RETURN OF THE CHAMPS: THIS SUNDAY IN SUSSEX!

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

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

PREDICTIONS

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

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

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

EASTBOURNE ROLLER DERBY: BULLET BOMBER

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

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

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

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

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

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

MILTON KEYNES ROLLER DERBY: TEAM REPLY

For anyone reading who might not know of MKRD what can you tell us about your league’s history and achievements?
MKRD was founded in May 2010. In 2011/2012 we created The End of the World Series tournament for five local leagues, in which we were undefeated. The EOWS led to The Heartland Series in 2013 and MKRD remained heavily involved in the organisation. This tournament then developed into the British Championships tournament, which saw MKRD retain a solid place in Tier 3 until 2017.

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

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

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

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

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



BRIDGEND ROLLER DERBY: TEAM REPLY

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

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

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

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

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

[Photos by John Hesse]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LINKS

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

Eastbourne Extreme 2015 Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SATURDAY 18TH: THE TOURNAMENT (TRACK 1)

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

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

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

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

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GROUP B

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


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

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

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

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

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

Sessions at 9.30, 12.30 & 14.30

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

SATURDAY & SUNDAY: CHICKS IN BOWLS (SKATE RAMPS)

12.00 & 15.00 Saturday / 11.30 & 14.50 Sunday

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

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

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

9.30 SOUTHAMPTON CITY ROLLERS V EASTBOURNE EXTREME ROOKIES

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

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

11.00 JUNIORS EXHIBITION (INC EASTBOURNE’S NEW BOURNES)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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13.30 TEAM DRAGON RD v TEAM NO FUSS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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16.30: CROYDON ROLLER DERBY V BRISTOL ROLLER DERBY

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

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

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

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

11.00 FOOTWORK WITH GIN ATOMIC & NOISE TANK

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

12.00 BLOCKING WITH THE DUCHESS OF CRUTCHES

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

…AND THE AFTER PARTY (CROWN & ANCHOR)

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

EASTBOURNE EXTREME ON FACEBOOK

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

[Photos by John Hesse]

Heartland Series South East Final Day preview

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

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

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

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

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THE PHILOSOFEAR – BOURNE BOMBSHELLS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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FINALS WEEKEND & THE FUTURE OF HEARTLAND

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

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

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

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

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

MKR0

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

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

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

MKR2

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.

MKR3

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.

MKR4

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/