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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The people of EASTBOURNE are taking on TWO whole COUNTIES at ROLLER DERBY – eek!

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Derby starved peoples of Sussex, be starved no longer. Incredibly we embark upon three consecutive Saturdays of roller derby at the Dolphin in Haywards Heath, with all three of the leagues that call it home hosting double headers there. The Brighton Rockers will be taking on teams from Eindhoven and Southampton/Basingstoke in two weeks time (Nov 12th)… Croydon have two games against Dublin tomorrow week (Nov 5th)… but before all that, the mighty Eastbourne Roller Derby are dusting off their skates with women’s and men’s games TOMORROW (Sat 29th Oct). Yowsers!

The Bourne Bombshells women will be taking on Wiltshire Roller Derby at 1pm, with the Bomb S’Quad men (and guests) staging a rematch against Suffolk Roller Derby around 3pm. Doors open at 12.30pm with tickets priced at £5 for adults, free for under 16s. The Dolphin is seven minutes walk from Haywards Heath station – turn left on leaving the station and follow the signs stuck to lampposts, trees and small dogs. There’s no engineering work, so two direct trains an hour from Eastbourne. Car users should point their Sat Nav at RH16 1LY. There’s a cafe bar and vending machines at the leisure centre. The nearest cash machines are at the big Sainsbury’s halfway between the venue and station. For early arrivers, the pub opposite the train station (Burrell Arms) is a decent enough football and food place with a terrace – it’s also hosting the after party.

Are you one of those people that don’t like reading predictions prior to a game? Then skip past this paragraph. Flattrackstats rank the Bourne Bombshells 283rd in Europe on 457.3 ranking points, some way behind 198th placed Wiltshire (491.7 points). The visitors are given 69% chance of taking the win here, with an expected differential of 17:13 suggesting a pretty close scoreline, something like a 170-130 Wiltshire win. As for the men’s game, unfortunately neither team appears in any FTS ranking system (less than ten UK men’s sides do) so the only barometer we have here is the 190-129 win that Suffolk Men took against Bomb S’Quad here at the Dolphin in August 2015.

Enough maths and stuff, let’s hear from all four teams taking part…

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THE PHILOSOFEAR & ROCKAMILLIE – BOURNE BOMBSHELLS

Hi, several Bombshells teamed up with Brighton B-teamers at the Dolphin in September. How was that and what else have you been getting up to since Extreme?
It was good fun, and it was interesting to see how another team does things. For example, Brighton do their line ups very differently to how we do ours, and they often face away from the track whilst sitting on the bench so that skaters can’t watch the game (that was new to us!). Since Extreme, we’ve also had a closed door against Oxford Wheels of Gory. And we’ve been working on increasing our skater numbers and training new fresh meat – we’ve now got almost enough Bombshells for a B-team!

How important is hosting an event in one of the UK’s top derby venues (as used by Team England, Croydon, Brighton etc) to you and what are your experiences as a team or individuals on the floor of the Dolphin? Do you wish you had a venue closer to Ebo?
Personally I quite like The Dolphin floor – it’s not too sticky or too slippery. The Dolphin is a great venue, and it’s easy to drive to or get the train to. However, I think we suffer as a team for not having a venue in Eastbourne. If we could have games in Eastbourne it would be easier to build a local fan base and to recruit new members. We advertise our games locally but people often aren’t willing to travel to Haywards Heath to watch games when they’re not necessarily roller derby fans yet. If we could host games in Eastbourne we’d get more people popping along to see what it’s all about and hopefully enjoying it! Even though the Dolphin is a top derby venue, I think having a smaller local venue would be beneficial to us. We could still use The Dolphin for big events occasionally, but we could hold more regular open door games in Eastbourne. Unfortunately, there’s nowhere that fits the bill.

What do you know about your opponents Wiltshire? A new opponent? Do any Bombshells know of them? Any players or tactics that you will be looking out for from the away side?
We don’t really know much about Wiltshire to be honest. I’ve only encountered a few of their players before – Gemma has played against the Bombshells before when she played for Basingstoke, and I know from playing against her that she’s a strong, pushy jammer. The only other players I’ve encountered before are Shell, Ginger Fear and Snake Bite. I have heard that they are a team with strong jammers, but I don’t know anything about their blocking tactics so I don’t know what to expect! When we first starting talking to Wiltshire about playing them they were ranked quite near us. But since then they’ve moved up the rankings a fair bit, so it could be quite a challenging game for us.

Who and what should we look out for from the Bombshells ranks? Any new or returning players, etc? Care to predict the result?
In the Bombshells we’ve had a great recruitment drive recently, seeing many new female skaters join the ERD ranks. We currently have a few in our Fresh Meat who are consistently doing great each week; it won’t be long until they are ready to pop their cherries! As for A-team skaters, we’ve had Tiki Timebomb, T-Wrecks, Insterslam and Driller join the group, whilst welcoming back Elle Hound. Unfortunately, due to breaking her wrist at Extreme, Beast has semi-retired, mainly from the competitive side as she still attends training to have a little skate and impart her derby-wisdom. As for the game this Saturday, watch out for our new jammers Driller and Insterslam plus team members finding their jammer feet CalEmity and Lily Malicious. They are quick on their feet through the pack, blink and you’ll miss it! As for the blockers, they’re a solid bunch ready to put the drop on any jammer or offense. I wouldn’t care to predict the result, but I think it will be an awesome game to watch!

Do the Bombshells have any other (open or closed door) games coming up in 2016? What are your plans for next year and beyond?
In November the Bombshells have a closed door bout against Surrey’s B-team. That’s a double header, with the game between our respective co-ed sides. We’re looking forward to those games – Surrey are a good bunch and always fun to play against. Then in December we are holding a Christmas scrim for women, men and co-ed, which should be a lot of Christmassy fun! There’s plenty in the pipelines for 2017. Most importantly, we’re looking forward to our Fresh Meat passing their Minimum Skills and becoming game ready in the New Year… we may even have enough skaters for a B-team!

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WILTSHIRE ROLLER DERBY

For any Eastbourne fans reading this who might not know about Wiltshire Roller Derby, can you give us a quick summary of your history to date?
We were founded in 2012 and train in Swindon. We consist of a women’s travel team and a men’s team, and we’re also trying out a newly started co-ed team. We have competed in annual tournaments such as the Heartland Series and both years of British Champs. We are slowly growing and are keen to get our men’s team competing as soon as possible. After a tough bouting year last year, we trained hard and (as a result) have achieved a number of wins this year. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that we get promoted back to Tier 4 in Champs 2017 after only one loss in the tournament this year.

Do you know much about your opponents the Bourne Bombshells? Any particular Eastbourne players or tactics that you’ll be looking out for?
We are pretty much going in blind. Being so far away we don’t really know much about the team we are playing, but that adds to the fun and excitement. We’re excited to meet a new team!

Any particular players or tactics from Wiltshire that the crowd should look out for at the game?
We have a few who like to hit hard and also take hard hits. With a lot of changes happening in the team lately we don’t have our usual full travel team, so you might see some of our usual blockers having a go at jamming occasionally. If Bookworm’s Revenge gets that star, watch out for those apex jumps 🙂

What are you expecting from the game? Care to predict the result?
We have learnt never to be complacent or predict scores. If Flattrackstats is anything to go by it looks like it’ll be a close one. No matter what the result we always aim to be friendly and have the best time on track. We always try and crack smiles from our opponents on the start lines…

Finally, what do WRD have planned for the rest of the year?
We have our final game and home bout of the year in Swindon on Sunday 13th November. We are having a mixed men’s opener in a simple Black vs White, and then we take on Hereford Roller Girls B-team. Word on the street is that we may also have human Hungry Hippos as our half time entertainment… it’s worth coming over just for that, right?!

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PONT BLANK – BOMB S’QUAD

Hi, it’s been quite a while since you last derbyed (is that a word?) locally hasn’t it? What have Bomb S’Quad been getting up to since Eastbourne Extreme?
Yes, that’s right, we’ve been fairly quiet since Extreme having played only one closed door game in the meantime, which was a tough match against Oxford Mens Roller Derby. The team has gone through a few changes in the latter part of the year. SuiCider and Spank Me Sideways have both welcomed new additions to their families and are dedicating more time to their family lives, but still giving as much time to derby as they can. We suffered two more major losses; the first of which was Mercernary to a serious knee injury during the build up to Extreme, which left a big hole in the team. And since Extreme, Aladdin Sane has decided to take a break due to his partner Beast’s wrist injury. The team has really missed his arse on track! But we have had two recent Fresh Meat graduates – Nesta Vipers and Quick Deaf – joining our line ups. So although we’ve lost a few players, we are rebuilding and looking forward to things to come for the team in 2017.

What are your experiences as a team or individually on the floor of the Dolphin?
The Dolphin is a great venue, but the Bomb S’Quad have only played here as a team once before, which was the open door against Suffolk last year. It’s got plenty of space for spectators, and the extra hall on the side for getting kitted up, but it’s a real shame that it’s so far away from Eastbourne, which perhaps dissuades the more casual spectator when it comes to our open door games. The floor is a really good derby floor, not too sticky, and not too slippery, and it should suit everyone, making for a really exciting game.

What do you know about your opponents Suffolk?
We met Suffolk on track in August last year here at the Dolphin. They’ve come on leaps and bounds since then, having topped their tier in British Champs. They’ve got some heavy hitters in the likes of Guy Pie and Tubesock Shakur, plus some awesome jammers who we will be doing our best to hold down out there on the track.

Who and what should we look out for from the Bomb S’Quad ranks? Any new or returning players, etc? We understand you have some guest skaters – who/what should we look out for from them? Care to predict the result?
As mentioned previously, we’ve had a couple of recent Fresh Meat graduates. Nesta Vipers will definitely be one to watch out there, as he’s turning out to be quite the double threat. We’ve also been fortunate to have landed five awesome guests for this game; Amanta Harmyer, Pulp Friction and Studas Priest of the Surrey Jammerwockies, plus Weald Warriors’ Chandler Bang and BrutAl Deluxe, will be lining up with us. And as always, Tenacious P’s jamming will be worth watching, as well as Spank Me Sideways’ awesome blocking. I wouldn’t like to predict the result, but I’m hoping it’s as close, if not closer, as last year’s game.

Do Bomb S’Quad have any other (open or closed door) games coming up in 2016? What are your plans for next year and beyond?
We’ve got a few things in the pipeline as we prepare for next year. As seems to be the case with a lot of the local men’s teams at the moment, we’re struggling with consistent numbers. There have been talks of collaborations with other teams, but it’s very much up in the air at the moment and we hope to have some more details soon. Watch this space.

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SUFFOLK PUNCH – SUFFOLK MENS RD BENCH COACH

For anyone reading this who might not be aware of Suffolk Roller Derby, can you give us a quick summary of your history to date?
Suffolk RD started towards the end of 2012, so we’ve been around for three or four years now. We’re a co-ed league who train three times a week in Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich. Our women’s team joined the British Championships in 2015, and the men’s team joined this year. The men placed top of our regional division against Bristol, Nottingham Outlaws and Brawls of Steel, and at the playoffs in September took the win over the Brothers Grimm to achieve promotion to Tier 2 next year!

Suffolk Men took on Eastbourne’s Bomb S’Quad last year? What do you recall of that game? Any particular Bomb S’Quad players or tactics that you’ll be looking out for in this rematch?
Last year our men’s team took on the Bomb S’Quad and won, so we’ll be hoping for the same again. We never underestimate our opponents. We know Bomb S’Quad have been busy with the Southern Sevens tournament, so it will be great to see how the different experiences of each team face up to each other in this match.

Any particular Suffolk players or tactics that the crowd should look out for at the game?
We have lots of new up and coming skaters, as well as our experienced individuals, so there will be a great mix of talent on show.

What are you expecting from the game? Care to predict the result?
I’m not going to predict a scoreline, but obviously we are looking for the win – and to have an awesome fun game!

Finally, what do the SRD chaps have planned for the rest of the year?
This will be the last game for our men’s team this year, after a busy Champs season. However a few of them will be taking part in our co-ed game vs Team Essex next Sunday (6th Nov) in Ipswich, when our women’s B-team will also be making their first public appearance.

[Photos by John Hesse, except Wiltshire RD by Graeme Willetts]

LINKS
FB EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/474645542741842/
ERD ON FB: https://www.facebook.com/EBRollerDerby/

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]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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[Photos by John Hesse]

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

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

Heartland Series Bout Day 3 @ Haywards Heath Preview

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This Saturday the mighty Bourne Bombshells return to Heartland Series South East Division action as they host their home double header. This takes place at the Dolphin leisure centre in Haywards Heath, which is building up something of a reputation for quad skating. It’s played host to many Brighton Rockers home games, the occasional Croydon Roller Derby home game, and is also the regular venue for the National Roller Figure Skating Championships. Boasting one of the fastest floors in the region, the sports hall has plenty of room for spectators, and the venue is also home to two bars – a bright cafe style one in the foyer, plus a more booze-focused health club bar (with a strange policy of paying somewhere different to where you collect your drinks) a few corridor turns past the hall. As is the way with leisure centres, you’ll also find vending machines, the whiff of chlorine, and clusters of small children dressed for judo.

Doors open at 2pm, with Milton Keynes Concrete Cows taking on Bedfordshire Roller Girls at 2.35, followed by the Bombshells against Hertfordshire’s Hell’s Belles around 4.35pm, then after partying down the road from 6.30ish. Tickets are £8 in advance (£10 on the door) from the link at the bottom of this piece. There’s a ‘buy five get one free’ deal, and under 12s go free. The leisure centre is on Pasture Hill Road, around seven minutes walk from Haywards Heath train station (turn left and follow the handmade signs). There’s a large Sainsbury’s halfway along the route, should you require supplies. The pub opposite the station, the Burrell Arms, is decent enough for a sports bar – home to the more civilised rugby rather than football type this Saturday – and will be hosting the after party. Those travelling from further afield who plan to stay over will find little in the way of accommodation in Haywards Heath itself, but Brighton is less than 15 minutes away by train and boasts a plethora of options, from backpacker hostels to pop star frequented designer hotels.

MK Cows currently place second in the SE table, behind Big Bucks High Rollers, who have the weekend off (as do the Norfolk Brawds). MK’s score differential is superior to BBHR’s, so any victory will see them go top. Saturday’s other three teams are all awaiting their first win – although Hell’s Belles came close against leaders Big Bucks – and take the 4th to 6th spots based on points scored v conceded. The Bombshells currently place bottom, so have the most to gain, and could climb to as high as second with a big win, although fourth would be more achievable. The predictor at flattrackstats gives MK (ranked 73rd in Europe) a 97% chance of beating Bedfordshire (268th) with an expected score ratio of 47-17, which would equate to a typical derby scoreline of around 235-85. The Bombshells v Hell’s Belles game is expected to be much closer, with the 179th placed Belles given a 56% chance of beating Eastbourne (223rd) and a score ratio of just 16-15, equivalent to a 144-135 Belles win. As ever, take any predictions with a pinch of salt. We’ll leave you with a few words from departing Bombshells player-coach Lois Swann (formerly Toxic Block Syndrome) and Night Cub from Hell’s Belles…

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LOIS SWANN – BOURNE BOMBSHELLS

The Bombshells kicked off their Heartland Series campaign a few weeks ago in Milton Keynes. What did you learn from that game?
Oh, we learned a ton. It was our most difficult game to date, and when we finished we were pretty certain that we’d done everything we could, and we couldn’t have done any better. Having done a lot of footage review since, however, we spotted many silly mistakes that I hope we’ve resolved now. We have got a couple of new skaters in the line-ups on Saturday, and we’re playing with a full squad of fourteen for the first time since (I think) August. We’ve just really drummed in everything we should have been doing in the last game. Hopefully it will pay off.

Do you know much about Saturday’s opponents, the Hell’s Belles? Care to predict the result?
We don’t know an awful lot about them, to be honest. I’ve never come across any of their players anywhere, but I’m aware that they’re coached by [Men’s Team England star jammer] Reaper, so I hope their jammers haven’t picked up too many of his tricks! We’ve seen some footage of them from earlier in the year, and I think if we’re both having a good day, it’ll be a tough, competitive game. I’d like to think it will be nice and close, and then we’ll edge ahead to a comfortable lead in the second half.

With your traditional Hastings venue no longer allowing skating, this will be the Bombshells’ first outing at Haywards Heath’s Dolphin. Do many of you have experience of the floor there?
Not really. We have a handful of girls who originally started out with the Brighton Rockers, who also use it as their home ground, so a couple of them have skated there. Generally speaking, we’re going in a little bit blind, though. We’re just going to have to show up super early!

The double header’s other game sees Milton Keynes take on Bedfordshire. What are you expecting from that game? Any standout players to look out for?
Most of the teams in our division are ones we’ve never really come up against before, so Bedfordshire are a little unknown to us. I attended a bootcamp with them several months ago, though, and if their attendees were reflective of their bouting team, I’d speculate that Milton Keynes will have the edge. The MK walls are just so solid, and difficult to move or break up. The Valkyrie and Bolshevik gave our jammers an awful lot of trouble, and Magic Beanz was a really fun jammer to block against.

It’s not long now until Eastbourne Extreme (July 12-13th). Are preparations going smoothly?
Sassy McAwesome has got it all under control with her committee. Everything’s going great, so long as we don’t talk about the weather. We’ve opened the Sunday up this year to be a true expo event, showcasing all the different kinds of derby on offer. We’ve got three women’s mixed games (rookie, intermediate and advanced), a men’s game, a co-ed game, and a junior demo, so there’ll be something for everyone. The uptake has been amazing and we’ve got some great players on the rosters, including a handful from various national teams!

Finally, we understand Saturday will be your last game as a Bombshell. Eep! Tell us more…
It will indeed. I have my first training session with the Brighton Rockers two days later (Mon 9th), which is pretty exciting. I’ve been with the Bombshells since the very beginning, so obviously leaving was a big decision and one I feel very sad about, but it was just time for me to move on. I feel like I’ve given all I can to them as a coach and I need some time to focus on my own development, so I can push myself to the next level. I don’t know if or when we’ll meet again on the track, but the Bombshells and Bomb S’Quad are like my extended family. They’re already talking about how excited they are to see me play with the Rockers if I get rostered, and of course I’ll always be their biggest supporter, so I don’t think it’s the last we’ll be seeing of each other.

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NIGHT CUB – HELL’S BELLES

For those who don’t know the Belles, can you tell us about your history to date?
The Belles were founded in 2010 and since then we’ve grown as a league, and we’re now establishing ourselves as Hertfordshire Roller Derby, with the Belles still being our main travel team. We competed in [Heartland Series predecessor] The End of the World Series in 2012, as well as being part of the Heartland Series itself in 2013 and 2014.

Have you learned a lot by playing in a big tournament like the Heartland Series?
The Belles developed significantly as a team over 2013, gaining a few of our travel team players from last year’s fresh meat courses. Playing all the Heartland games, as well as extra scrims and bouts, has developed us to work as a team. We’ve come a long way and we are quickly learning what works for us and how to play ‘our game’.

Are there any particular Hell’s Belles players the crowd should keep an eye out for?
We recently did an article for the Heartland Series website, ‘Stars on the Rise’, introducing some of our newer team players. Scarlett Heartless is one of our newest league members, joining us from Big Bucks last summer. She’s a quick thinking jammer, with equally quick footwork. Candy Cane-Her is one of our strongest blockers, having no problem with wiping opposition players off their feet and off the track. Les Be Avenue is a skilful blocker, and like Candy emerged from one of the more recent fresh meat courses. She has good knowledge of the game and its tactics, which she regularly puts into practice.

Do you know much about the Bourne Bombshells?
We haven’t played the Bombshells before, so we look forward to pitching our skills against a new team.

What are you expecting from the day’s other game, MK v Bedfordshire?
The Valkyrie, Bolshevik and Cherry Bomb are three players to watch out for. We’re sure we will enjoy some high quality derby from both these teams.

Finally, do you have a message for any Belles fans in the crowd on Saturday?
Our message for the Belles fans is lots of cheering and wearing red and black. We hope you enjoy the bout too!

LINKS
BUY TICKETS: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/heartlands-south-east-division-bout-day-3-tickets-11368648935
FB EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/536554199787495/
HEARTLAND: http://www.heartlandseries.co.uk/
BOMBSHELLS: http://www.bournebombshells.co.uk/
HELL’S BELLES: http://www.hertsrd.co.uk/
MK COWS: http://www.miltonkeynesrollerderby.com/
BEDFORDSHIRE: http://www.bedfordshirerollergirls.com/

[Photos by John Hesse and PolaDroid/Chris Yarrow]