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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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 5 Preview

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After what feels like forever – it has been over two months since the last Game Day – the Tier 4 South East of British Champs cranks back up into action on Saturday (17th October) as the Riverside Leisure Centre in Chelmsford hosts the final day of divisional action. Doors open at 1pm, with the first game whistling off half an hour later. Tickets are available on the door, priced £6 for adults and free for under-16s. The venue is close to Chelmsford station, which is just over half an hour’s journey from Liverpool Street. Through tickets from Sussex stations are surprisingly spendy at around £45 return (£30 with a railcard). A useful trick here is to buy two separate tickets – one from Sussex to London Bridge, one from Liverpool Street to Chelmsford – and walk the 15 minutes between the London stations. This could bring the price down by around 40%.

The Bombshells are up first against table toppers Norfolk Brawds (who have already qualified for playoffs). Although the teams are placed close together at the bottom of the UKRDA rankings – the Brawds 46th on 501.7 points, the ‘shells 48th on 440.6 – the predictometer at Flattrackstats calls this as 90% chance of a Norfolk win. Predicted differential is 37-20, equivalent to a 259-140 Brawds win. Eastbourne would probably be happy with a result like that, having gone down 73-201 to the East Anglians in the Heartland Series last year. High scoring jammers in the top ten charts are Khilleesi, Zippy and Philthy Delphia for the Brawds, whilst the increasingly impressive Amazing Graze rates highly for Eastbourne. Defensively, Smash’er Fierce and The Philosofear are the top rated Bombshells blockers.

The day’s second game sees hosts Killa Hurtz take on Suffolk in a game that will decide who takes the division’s second playoff place. Though the sides are tied on two wins and a loss apiece, FTS favours the hosts quite strongly here. With neither side in the UKRDA, it’s the European rankings table we have to look at here. Killas place 98th on 543.2 points, with Suffolk 256th on 465.9. The online predictor gives the hosts a whopping 96% chance of the victory, with an expected differential of 29:12 mathsing out in the region of a 232-96 home win. Killas’ Bonty Python, Chaos Thor-E and Snarley Quinn score highly for jamming in the Champs charts, with Miss Behave and Maltese Mayhem Suffolk’s highest rated starheads. Mother Mercy and The Beckoning top a list of eight Killas in the (albeit not updated since Game Day 3) blocking top ten.

We’ll have a full round-up of both this weekend’s games and the previous (Bombshells hosted) Game Day on the site in a week or two. In the meantime, let’s hear from some players about what to expect in Essex tomorrow afternoon…

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PHILTHY DELPHIA – NORFOLK BRAWDS

Hi there. So the Brawds are already through to playoffs. What have been your highlights and lowlights of the 2015 British Champs season?

Obviously our (very close) win against Killa Hurtz in our debut bout of the season at home was a big highlight for us. And to be honest it’s just gotten better and better from there. So there really aren’t any lowlights!

Your final game of the regular season is against the Bombshells. Any particular Eastbourne players or tactics you’ll be looking out for?
We have played Bourne before but it’s been at least a year. We have changed and strengthened a lot as a team since then, but we know they really have as well, as they proved in their bout against Suffolk. We have a soft spot for Bourne as they are always so welcoming and fun to scrim with. We’re looking out for everything and everyone. We’re going into this bout as focused and tough minded as any other.

Any particular Brawds players or tactics that people in the crowd should look out for? Care to predict the result?

You always ask us that and you know we aren’t going to answer! There are definitely a few new tricks up our sleeves that we’ll be trying out on Saturday, and we’ve really worked hard to get all of our A-team skaters up to the same level of skill, ability and fitness. So no one should stand out. Or everyone should!

The day’s other game sees Killa Hurtz and Suffolk fighting it out for the second playoff place. How do you see that game going?
These are two really strong teams that get stronger every bout they play. We’re looking forward to seeing a really tight bout. If we had to guess based on our games against Suffolk and KH, we’d expect KH to take it, but Suffolk are tough and have some amazing players to look out for, so anything could happen.

Finally, T4 Central South’s Surrey Rollergirls and/or Hell’s Belles await you in playoffs. What do you know of those sides and how do you rate your chances against them?
We’ve played both teams in the past, although Hell’s Belles more recently and regularly. They are one of our favourite teams as they are really friendly and we have skated (and camped!) with them a few times in the Hotrod Hayride. You might say we have a VERY friendly rivalry with them so it’d be fun to play them in the finals. Both teams have obviously been working hard to get to the top of their tier so we are expecting them to bring everything they’ve got to finals. However, we’d definitely like to see ourselves in Tier 3 next season.

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CLARK…SMASH! – KILLA HURTZ ROLLER GIRLS

Hi there. So Killa Hurtz will be battling it out with Suffolk for a playoff place this Saturday. An exciting end to the British Champs T4 South East season. Is this what you were expecting when the season began?
We truly had no idea what to expect from Champs when we signed up to it. We were still a fledgling league having only played two public bouts (home and away against Suffolk!). However our directors and our coach thought that, if nothing else, it would be a good learning experience. So we signed up and trained hard. Played some closed door games against some pretty big teams (and won) and our hard work paid off. I think our highlights have been seeing both the team and the players grow. We did have two transfers from the Seaside Sirens at the end of last year, and having that experience in the team has only helped everyone get better. I think if you look at the player tables you’ll see just what a strong team we now have… and I do believe we have scored the most cumulative points in the whole of Tier 4, so we are proud of that! I think our ‘lowlight’ has to be THAT game against the Brawds where we lost the game in the last jam by just six points. It still hurts!

What do you know of Suffolk Roller Derby? Any particular players or tactics of theirs you’ll be looking out for?
Suffolk are our derby besties. In the past we have trained together, scrimmed together and hung out together. They are truly a lovely bunch of people and I think we both champion each other when we are not playing each other! Suffolk have also grown a lot over the past six months and have some new players on their squad that we have not played against before, so it will be interesting to see how they complement their existing team. Yvonna Bone is back on their squad and she has always been one to watch when she is jamming!

Any particular Killa Hurtz players or tactics people in the crowd should keep an eye out for? Care to predict the result?

We have some new players that people won’t have seen on our squad before: Judge Shredd and Penny Traitor. Whilst new to the team they are definitely strong and obviously wouldn’t be in the squad if they weren’t capable. We have some new tactics that we have been trying out over the summer; we had a rather long ‘rest’ period so it has given us time to try some new things out! I wouldn’t want to predict the result as anything can happen on game day, and both teams will be looking to settle the score as it’s currently one apiece!

The day’s other game sees table toppers Norfolk Brawds up against Bourne Bombshells. How do you see that one going?

The Norfolk Brawds are the most experienced team within our division. Political Vagenda was so tenacious in our game, definitely a player to keep on the radar. Khilleesi is another Brawd to look out for – she gets so low when she jams. We played the Bombshells in our first game of the season, and since then each game they’ve played they’ve come back stronger and stronger. The last game they played v Suffolk was another nail-biter. Whether all the hard work they’ve clearly been doing will be enough to topple the mighty Brawds, I guess we’ll find out on Saturday!

You’re hosting the action on Saturday. What can you tell us about your venue?
Riverside is our home venue, and we are lucky that the manager there supports our team and goes out of his way to help us out. We have trackside seating and two balconies which give an awesome view of the action. Swift Customs and Shoves & Kisses will be at the venue and we will have merch from all the teams participating as well as Team England Men’s and Essex Men’s. We have a licensed bar and snacks available to buy in the hall. Riverside is pretty central being only a ten minute walk from the train station and all day car parking is available at the centre for £6.80. However, just over the bridge from the Leisure Centre is the Riverside Inn pub, which has a car park (on the opposite side of the road) where all day parking is £4.80. Post derby shenanigans at our after party shall include a lip sync battle and streaming of the Southern Discomfort game live from the USA. So please come and join us for a drink and we’ll be ordering in pizzas. The venue is The Two Brewers on Springfield Road which is a five minute walk from the sports hall.

LINKS
FB EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/1023760617664678/
CHAMPS: http://www.britishchamps.com/

[Photos by John Hesse]

British Champs Tier 4 South East Day Two Preview

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The first day of British Champs Tier 4 South East took place at the start of May in Stevenage. Those two games ended in what are known as “blowouts” with one of the sides in each amassing hundreds of points more than their opponents. Killa Hurtz triumphed 342-43 over the Bombshells, while hosts Full Metal went down by an even bigger margin (396-15) at the hands of Suffolk Roller Derby. Naturally enough Suffolk (who sit out Day 2) top the division on points scored over Killa Hurtz, with the Bombshells and Full Metal occupying the bottom spots.

Mid-table by dint of being the team that sat out day one are the Norfolk Brawds, who are hosting the second divisional game day this Saturday (6th June). The event is taking place at the University of East Anglia’s Sportspark on the Western edge of Norwich. Doors are at noon, with tickets available online at £7.50 each (including booking fee) from the link at the bottom of this piece. The afterparty takes place midway between the University and City Centre at the Eagle on Newmarket Road (the A11) in the Golden Triangle area, which is supposedly even more of a Green Party heartland than Brighton’s Hanover (more than two thirds of the vote in some wards).

TRAVEL INFO

With the greatest of respect to some of the other towns represented in Champs, Norwich is one destination we would particularly recommend making a weekend of if you can. Not only is it one of the best real ale towns in the UK (around Dereham Road in particular), with a castle, cathedral and twice as many board game shops as the whole of Sussex – yeah we’re geeks – there’s also the messing about on boats to be had. Er, though you could end up trapped, like our boating mates who should be in the South of France now. Seems the lock that joins the Broads to the North Sea has been broken (non-navigable) for months. Cannes, Loddon, quelle difference?

Car types from Sussex should point their vehicles North East for around 3.5 hours – there’s parking at the venue, plus overflow parking nearby if that gets full. The train takes around the same time and costs as little as £21 each way. Thankfully the rail strike either side of the weekend (you just know it’d mess up the trains in between too) has been called off. Hotel wise, our usual recommendations – the Maid’s Head or Stracey – get a bit spendy this close to the day. The plethora of Premier Inn and Travelodge type places dotted around the centre are probably the best bet now. Enough travel stuffs, on to the statistics…

PREDICTIONS

Flattrackstats calls the Bombshells v Herts Breakers game quite strongly in favour of Eastbourne. The Sussex league currently rank 306th in Europe on 450.0 points with the Full Metal women 357th on 373.0. While that doesn’t look a huge positional gap, splitting the difference between home and away predictions (since there’s no neutral option) calls this as 94% likely to be an Eastbourne win, with an anticipated 42:19 differential working out as something like a 252-114 Bombshells victory margin.

The website calls the other game as much closer. Killa Hurtz currently place 105th in Europe on 539.6 points. Although the Brawds have home advantage, they rank lower at 141st on 518.3. The magic maths machine that lives inside the FTS website reckons this works out as 60% likelihood of the visitors from Chelmsford taking the win. A predicted differential of 10:9 is not only very easy for us to translate into a possible scoreline – 180-162, say – but also demonstrates how close this one is expected to be. Eek! Let’s see what the teams themselves have to make of all this…

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COUNTESS VON STACKIT – BOURNE BOMBSHELLS

What did you learn from your first Champs game against Killa Hurtz? We guess it wasn’t quite what you were expecting?
I’d say that’s a mild understatement! Killa Hurtz had really solid walls and gave out some hard hits. We knew it would be tough but even some of our strongest players struggled. They managed to wear us down early on and break apart our walls. From a jamming perspective it was exhausting – by the time we’d got to the last blocker we were easily hit off. On a positive note, we did learn a few things that we will be putting into practice for our forthcoming games. In particular, responding to offence and working on our own offence. We need to work on keeping our walls tight and reforming faster. As a team we have really been working on our overall fitness and, although it was a crushing defeat, our stamina has improved. Getting more points in the second half shows we can dig deep when it matters!

Your next opponents, Full Metal RD’s Herts Breakers, also had a heavy loss on that first game day. What do you know about them?
We know Full Metal are new to bouting, so I’m sure they’ll want to do their best and make their mark. They will have learnt a lot from their game against Suffolk and I’m sure if there were any first game nerves to be had, they will have dissipated and they’ll be hungry for the next one. Herts will be used to hard hits and pushing against solid players as, like us, they are used to training co-ed.

Any Eastbourne players or tactics people should look out for in the game? Are Flattrackstats right to predict a big Bombshells win?
Amazing Graze has been doing some great jamming (I’m refraining from saying Amaaazing!). She’s been working hard at training and has been taking part in mixed scrims; most recently as part of Roll Britannia against the Brighton Rockerbillies, where she was awarded MVP. Jumpin’ Jack Smash has also gone from strength to strength and is knocking out some devastating hits. Naturally, we’ll be aiming to win because there is no other way, but we would never like to predict what can happen. We need to play our game, put in to practice the offence we’ve worked on, but not forget the basics. We’ll need to be focused as a team if we want to improve that points differential.

Finally, the day’s other game sees hosts Norfolk Brawds take on Killa Hurtz. How do you expect that one to go, and are there any standout players on those teams to look out for?
We came up against the Brawds in last year’s Heartland Series and their jammers aren’t afraid to go in hard. Philthy Delphia is a strong jammer who will test the Killa Hurtz walls. I’d expect a Killa Hurtz win, but for the Brawds to get a decent score against them. It’ll be an exciting one to watch. It may be Killa Hurtz’ toughest game of this Champs season. Mother Mercy, Clark Smash and Melef!cent are all going to give the Brawds jammers a hard time. The Beckoning just will not move out of the way!

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CLEO CATCHYA – FULL METAL ROLLER DERBY

Was the result of your first British Champs game what you were hoping for? Is there anything you learned from that game that you’ll be taking forward to the rest of your Champs season?
We were just hoping for double figures in all honesty. We knew we weren’t going to win, but we wanted to have some fun and host a successful first bout, and we are so proud of ourselves for that. Also eleven of us popped our bouting cherries that game and it was awesome to do it all together as a team. We have a bout’s experience under our belts now and a bit of a fire in our bellies. Gotta start somewhere.

Your next opponents, Eastbourne Roller Derby’s Bourne Bombshells, also had a heavy loss on that first game day. What do you know about the Sussex side?
We’ve seen that the Bombshells have heart, strength and determination, and we’re looking forward to our game with them. I’ve a feeling they’ll have a fire in them too.

Any Herts Breakers players or tactics people should look out for in the game? Flattrackstats gives 90-95% chance of an Eastbourne win. What are you expecting?
Results wise we are just hoping to improve on our points. We got 15 last time, this time we’ll go for 30 and so on. Winning really isn’t what it’s about for us; we’re just starting as a bouting team so the whole experience is amazing. As for players to look out for, all of us I guess. We’re learning and growing as a team with each bout and scrim. It’s exciting to watch us all develop as skaters together.

Finally, the day’s other game sees hosts Norfolk Brawds take on Killa Hurtz. How do you expect that one to go?
We are both excited and terrified to watch this game! Both teams are fantastic. I’ve personally seen more of the Killa Hurtz, so I know for certain the strength and skill they possess. I wouldn’t like to hazard a guess at the outcome, but it’s going to be a blinding bout that’s for sure. As for standout players, Mother Mercy from Killas has a pretty fearsome rep; she’s an awesome player and definitely one to watch out for (and avoid) on track.

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PHILTHY DELPHIA – THE NORFOLK BRAWDS

You’re the only side in Tier 4 South East that sat out Game Day 1. What do you know of the other four teams in the division?
We actually had a “Brawds Day Out” to the first game day to check things out, but also to support all the teams. We’ve been watching Suffolk since they started and it was great to see how strong they’ve gotten. The first contact we really had with Killa Hurtz was at our Eastern Sur5al event last year and they sent a few girls again this year – so we were excited to see them skate as a team. Eastbourne were in our division of the Heartland Series last year but this was our first time (like many) seeing Full Metal on the track. Definitely a lot of new faces, but quite a few familiar ones too!

You’ll be taking on Killa Hurtz in your first game. Any particular players or tactics of theirs you’ll be looking out for?
Killa Hurtz definitely have some strong, experienced players on their side so we know it’s going to be a tough game, but they are also a lovely group of ladies so we’re sure it’s going to be a fun one too.

Any Brawds players or tactics people should look out for in the game? Flattrackstats narrowly gives Killa Hurtz the edge in this match-up. What are you expecting?
Well, we can’t give away too many of our secrets! We’re going to be relying on our experience skating together as a team. Most of our All Stars have been skating together for years.

The day’s other game sees Eastbourne take on Full Metal’s Herts Breakers. How do you expect that game to go?
This should actually be a really interesting match-up. We’ve played Bourne so we know they have a lot of fight in them and bout experience. Full Metal are a bit of a dark horse. Neither had a great first game day, but this could turn out to be a close, exciting bout.

Finally, the Brawds are hosting the action on Saturday 6th. What can you tell us about your venue? What can people expect from the afterparty?
We are *so* lucky to have one of the largest and most successful sports centres in the UK, the Sportspark at the University of East Anglia, as our home open venue. Technically we can seat more than 500 people in our bleacher seating and we usually have 300-400 spectators at our home events. The Sportspark offers free parking, a full bar which sells our own ale Bonny’s Gold (brewed by Golden Triangle Brewery), two different cafes, a large vendor area, free face painting, and an awesome raffle. We are also fundraising for our own venue and will be taking donations to ‘wax a Smackson (our affiliated men’s team)’ during half time. The afterparty will consist of a massive BBQ and drinks in the big beer garden at The Eagle Pub and possibly dancing at the Waterfront after!

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CLARK… SMASH! – KILLA HURTZ ROLLER GIRLS

Killa Hurtz have rocketed up the European rankings, rising from 270th to 105th in less than a year of bouting, and took a big win over Eastbourne in your first Champs game. As the division’s highest ranked team who do you think will be your biggest challengers?
We came into Champs not knowing what to expect, and with the ethos of taking every game as it comes and not taking anything for granted. We had no idea what to expect from Eastbourne. It was a good game and they did not make it an easy win for us. We would love to win the division. I would say in the short term our biggest challengers would be the Brawds. However, in October we face Suffolk. We have played them twice in the past year and it’s one apiece… Both of us are training new skaters at the moment, so it is highly likely by the time October rolls around both teams will be fielding players neither team has met before, which always makes for a challenge!

You’re up against the Norfolk Brawds on Saturday. Any particular Brawds you’ll be looking out for?
We are indeed. Norfolk have obviously been in Heartland Series before Champs and we’ve seen some of their games. With Damage having left, it will be interesting who will be in her spot on the roster. We shall be keeping an eye on Philthy and Short Circuit… We’ve also heard rumblings about Penny Slain as someone to watch out for.

Any Killa Hurtz players or tactics that people in the crowd should look out for?
We wouldn’t want to give away any of our secrets! Our lips are sealed. I think this is going to be a really good game to watch whatever the result.

Finally, the day’s other game sees Eastbourne take on Full Metal RD. Any particular players the crowd should look out for there?
Eastbourne are definitely the favourites. The Philosofear caused our jammers a lot of problems when we played them. Definitely the skater to contain!

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

LINKS
BUY TICKETS: http://www.ueaticketbookings.co.uk/events/the-norfolk-brawds-roller-derby-presents–british-champs—uea-sportspark–6-6-15-.aspx
FB EVENT PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/events/1527400340869495/
BRITISH CHAMPS: http://www.britishchamps.com/
BRAWDS: http://www.norfolkbrawds.com/
KILLAS: http://killahurtzrollergirls.co.uk/
SHELLS: http://bournebombshells.wix.com/bombshells
BREAKERS: http://fullmetalrollerderby.com/

British Champs Tier 4 South East Day One preview

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This Saturday (May 9th) sees the mighty Bourne Bombshells kick off their British Champs campaign in Stevenage. Champs has evolved from a small South Midlands tournament, via a couple of incarnations of the Heartland Series – Bombshells took part in 2014’s – into this year’s huge 72 team thirteen division truly national tournament. The ‘shells, now rebranded under the umbrella name Eastbourne Roller Derby, are part of the Tier 4 South East Division, which kicks off on Saturday at the Arts & Leisure Centre in Stevenage, Herts.

Things get underway at a frighteningly early 11.30am (first whistle) with the Bombshells taking on Chelmsford’s Killa Hurtz and hosts the Herts Breakers – part of the Full Metal Roller Derby league – facing Suffolk. Tickets are available on the door at £10 for adults or £5 kids. This is the most handily placed derby venue we know of for train travellers, being literally across the road from Stevenage station, which is one stop from London King’s Cross on the East Coast Main Line (slower Great Northern services are more regular).

Splitting the home and away predictions at Flattrackstats, as there is no neutral option, gives Eastbourne (ranked 248th in Europe) roughly an 18% chance of beating the 137th placed Killa Hurtz. The predicted score differential is around 7:4 in the Essex side’s favour, equivalent to something like a 245-140 scoreline in Killa Hurtz’ favour. The website is unable to predict anything for the day’s other game, since the hosting Herts Breakers are so new they’re totally unranked. Now let’s hear from some of those taking part…

BULLET BOMBER – BOURNE BOMBSHELLS CAPTAIN

Hi there. Can you sum up the Bombshells’ 2014 Heartland Series for us?
As a team we were happy with where we finished in the tournament. We came fourth in the division which was a place above where we thought me may come. It was our first year being part of the series and I think we learnt a lot last year about our strengths and weaknesses as a team.

Heartland has grown into the British Champs in 2015, featuring 72 women’s teams across 13 divisions. You currently sit on top of the T4 South East table, albeit through alphabetical order. Is holding onto that position your aim for the season?
Of course holding the top position will always be our aim. We are looking forward to playing some new opposition, but are also interested to see how we fare this year against opponents we played last year. With more teams being involved in the Champs, it means that our group is going to be near to us in ranking, which should mean we have some interesting games with closer scores.

Your opponents in Stevenage on Saturday are Chelmsford’s Killa Hurtz. What do you know of them? Any particular Killa Hurtz players you’ll be looking out for?
We will be watching out for Killa Hurtz’ small nippy jammers, Snarley Quinn and Rakey Breaky Face, as they sneak through the smallest of gaps; as well as keeping an eye on Killa Hurtz stronger pushyer jammer Mother Mercy. Blockers who may cause us trouble are The Beckoning, Mother Mercy and Clark Smash. They are big hitters, so our jammers will be looking to stay quick on their feet around them.

Any particular Eastbourne players people should be looking out for in this game, and throughout the Champs season in general?
This season the Bombshells to watch out for are Von Stack It and Jumping Jack Smash. They have both become formidable blockers, and are also both shaping up to be fast nippy jammers. With our training now co-ed with men’s side Bomb Squad, it has toughened the whole team up, hopefully giving us an edge.

Saturday’s other game sees hosts FMRD’s Herts Breakers take on Suffolk Roller Derby. How do you expect that one to go?
Full Metal are a total unknown as they are not yet ranked on Flattrackstats and no one has seen them play (not sure if they’ve had a bout yet either). Suffolk have some good jammers, particularly Yvonna Bone, Malicious Wishes and Minnie Minx. Suffolk Punch is a double threat to watch – when blocking she holds the walls together and keeps control, and when jamming she can always fight her way through.

Finally, what else do the Eastbourne leagues have planned for this year?
We are launching ourselves as Eastbourne Roller Derby this year, with our four teams; Bourne Bombshells ladies team, Bomb Squad men’s team, New Bournes junior team and our new co-ed Team A-bominations. All four teams will be playing at Eastbourne Extreme on 18th & 19th July. We are really excited that our first open door men’s game and co-ed game will be on home turf (tarmac). The Men’s team will be facing Surrey Jammerwockies and the co-ed team will be playing Portsmouth Scurvy Wenches. The Men’s team have had a few close door games this year in preparation for Extreme and we are currently arranging co-ed closed doors. Our junior team will this year be playing at Level 2, which is a great progress from last year. The team’s numbers are slowly growing and another training session has been added. So this year is looking like it’s shaping up to be a fun year for all four teams.

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CLARK SMASH – KILLA HURTZ ROLLER DERBY

For anyone that might not know of the Killa Hurtz can you tell us a little of your league’s history and achievements to date?
The team started in October 2011 and has gone from strength to strength with a solid foundation of skaters who live and die by the skate! In 2013 we took our only five skaters to Rookie Sur5al at Windsor, where we finished in the Top 5. We have a vivid memory of walking around the sports hall overhearing other skaters saying “who the hell are the Killa Hurtz and where did they come from?” That was pretty memorable! We have since taken part in many tournaments and now have a full bouting team. Last year we were lucky enough to have our coach, SDRD’s Blitzkrieg, fall into our laps (not literally, thankfully, he’s big guy and partial to wearing leggings) when he moved to Essex and was looking for a team to coach. Together we have gained skating momentum. Last year saw us become a bouting team with our first game in June against our derby sisters from another mister, Suffolk Roller Derby, who took the win at home. Since then, the purple train have been getting around, taking a very close win over Grid City away, hosting and beating Suffolk (making it one apiece), then taking on the mighty Portsmouth B who took the win towards the end of 2014. This year we’ve had a couple of blinding bouts including a nail biter against LRR B in the capital and a tough and physical game against Rebellion at home. We won both those games which brings us to this, our first British Champs game.

As a fairly new to bouting team, what are your expectations going into the 2015 British Champs season?
We are very new to bouting. We have been bouting less than a year but what a year it has been! We will take each game as it comes. Regardless of stats or predictions, you can never take another team’s track record or an expected win for granted. So we shall focus on being the best we can be as team and see where that gets us. Obviously we would like to ride in on our purple machine of awesome, win every game and be promoted to Tier 3 at the end of the year, so we’ll strive for that! The tournament itself we think is a great opportunity for British roller derby, and we hope that having the Championships in place will shine more light onto the sport in terms of community involvement and funding. It’s also brill that teams will know where they stand in terms of league tables etc. Our ambitions as a league are to keep growing and eventually get to the point where we can have an A- and B-team, even a C-team eventually; have inter-team and intrateam games; and find a suitable venue to rent, to enable us to train as and when we like rather than having to fit around badminton and their shuttlecocks. For the time being, what is most important to us is enjoying ourselves, skating as much as we can get away with, and nurturing all the derby love we have in our team.

Your first Champs game is this Saturday against Eastbourne? Any particular Bombshells players/tactics you’ll be looking out for?
Our game against the Bombshells is going to be tough, but we can’t wait. We have not yet encountered the team or seen them play, but we know of the lovely Philosofear, as she quite often comes and takes pictures at games/tournaments we are playing in. She admitted to spying on us at our last home game v Rebellion, so touché my darlings! Let’s see what happens on Saturday.

Any particular Killa Hurtz players/tactics people should look out for in the game? Care to predict the result?
We can’t tell you all our secrets! We like the element of surprise. We wouldn’t like to predict a score or result, but we most certainly will guarantee some awesome roller derby.

Saturday’s other game sees hosts Full Metal Roller Derby’s Herts Breakers take on Suffolk. How do you expect that one to go?
We haven’t seen the Herts Breakers play but we know Suffolk very well. Players to watch out for include Suffolk Punch, who is a very versatile player and has no problems blocking or jamming, a real double threat. Malicious Wishes is another one to watch out for; a former banked track skater, her booty is a weapon! One of their new skaters, Driving Destructor is another to keep an eye on. They also have their coach back, who was away on tour when we last played them, which can only mean good things for them.

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HOUND – FULL METAL RD BENCH MANAGER

Hi there, for anyone who might not know of FMRD can you tell us a little about your league’s history and achievements to date?
FMRD formed around three years ago with a dream to promote roller derby in Hertfordshire. Our main objective was to create a co-ed league with a core ethos of co-gender roller derby. To date we have been building our ranks and branching out into the local community.

What are your ambitions for this inaugural British Champs season? What are you expecting of the other sides in the T4 South East division?
We aim to have as much fun as physically possible! FMRD can’t wait to stake our claim and get out there into the UK derby community. Our fellow T4 teams should give us a good run for our money and were expecting to both practice and expand our skills. By the end of the Championship we hope to be an infinitely stronger team ready for the next challenge.

Your first game is this Saturday at home to Suffolk Roller Derby. What do you know about them?
Truth be told we don’t know a great deal about SRD. They must be kickass awesome folk though. We’ve done a little research but have focussed more on our own tactics and hosting our first ever game.

Any particular Herts Breakers players people in the crowd should look out for? Care to predict the result?
We have a very mixed bag of players ranging from both graceful and bruiser jammers to brutal or sneaky blockers. This game will be a trial by fire for us but we hope to come out swinging. I couldn’t predict the result but we feel that playing the game is enough of a “result” for us. We are truly proud to be a part of Champs 2015.

Saturday’s other game sees Bourne Bombshells take on Killa Hurtz. How do you expect that one to go?
Again we haven’t spent much time researching our T4 comrades. This will be our girls’ very first game together, so we’ve invested in focusing on our girls. FMRD are looking forward to seeing what Blitzkrieg has been up to with the lovely Killa Hurtz

Finally, you’re hosting the action on Saturday. What can you tell us about your venue, the after party and Stevenage in general?
Our venue boasts tiered seating and an onsite café and licensed bar. We also have several local businesses selling their wares as well as derby owned vendors setting up shop. Our venue is located a stone’s throw from all of Stevenage’s transport links; access via train, bus and road is easy as pie.
Our after party is another story all together. We’ve secured one of our favourite watering holes the Tom Tiddlers Tavern (Or 3T if you’re down with the kids) We’ve landed a kickass band in “Fallowfields”. We may not win the game but we’ll damn sure win the after party! Our venue is moments from Stevenage Town centre which offers more shopping opportunities than you can shake a stick at. One of our lovely friends (Limited Edition Comics) will be open for all you Marvel/D.C. addicts out there. Why not pop over before the games and say hello?

SUFFOLK PUNCH – SUFFOLK ROLLER DERBY

Can you tell us a little about Suffolk’s history and achievements to date, and your ambitions going forward?
We started as a co-ed (men and women mixed) league in Bury St Edmunds in 2012, becoming Suffolk Roller Derby at the end of 2013. Our women’s team won their first game in June last year against the Killa Hurtz (their first game too!) at home. We then went on to play the Cambridge B-team Blockabillies in August with a narrow defeat in the last jam, and the return game against the Killa Hurtz in November, in which they took the win. We train completely co-ed; both our men’s and co-ed teams will hopefully have their first games this summer. We’ve been building our team over the winter, and we now train three nights a week in Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich. So we have some great new recruits coming up through fresh meat to join our more experienced skaters on the team this year.

What are your ambitions for this inaugural British Champs season?
We are very excited to be part of the British Championships. It’s the first tournament we’ve been involved in. Its great to have a season and scheduled games with potential progression to aim for, and has really motivated us to up our game. We know a fair amount about most of the teams in our division, and often scrim with the Killa Hurtz and Norfolk Brawds, so there’s bound to be some local rivalry in our division for fans to look forward to! I think it’s a very interesting mix of teams. The Norfolk Brawds are obviously the most experienced, but the Bombshells have been re-building their team and the Killa Hurtz are looking stronger all the time, beating Rebellion a few weeks ago. I think anything can happen, and there will be upsets!

Your first game is this Saturday away to Full Metal’s Herts Breakers. What do you know of the Stevenage side?
Full Metal is the team we know the least about, so we’re not really sure what to think going into our first game against them. We are just planning to focus, play our game and do the best we can. I know all the other teams in the division are also keen to see what they pull out of the bag on their public debut, and will be scrutinising and taking notes for future games. The one thing we have in common is that we are both fully co-ed, so we’re looking forward to flying the flag for co-ed with them.

Any particular Suffolk players or tactics people in the crowd should look out for? Care to predict the result of the match?
Well, we don’t want to give too much away. Anyone who has seen our team or any of our players skate can make up their own mind. We have been training hard and I can say both our jammers and blockers are strong and we are confident in our teamwork. Listen out for the American accents; we have strong links to the US Airforce bases in Suffolk, with several of our members either active duty or dependants.

Saturday’s other game sees Eastbourne take on Killa Hurtz. How do you expect that one to go?
The Killa Hurtz are like a sister team to us, so there is a lot of love there. They have some strong skaters – The Beckoning, Clark SMASH, Mother Mercy and Snarley Quinn, to name a few – and together they are formidable. We also think the Bombshells are awesome. Several of us skated in the mixed games at Eastbourne Extreme last year and had the best time, and we can’t wait to see their renewed team on track.

[Photos by John Hesse]