as a team in July against Team Top Gun, which included some of the Bomb S’Quad. It was a seriously exciting and hard hitting match with a few lead changes, and hopefully we will see more of the same! Men’s derby is generally a bit more brutal with brawn sometimes being used more than brains, but leads to an exhilarating spectacle. We will be watching out for Pont Blank and Tenacious P, who both proved their skills in July. We are also looking forward to seeing a few of the other skaters such as Electric Lee Charged, who has been reffing all the women’s games and finally gets a chance to skate himself! We have a few changes to our roster since the last game. We’re not going to give away any of our secrets, but this will definitely be a game to stick around and watch!

Finally, do you have any message for the Suffolk fans in the crowd at Haywards Heath?
Suffolk fans will have both our games to look forward to. The men and women have all been training both together and against each other, and we are looking to show Eastbourne Roller Derby what we are made of!

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PHILTHY DELPHIA – NORFOLK BRAWDS

Hi there. The Brawds have two wins from two games in British Champs so far. Is the season going as you expected?

We knew Killa Hurtz would be a tough bout, so we spent the off season training for them. We were lucky to have that one first and at home. It was such a close win, right at the end, and was definitely a highlight for us. This season is shaping up to be even better than expected.

You’ll be facing Full Metal Roller Derby tomorrow. Any particular players or tactics of theirs you’ll be looking out for?
We have seen both their Champs bouts so far, as well as having them out to Norfolk for some co-ed scrims. It’s obviously been a tough season for them, but we know they’ve been training up with Killa Hurtz and Suffolk, so we have seen and expect to continue to see some huge improvements in their game in a short period of time.

Similarly, are there any players or tactics from the Brawds that the crowd should look out for? Care to predict the scoreline?
You always want us to give away our secrets! We have some very specific tactics going into this game that we hope will work well for us. There are also going to be some new faces on the track, so keep an eye out for our up and coming stars. We would never deign to predict the outcome as the beauty of derby is anything can happen. We are just hoping to play a tight, clean game.

The day’s other Champs game sees the Bourne Bombshells take on Suffolk. How are you expecting that one to go?
I think this may be one of the closest bouts of the season (excluding ours against Killa Hurtz) so we are very excited for it. We have been long time supporters of Suffolk and know they have some great jammers and a strong defensive strategy. We’ve played Eastbourne before and they are one of our favourite teams as they always have fun. This will be a close one to call.

Finally, do you have any message for the Brawds fans in the crowd tomorrow?

Just a big thank you for supporting us this far. And we hope you’ll continue to support us straight through to finals! x

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CLEO CATCH YA – FULL METAL ROLLER DERBY

Hi there. Your first three games in British Champs have ended in quite heavy losses. Is that what you were expecting?
Hello again! Yeah it’s been a tough but educational few months for sure. We’ve lost a few players due to injuries or moving away and almost all of us were new skaters, so we knew from the off we’d probably not win our bouts. We’ve treated it as a baptism of fire and it’s been a HUGE learning experience. It’s been amazing really. Highlights have to be the fact that our girls just keep getting back up, keep trying their hardest and keep growing each game.

Do you know much about tomorrow’s opponents, the Norfolk Brawds?

We love the Brawds and have joined them a couple of times now for their co-ed scrims with the Smacksons. They’re such a friendly and very talented group of skaters. A lot of quick and agile players on their team. Strong walls, speedy jammers… we’re expecting a fast paced game.

Anything we should look out for from yourselves tomorrow? Are Flattrackstats right to predict a huge Norfolk win?
We are always surprising ourselves. Every game our skaters grow and develop as a team. Everyone on the team has spent Champs ‘becoming’ who they are as a skater; it’s really brought out the best and fiercest qualities in all of us. I think we can all be certain those online predictors are correct – it will be a very big Norfolk win – but it will also be a great and entertaining game I’m sure. The Herts Breakers will play their hardest and give it their all as usual for our last game of the Champs season. And as soon as possible after the final jam is called, we shall be celebrating the fact we all survived the Champs experience with a nice cold pint at the nearest pub! 🙂

The day’s other Champs game sees the Bourne Bombshells take on Suffolk. What are you expecting there?

We’ve become firm friends with Suffolk since our first game against them. We’ve gotten to see first hand what a generous, friendly and hardworking team they are. And how very tough their walls are to break! We’ve also played the Bombshells so we know that they are a really strong team too, with great players and very speedy jammers! I wouldn’t know where to start trying to guess the outcome of this one. It’ll be a fantastic game for sure.

Finally, do you have any message for the Full Metal fans in the crowd at Haywards Heath?
Thank you! We have some friends and family that have followed us through Champs and their support each game has been amazing. To them and to everyone in the crowd that has cheered for us, encouraged us during tough games, and celebrated our great moments with us – thank you so very much. The whole Champs experience has been out of this world. We’ve been knocked this way and that till we didn’t know which way was up, we’ve gotten to really throw ourselves into this sport, we’ve pushed ourselves and achieved more than we all could have thought possible. And most importantly, we’ve made some fantastic new friendships. Roller derby people are the best!

LINKS
FB EVENT PAGE:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1440314526295621/
TABLE & RESULTS: http://www.britishchamps.com/tables-and-fixtures-local-south-east/
SKATER CHARTS: http://www.britishchamps.com/performance-women-t4-south-east/
LIVE TWITTER FEED: https://twitter.com/britchampslive

[Photos by John Hesse]