Heartland Series South East Final Day preview

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

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

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

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

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THE PHILOSOFEAR – BOURNE BOMBSHELLS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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FINALS WEEKEND & THE FUTURE OF HEARTLAND

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

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

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

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

Heartland Series South East Game Day Six Preview

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RECAP: SOUTH EAST GAME DAY FIVE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PREVIEW: SOUTH EAST GAME DAY SIX

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

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

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

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

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BEAST UNLEASHED – BOURNE BOMBSHELLS

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheer loads! Eat cake!

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VARIOUS FOLKS – BIG BUCKS HIGH ROLLERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Photos by Daz Wilson and Rebecca Cornford]

LINKS

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

Heartland Series SE Game Day 5 Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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THE PHILOSOFEAR – BOURNE BOMBSHELLS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PHILTHY DELPHIA – NORFOLK BRAWDS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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REMAINING SOUTH EAST GAMES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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[Photos by John Hesse]

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

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

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]

Heartland Series South East Matchday 2 Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MKR5

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

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

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

MKR6

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

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

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

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

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

Heartland Series: Milton Keynes v Bombshells preview

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The Bombshells kick off their 2014 gaming season – we’re supposed to call them games not bouts now, WFTDA says so – in style this Sunday (6th April) with a trip up to what we’re calling the South Midlands. Another name for this part of Britain is the Heartland, so it’s a fitting locale for the Eastbourne league to begin their first Heartland Series campaign. The competition sees 24 teams split into four regional groups. The six teams in each group (Eastbourne are in the South East Division) play the other five teams once each at (more or less) monthly double/triple header events, with the top two sides in the final divisional tables going through to an overall finals weekend at the end of the year.

Milton Keynes – or more specifically Bletchley, a town the MK New Town was built a couple of miles north of – is the destination as the Bombshells take on the hosts, Milton Keynes Roller Derby’s A-team Concrete Cows. The double-header’s other bout/game sees divisional favourites Big Bucks High Rollers up against the Norfolk Brawds. Bletchley Leisure Centre is the location, with doors at 2pm and bouts starting at 2.30pm (Big Bucks v Brawds) and 4.30pm (MK Cows v Bombshells). Tickets on the door are £10 adults and £3 under-12s, but adult tickets are a couple of quid cheaper including the service fee if bought online – see the link at the bottom of this piece.

The venue has parking and those driving up from Sussex can expect a journey time of two to three hours each way. Public transport-wise, the leisure centre is ten minutes walk from Bletchley train station. Trains leave from Euston, although you can bypass central London by changing at Clapham and Watford Junctions. Journey time is anywhere from two to four hours depending on where in Sussex you’re starting from. The adult return fare varies between £25 and £50, and Bletchley is within the Network Railcard area so card holders can get a third off these fares. After party location The Enigma Tavern is conveniently situated halfway between the leisure centre and station (about six minutes walk from either).

You’ll find all sorts of links at the very bottom of this article. In a moment, we’ll be talking to Bombshell Smash’er Fierce about her thoughts ahead of the bout, but first Milton Keynes bench manager OzymAndyAs talks Heartland history and more…

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OZYMANDYAS – MK CONCRETE COWS

Hi there. Firstly, for anyone who might not be aware of the MKRD league, can you tell us a bit about your history and achievements to date? What’s the derby scene like in your area? We were formed in May 2010 by skaters who were originally from Bedfordshire Roller Girls, but wanted to set up a team where they lived, alongside BRG. There’s a lot of derby in the area. Bedford has two teams, Northampton has two teams, Oxford now has three and there’s another one in Milton Keynes. We all know each other very well, which makes it a very friendly and competitive area. We hold monthly mixed scrims (on the first Friday of every month) where a lot of us get together. We would love to see some Bombshells there! Our first bout was a closed door against Romsey Town in November 2010 and our first public bout was against the Seaside Sirens in September 2011. We hatched the idea of wanting to play teams more competitively, rather than one-offs, so we launched the End Of The World Series in 2012, a year long tournament with our local friendly leagues. It was a great success (even better as we won the tournament in 2012!) and it grew into the Heartland Series, which had 12 leagues last year and 24 this year. And now we get to play the Bombshells as a result, so it’s pretty awesome!

What do you like about the Heartland Series, and what have been your highlights so far? How do you think this year’s – much bigger – series will go? We love the Series as it gives a structure for the year, organisation for our officials and a real focus for training and development. It has meant that we’ve formed really close relationships with a lot of the leagues involved and we’ve made many friends as a result. It’s also great to see teams repeatedly and watch them grow. A highlight for us was winning the first Series. As Bench Manager, I was able to call a timeout right before the last jam of the last bout, just to get the team to appreciate the moment and their unity as a team. Very lucky to be able to do that. We’ve also seen great matches from other teams. Oxford vs Wiltshire from last year was nail-biting, right down to the last seconds. Mean Valley’s games vs Hell’s Belles and the Brawds from last year were real seesaw battles and the Finals Day was an incredible atmosphere, with three excellent tense games and a worthy champion in Severn Roller Torrent. We’re hearing extremely exciting things about the continued growth of the Series into 2015. The most important thing is for all the new teams to have a positive experience and spread the word, and so far the performances of the North West Division teams, Nottingham Roller Girls in the North East and Dorset Roller Girls in the South West shows the strength in depth across the country. It’s great to see all the new teams have fun and improve!

Who do you think are the teams to look out for in the South East Division? Did the Bout Day 1 results (Brawds beating Beds by over 100, Big Bucks edging past Hell’s Belles) go as you expected? Big Bucks are the favourites I think, but Hell’s Belles played exceptionally well and were unlucky not to pull off a victory. The Belles have a lot of good skaters and being coached by Reaper [from men’s Team England] could make them a force to be reckoned with this year. The Brawds were awfully unlucky not to make it to the finals day last year. They’re well organized and have strength throughout the team. We look at other team’s performances and results, but essentially we try to focus on what we can control. If we win all our games, it’s in our own hands.

What do you know of the Bourne Bombshells (individually and as a team)?
We don’t know a great deal. We haven’t made it down to Eastbourne Extreme yet, but we know it’s a great event. We’ve met some Bombshells skaters at mixed scrims and bootcamps, and we’re excited to play them. The great thing about the Heartland Series is meeting new teams and skaters.

Are there any particular MK players or tactics people should keep any eye out for? Would you like to predict the result? Our tactic is to be awesome – hopefully it works out! We like to think we have strength throughout the team, and we get a good rotation of our best jammers and blockers. In terms of the result, who knows? As long as derby is the winner!

The day’s other match-up sees Big Bucks take on the Norfolk Brawds. How are you expecting that to go, and any players in those teams people should look out for?
We’re really excited to see that bout, especially as the Mayor of Milton Keynes is blowing the first whistle! I think it’ll be a really close game. The Brawds will be encouraged by the performance of Hell’s Belles in the first game, while Big Bucks will be wanting to show more of what they’re about. I think it will be a real cracker! Agent Sparling is a jammer to watch for Big Bucks, while Colletteral Damage always impresses for the Brawds.

Finally, for those travelling up from Sussex, what can you tell us about your venue? What can we expect from the after party? Any tips on other things to see or do in the local area? Bletchley Leisure Centre has lots of parking onsite and a café. There should be plenty of seats in the hall and suicide seats for the daring. There’s no bar but there will be vendor stalls, including skate gear from Swift Customs. (Swifty is one of our men’s team, the Quads of War, and played for Team Wales in the recent Men’s Roller Derby World Cup.) The after party is at the Enigma Tavern, a three minute drive from the leisure centre. They serve food and it’s also next door to a Burger King (we’re all class in MK). We love meeting the skaters afterwards and comparing bruises! I don’t know if there will be much time for people to do anything else after the bout finishes, but if you’re there for the weekend you can check out Bletchley Park to find out how the war was won by the unsung boffins and cryptographers. Also XScape for skiing and skydiving, and CentreMK for shopping and being underwhelmed by the original Concrete Cows.

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SMASH’ER FIERCE – BOURNE BOMBSHELLS

You recently took on a mixed league team (Skate Invaders) in Hastings. They were very strong opponents with a number of well known skaters from sides like Brighton and Portsmouth involved. How important was that bout in terms of preparation for the Heartland Series? Going up against the Skate Invaders recently was really exciting. We knew we had a tough challenge ahead of us and wanted to see how far we could push ourselves, ahead of the Heartland Series. It was great to play against such a high level team, and after the match they gave us some critical feedback that we have been working on so as to improve. We learned that we needed to focus on our endurance and play to the best of our ability until the very last second!

You’ll be playing at least five Heartland games over the next seven months. Do you have an overall strategy for the Series? What do you know about the teams you’re up against (Hell’s Belles, Norfolk Brawds, MK Cows, Bedfordshire and Big Bucks)?
All the leagues are somewhat a mystery as we haven’t previously played any of them. It was interesting to see that it was such a tight game [in February] between Big Bucks and Hell’s Belles, showing that anything can happen on the day. Statistically we are ranked middle of the range in terms of our region, so we will take every game as it comes. Personally I think Big Bucks will be our toughest competition overall, but we can learn and improve from every game we play in the Series, before we meet them later on in the year.

Your Heartland Series kicks off this Sunday 6th April with a trip up to the South Midlands to take on Milton Keynes. Are you looking forward to the game, and how important is being involved in something like Heartland to the Bombshells? Being involved in the Heartland Series has huge importance for the Bombshells and we are really proud of ourselves with how much we have progressed over the last year. It’s great to have reached a standard that allows us to participate in such a well known tournament, which hopefully we can make our mark in. We can’t wait to get started.

Yourselves and Milton Keynes are the only Heartland teams (from 24 in total) yet to play. Are there any advantages/disadvantages to starting your campaign after everyone else? Are there any particular MKRD players or tactics you’re going to be keeping an eye on? An advantage of being one of the last two teams to bout is that no one will know what to expect of us. We’ve been keeping an eye on all the other teams bouting for future reference. A few of the Bombshells have scrimmaged with some of the MK girls before, so we do have some idea of the competition. I’ve heard to watch out for Red Hot Chilli Whipper and The Valkyrie. I think some big hits are to be had!

Are there are any specific Bombshells players/tactics that people travelling up for the game should watch out for? Would you care to predict the result?
We haven’t publicly bouted since November, so the team dynamics have changed… in a good way! We’ve really been focusing on team work, on and off the track (and maybe at the pub). The crowd can expect a new strategy and different line-up tactics. I wouldn’t want to jinx us by predicting a result, but we are ready to put up a fight.

The double header’s other game (Big Bucks v Norfolk) will give you an opportunity to check out two of your upcoming opponents. Anything in particular you’ll be looking out for?
It will be really good to watch our future competition in action at the double header. We’ll be taking note of their strategies and style of game play to take back with us and work on how we can maximise our skills against them. I’ll be watching out for standout players in both teams too, so I’ll know who to watch out for on the track.

Finally, you’re not just focusing on the Heartland Series this year. We understand the Bombshells recently secured a sizeable Sport England grant and have helped set up neighbouring men’s and junior leagues. Also there’s the Eastbourne Extreme tournament coming up in July. How are preparations for that going, and do you have anything else in the pipeline for 2014? The Sport England grant has been absolutely amazing. It will enable us to be a better league and increase our development; for example, being fully equipped for new fresh meat intakes will make trying the sport out more appealing for first-timers. Both the men’s league (Bomb S’Quad) and the juniors (New Bournes) are coming along great. All the Bombshells are really proud of them and love helping out or going to their practices. They will be showcasing their talents at Eastbourne Extreme. The outdoor – and free! – tournament on the 12th and 13th of July is definitely a highlight of the year for us. Preparations are going well and we have some great teams and players joining us. I have no doubt it will be bigger and better than last year. Let’s just hope the sun is out again! All of our efforts will be focused around Heartland and Extreme this year, but if there’s an opportunity to get involved with anything else then I’m sure we will. Some crazy Bombshells are taking part in a 5km Spartan obstacle race later in the year, which looks awfully tough, crawling through mud, etc. I think I’ll stick with my skates!

[Photos by John Hesse, Daz Wilson and Janine Keat]

LINKS

BUY TICKETS: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/603644
FB EVENT PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/events/208107349387555/
BOUT VENUE: https://www.facebook.com/BletchleyLeisure
PARTY VENUE: http://www.enigmatavern.co.uk/about-us/#
SWIFT CUSTOMS (VENDOR): http://www.swiftcustoms.co.uk/
HEARTLAND SERIES: http://www.heartlandseries.co.uk/
MK ROLLER DERBY: http://www.miltonkeynesrollerderby.com/
BOURNE BOMBSHELLS: http://bournebombshells.wix.com/bombshells
BIG BUCKS HIGH ROLLERS: http://www.bigbuckshighrollers.co.uk/
NORFOLK BRAWDS: http://www.norfolkbrawds.com/

Bourne Bombshells Preview of 2014

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A busy 2013 for the Bombshells saw the league’s first ever open door bouts (two of them at home) and a debut appearance – and runners-up spot – at their own outdoor Eastbourne Extreme tournament. There was also a first continental road trip, a swathe of scrimmage and mixed team appearances, and more. The Bombshells now share the town with a sister (or brother?) men’s league, the Bomb S’Quad, as well as a newly formed junior league, the New Bournes for 11-17 year olds. We’ll be talking to people from both of those leagues on this website in the next week or two.

First up, though, we wanted to find out about the Bombshells’ own thoughts for the year ahead. 2014 sees the Eastbourne league’s first appearance in the Heartland Series, which runs through much of the year. The South East region kicks off this Saturday (22nd Feb) but the Bombshells sit out the first bout day, before swinging into action with a trip to Milton Keynes on 6th April. The Bombshells host Hertfordshire’s Hell’s Belles at Haywards Heath on 7th June, with the day also featuring an MK v Bedfordshire bout. The Sussex league then face the Norfolk Brawds in Herts on 16th August, with a tricky away trip to play Big Bucks on 27th September. Their final SE Division opponents are Bedfordshire on 1st November, with the final day’s triple header location yet to be decided. Should the Bombshells finish in the top two, the series finals weekend follows three weeks later.

Packed though this schedule is, the Sussex side’s plans for the year don’t end there and one or two other home bouts may well be scheduled. The highlight of the league’s year is as ever the Eastbourne Extreme tournament, which takes place on the 12th & 13th July. This year the Sunday features mixed teams of a variety of different types/standards (including experienced, rookie, women’s, men’s, co-ed and junior). The Saturday sees the Bombshells competing against a tough trio of opponents in Surrey Rollergirls, Croydon Vice Squad and London Rockin’ Rollers B. Anyway, that’s enough from us. Now let’s hear from someone ‘in the know’ about the Bombshells’ plans and ambitions for 2014 and beyond…

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CHUNDER WOMAN – BOURNE BOMBSHELLS PLAYER/COACH

2013 saw a lot of milestones for the Bombshells. How important a year was it for the league and what were the highlights for you?
It was a massive year for the Bombshells. We went from not having enough players for a full travel team, to having a full roster of experienced and tough skaters. I think everyone learnt a lot from all our games last year, but it was our big loss at our first home bout (v Croydon B) that taught us the most, and we’ve upped our game significantly since then. A big highlight for everyone was playing in Eastbourne Extreme for the first time, and coming within a couple of points of the win. We also had an amazing time on our big road trip to Mons in Belgium (and the beer at the after party went down a treat). I would say my personal highlight was my first time coaching the team. I was terrified to begin with, but it’s become something I really look forward to every week.

Moving on to 2014, the Bombshells have entered the Heartland Series. What do you know of the five sides you’ll face in the South East group?
The Heartland Series is something we’ve wanted to do for a long time, and we couldn’t be more proud to be a part of it for 2014. We haven’t played any of the other teams before, which is great as it gives us a chance to test ourselves against a whole new set of opponents. Our first game sees us facing Milton Keynes, who are one of my picks to win the whole division. A few of us have been lucky enough to skate with some of the MK girls at mixed scrims, so we have a bit of an idea of what to expect. Another big challenge is going to be Big Bucks High Rollers, but fortunately we have until the Autumn to see how much we can improve before we take them on.

The Bombshells are hosting a Heartland double header in June. Is it more of a challenge putting on a two bout event?

The Bombshells have a great bout production team who I’m sure will be more than up to the challenge. Double headers are exciting, and the fact that it’s a Heartland Series bout day should make for a great atmosphere. As people know from Brighton Rockers home games, the Dolphin Centre in Haywards Heath (where we’re holding the event) is a great venue for roller derby.

You’ve chosen a tough trio of opponents for Eastbourne Extreme. What do you know of those leagues and what are your expectations for the tournament?
We’ve tried to pick teams that will be very evenly matched, so it’s impossible to predict the outcome until we get there. Having said that, we’ve played two of the three other teams before. Our game against Surrey at the last tournament was very close, and Bombshells narrowly edged it by one point in the end. Who knows what might have happened had it continued? We’ll have a chance to find out, as all the games are going to be 10 minutes longer this year. When we last faced Croydon’s Vice Squad, they annihilated us. However, we went away after that and completely overhauled our style of play. We now have a totally different line-up system, and our bench coach Sassy McAwesome has been working incredibly hard to improve our strategy and overall gameplay. I suspect the result will be very different come July.

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Whilst the year is already pretty packed – Extreme and Heartland accounting for at least eight bouts – do you have any other matches planned for 2014?
At the moment the short answer is no, but I suspect that will change in the coming months. We’ll be travelling for most of our games this year, so we’d like to book a few at home for the local fans to enjoy. It’s also common to take turns hosting games, so there’s always the possibility of inviting some of our previous opponents back for a rematch. One team I’d personally like to face again is Belgium’s Freaky Mons’ter Derby Ladies, who gave us a real run for our money the first time around. Now that two of their players have made the national squad, I imagine they’ll be even more of a challenge. They were also excellent hosts, so it’d be great to return the favour.

Do the league have any non-bout events planned for the year?
The PhilosoFear, Pettichoke and I are going to be skating six miles in aid of Sports Relief at the end of March with a lovely bunch of ladies from the Rochester Royal Rollers. Then in August a big group of Bombshells are taking part in the Spartan Race – a brutal 5km obstacle course. I don’t know what we were thinking! On a lighter note, you can usually spot a boozy group of Bombshells in the annual Hastings Pram Race.

2013 saw the formation of two other derby leagues in Eastbourne – the Bomb S’Quad men’s team and New Bournes juniors. Do the Bombshells have much involvement with those leagues?

A few Bombshells are involved in coaching and running the Bomb S’Quad, which was set up by our refs Harry Trotter, Filthy Lorenzo and Electric Lee Charged. They’ve had quite a few of our ladies join them at their weekly practices, which is great for the development of both teams. I’m personally hoping to train up as one of their refs, as I think it’ll give me a bit of an edge on the track (I do get quite a lot of penalties). Beachy Headcase and Drag N Fly came up with the idea for the New Bournes after their own kids became obsessed with roller derby. While the team is still in its infancy (pardon the pun), kids have such a great capacity to learn that there’s no telling where they’ll be at the end of the year. They’ll have a chance to show what they can do at Extreme, as we’ll be showcasing some junior derby. The kids are really excited, and it’s refreshing to see so much enthusiasm.

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You’ve recently started training at Eastbourne’s My Skate World roller rink. Does the new venue bring any benefits over Shinewater Community Centre?
We’re currently splitting our time between the two venues, with Sunday training led by Toxic Block Syndrome at Shinewater, and Thursday training led by yours truly at My Skate World. The new venue is very useful, as there isn’t enough room for a regulation size track in Shinewater. It’s also good to be practicing on two very different surfaces, as it’s easy to get too used to a place.

What are the ambitions of the Bombshells in general (and yourself in particular) for 2014 and beyond, derby-wise?
The Bombshells’ main ambition is total world domination, but we’ll settle for winning a few of our upcoming games. We’re still a relatively new team, and South East England is home to some of the best sides in the country. We’d like to prove ourselves to the derby community and show them how our hard work has been paying off. My personal ambition is much more vain – I love winning awards at bouts. I even stick them up on my wall like a proper sad case. So yes, I want to have a few more to display by the end of the year.

Finally, do you have any advice for anyone reading this who might be interested in taking up the sport of roller derby themselves?
Just do it! Look up when your local team is next recruiting, get some skates and practice your arse off! I was absolutely rubbish when I first started, and spent most of Fresh Meat on the floor. Now derby is a massive part of my life. I’ve made lifelong friends and found a real source of personal pride. Ignore any doubts you might have and take the plunge.

[Photos by John Hesse]