Spandex gives you superpowers. Fact.

23 03 2010

It’s been a big 12 months in the life of UK derby: our first European tournament, a swathe of new leagues and new recruits, growing recognition for the sport, and  blood, sweat and tears for the hundreds of women and men working to make it happen. So when London Rollergirls announced that the Texas Rollergirls, originators of roller derby itself, were coming over to put on a bootcamp and play their travel team, London Brawling, it felt like UK derby was reaching a new level.

LRG have spent the last four years inspiring, generously assisting, and ably dominating leagues across the UK. They’ve set the bar for the sport in Europe, easily defeating their closest European rivals by margins of two and three hundred points, so whilst the rest of us have been playing catch up with LRG, we wanted to know whether they would still be playing catch up with the rest of the world. Were they finally going to get their asses kicked? This was the game with the answers.

TXRG vs LRG skateout

The Texas Rollergirls, formed in 2003 and currently sitting in third spot in the DNN power rankings, looked ready to put their mark on the game. If there were spandex rankings in derby, and there should be, these women would surely win prizes. The Hustlers went straight to business with a power lineup in the first jam, but Acute Angel was swiftly sent off for a track cut, giving London’s Sky Rockit a surprise 10 point power jam and putting the Texans on the back foot. But it wasn’t long before Molotov M Pale took 10 points and equalized. As the Hustlers took a single point to lead, only to have Brawling take one back to re-equalise, a pattern began to emerge: both teams working their defense, delivering split-second call offs, and waiting. This was a game of very few, but very crucial, opportunities – and plenty of surprises.

Sky Rockit rules

Neither side could hang onto the lead for long: when Stefanie Mainey, jamming for Brawling, was sent to the box, Molotov seized her moment to snag a 10 point lead for the Hustlers, only to have Mainey storm out in the next jam to juke her way to another 10, evening the score again at 21-21. Both sides inched forward, tussling for a few points, right up until the final jam of the period when Molotov took a trip to the box and opened up another power jam for London. Sky Rockit hopped straight through the pack on the inside line to take lead, and the Brawling defense trapped Curvette to haul the pack back and force the Hustlers’ remaining blockers to overstretch. Sky sucked up an audacious minor track cut and cruised out of the jam 10 points up, bringing the half time score to 39-30 for London.

I squeeze, you squeeze.

Both teams brought a strong defense to the second period. Texas dominated the front of the pack, with Babe Ruthless frequently forming a relentless one woman wall of doom for London’s jammers. Another power jam saw them regain the lead by one point, only to have London grab it back again, and two nail biting jams later the box was getting busy and points were tied at 55-55. Then at 57-57! Then at 61-61! Ten minutes on the clock, The Final Countdown on the PA, and dancing on the jam line: this was the greatest game of roller derby we’d seen in our lives.

The power ballads seemed to refuel the Texans, and they launched into the home straight determined to break the stalemate. Bloody Mary motored off the jam line, leaving Belle Starr to sweep in and take out Kamikaze Kitten. Mary breezed through the London defense to put the Hustlers into the lead by 4. Forced to play catch up, Brawling found themselves digging deep as their jammers’ minors caught up with them. When the Hustlers got another power jam, the London pack managed to out sprint Bloody Mary, but when Axis of Evon was sent off, Texas lost no time corralling a gazelle, allowing Acute Angel to add a further 3 points to their lead and leaving London with their jammer in the box at the start of the final play. Not content with a mere 6 point lead, the Hustlers pulled out a truly monstrous 15 point final jam and sealed the score at a decisive 84-63.

TXRG vs LRG

Verdict? Outstanding spandex. And a totally riveting game with standard setting play from both sides. We just haven’t seen a game as fast, close, and tactically demanding before. And we’ve finally seen LRG meet their match – and in the process play their best derby yet. Highlights? Two things: firstly it has to be the spandex. Secondly, you know how Mainey usually plays like it’s a pleasant stroll to the shops?

Stefanie Mainey forced to make effort in roller derby shocker!

I caught up some Texans to get their thoughts on the game. Molotov said “It would’ve been really foolish for us to come here expecting to dominate.. as a team, we went into it like we’d go into one of our home games, not knowing how it would go. It was a rough game.. they had obviously studied our nationals footage! But at the end of a week of traveling and training.. going into the game with all those crazy emotions, it was awesome.”

“I was really surprised,” said Babe Ruthless, “not that they were good, but that they were really good.. every trick we had they had it too.”

And how did London Brawling respond to their first defeat? “it was so, so awesome!” said Grievous Bodily Charm*. And how are they feeling about playing more US teams? “I was worried the tour would be intimidating” said Sky, “but now I feel like it will be really fun.” Team captain Kamikaze Kitten was typically focused: “I’ve never been so exhausted after fighting my way out of the pack,” she said “I’m determined to work harder.”

“I was so proud of everyone,” said Molotov. “All I could think was: congratulations.. I think they [LRG] are going to get a lot more teams wanting to play them.” So not just an amazing game to watch, but a validating experience for London. “It feels like we’ve always been chasing America” said May BTwisted, “and now we’re not just the little sisters anymore.”

And the reaction from the Rollerbillies? We are so getting leotards.

Thank you to Hurt Reynolds and Justice Feelgood for letting me write this up for DNN, and thanks to Teshi Tailor for triumphing over the forces of high speed action to deliver these quality shots.

* okay, possibly not in response to that exact question.

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One sleep til Love Smack!

12 02 2010

Tomorrow is bout day! It’s time for Love Smack: another intense double header hosted by the Lincolnshire Bombers Rollergirls!

The first game will feature two B teams made up of women from eight different UK leagues (including the Rollerbillies!) and the second game will be the sartorially splendid Bombers versus the multitudinous might of Birmingham’s Central City Rollergirls. This is the second time LBRG have put on a mixed team event – the first showcasing not only some excellent women’s derby, but also featuring the first ever UK men’s derby bout – so this event promises to be a second feast of derby goodness.

The Rollerbillies’ Dusti Knuckles, Phoenix in Flames, and Lil Mischief will be pitted against each other – Dusti and Phoenix on Team Black and Mischief on Team White, so.. GO EVERYONE! This is an exciting opportunity to see newer skaters getting their bout on, as well as another awesome instance of teams working together to build the UK derby community – what more could you want on a Saturday?

Our own Quad Ophelia is lineup managing the Bombers, so she’s been checking out their super skills at practice. Central City scored a nail biting victory against Leeds Roller Dolls only two weeks ago, so we think this is going to be a killer game. Only one sleep to go!

So get yourself down to the Newark Showground tomorrow and do some shouting with us! Or if you’re of a more Northerly persuasion, why not head over to Meadowbank Stadium in Edinburgh to see the Auld Reekie Rollergirls take on Leeds? Or if you’re in Glasgow, check out Glasgow Rollergirls up against the London Rockin Rollers? These days we’ve got derby everywhere so there’s no reason to stay in watching Saturday Kitchen.

Good luck to everyone skating this weekend, especially to those taking to the track for the first time – we’ll be rooting for you! May your wheels be swift and sufficiently grippy, your blocks devastatingly well timed, and your injuries minor.





Smack my Blitz up

21 04 2009

The derby season is in full swing, and the Blitzdames have been busy. So, in chronological order and quick succession, here’s Lexi Leven’s write up for Smack Attack, followed by Mollie‘s thoughts on Dollhouse Devastation:

smackattackThe second bout in the weekend’s double header saw the Middlesborough Milk Rollers making their debut against the Birmingham Blitz Dames, aided and abetted by some willing guest skaters from Auld Reekie Roller Girls and the Bedford Bandits.

After a speedy drive up to Birmingham we took our seats in the bleachers to watch the bout. The Blitz Dames looked confident on their home turf, with plenty of support from the crowd during the introductory skate round. However, as the first period began, it was clear the Milk Rollers were prepared for a tough fight!  Skaters were flying off the track and there were a fair few penalties from both sides to start with, as the teams fought for dominance. The bout started off evenly matched, but as the first period went on the Blitz Dames’ greater experience began to show as they worked together to prevent the MMR jammers getting through the pack. A blistering jam from Union Jack-U-Up saw the Blitz Dames finish the first period well in the lead, with a score of 86-45.

Period 2 saw a revitalised MMR come out with a much more effective pack strategy, and their hard-hitting blockers made it tough for the opposition to score in the first few jams. However, an injury to key blocker Smokin Ace took her out for the day, and once play resumed the Blitz Dames took advantage to rack up an 80 point lead on the visitors. Hard knocks abounded, with BBDD jammer Gun Bunny also needing medical attention after ending up at the bottom of a very dramatic pile up! The medical team were quick to react though and both skaters were able to join in with the skate round at the end of the bout, which was big relief for everyone watching. The Milk Rollers continued to fight hard but their jammers were tiring and in the end they were no match for the Blitz Dames. The final score was 198-78 – an impressive debut for the Milk Rollers and another win for the Birmingham team.





CARNAGE!!

11 02 2009

An unprecedented number of Rollerbillies were in London this weekend for a roller derby double bill – Clockwork Carnage: Steam Rollers vs. the Ultraviolent Femmes, followed by Referee Bootcamp and open scrimmage, yay! Once again we brought a bunch of bout virgins, and thanks to the high level of awesomeness on display we are happy to report a 100% conversion rate. We were also delighted to be joined by AWESOME SOCK MONKEY, who was hand made for us by Betty Trouble and Cherry Bomb from the Bandits. He’s (sob) going in our birthday party raffle. He was too excited to stay in the bag though – and can you blame him?

nem-n-kitty

With a place in the season final to play for, the stakes were high in this game; some of us were cheering for the Steam Rollers and some for the Ultraviolents (AWESOME SOCK MONKEY was naturally cheering for the green team). We figured this was the best way to deal with the agonising conflicts of loyalty, but nothing was going to help us cope with the tension in this bout – both sides were out for blood. The Steam Rollers started out strong, taking the lead by the end of the first period. Their presence in the centre of the pack was more like a fortress than a wall, and a source of serious frustration to the Ultraviolents’ jammers. But nobody in this game was going to give an inch without a fight – if you want to see what it looks like when someone jams like a motherf*cker and you weren’t there on Saturday, then you missed it.

jam-like-a

Pretty soon the penalties started stacking up and we were really losing track of who was getting sent off for what. The Ultraviolents were dishing out the clops and tolchoks and by the end of the second period they’d fought their way up to a tantalising score of 49-51. The crowd were in a frenzy. AWESOME SOCK MONKEY was barely coping. But the Steam Rollers weren’t going to let it go, and in the third period they managed to consistently outscore the Ultraviolents and emerged victorious on 84-64. Possibly the most exciting LRG game yet – more violence, more penalties, more jammerless jams, an exclusion – and the most stunning cupcakes we’ve ever seen. Nom nom nom.

victory2

monkey-and-cake

But that’s not all folks. Sunday was Referee Bootcamp, and our ref Captain Carnage was ready for school. Unfortunately aWeSoMe Welles has temporarily abandoned our grumpy  little island and is now somewhere in Thailand, so it was down to Carnage to get clever. We should have got him a special pencil case and some new shoes, but we didn’t and he had to make do with a spray painted ref shirt.

refs

We were psyched to get some scrimmaging in! Going to a mixed scrim can be a scary prospect, and we were super proud of our newbies who were braving their fears and playing with the big girls for the first time. There were more whistles than we knew what to do about, but we had a lot of fun. I saw weird spots before my eyes at one point, which just goes to show that roller derby is so damn good you can go blind. Luckily Nem gave me her half-eaten boost, and after that I was fine.

Captain Carnage reports “the mixed scrimmaging was brilliant, it was awesome how everyone just got on with it. I now appreciate how hard the refs job actually is! I’ve got my work cut out for me for sure. The whole weekend has made me so excited about Derby I might actually burst. *POP*”

So there you have it. We have him under observation. If he actually goes POP we’re going to be screwed.

Congratulations to the Steam Rollers and to the Ultraviolents for playing such a kick-ass game, and huge thanks to all of LRG for putting on the scrimmage and boot camp!

Many thanks to Betty and Cherry for AWESOME SOCK MONKEY, and to Ryan Hayes for the use of these super pictures. (The one of the cupcake is ours, in case you hadn’t guessed.)

If you want a chance to win FAMOUS AWESOME SOCK MONKEY you’ll need to come to our FIRST BIRTHDAY PARTY (hooray!) this saturday. If you can wait a mere 24 hours, you’ll get a post on here about that too.





Squeal totally busted!

21 01 2009

When the lovely CCR girls invited us to guest at their first closed bout, Breaking the Squeal, we were a bit nervous – we wanted to do it, but we didn’t want to suck.. it was a scary poke in the comfort zone. Then we thought, hey, it’ll be like a big scrimmage with real teams, all kinds of stopwatches, and proper reffing with real penalties, it’s okay, we can do that. Comfort zone my ass, nobody will be watching. So we said yes. Then we realised CCR aren’t the kind of league to do things by halves. It wasn’t going to be just ’bout conditions’ in the sporting sense, it was going to be bout conditions in the cupcakes, programme, music, commentating – and audience – sense. Okay, a lovely non-judgmental families and friends kind of audience, but still – a least 500 of them. In those cool bleachers, all stacked up… eating cupcakes, taking photos, and watching. It was going to be an all-out production; we were impressed. And terrified. The Rollerbillies waved us off and offered us sound advice (“Jam like a motherf*ucker” – thanks Captain Carnage), and we were on our way.

signs2

It turned out to be the best possible way to bout for the first time – CCR were awesome hosts, and we got to benefit from the serious hard work they put into the event without worrying about anything other than skating, so we were pretty much spoiled rotten. And we didn’t even suck horribly, which made it even better. The audience were great, and they were loving it – CCR are bringing derby to the masses, and gaining a whole lot of fans. We bet you 50p their first open-doors bout will sell out before you can say cupcake.

So it was Team Pink vs Team Blue, with Hermaphroditie guesting for Pink and Mollie Cosh (referring to herself in the third person just this once) on Team Blue.

teams

action2

Blue started strong, getting lead in almost every jam of the first period.  They walled the front of the pack, and held the inside line for their jammers. Pink were forced to react but fought hard to make their impact on the play. Although it’s all a bit of a blur, by the third period the pack was getting feral, and Pink were really making the hits count – resulting in some crowd-pleasing ouchie wreckage. I got a crisis of loyalty when Blues came off the track saying ‘Hermaphroditie hits hard‘ – but she definitely wasn’t the only one. Team Blue racked up some penalties (guilty) and had to line up short and under pressure a few times, but weren’t deterred. Despite fighting up to dominate the front, and the impressive escalation of violence, Pink narrowed the points gap but couldn’t close it. We finished on 126-86. Go Team Blue!

action1

score

And go team CCR! Everyone involved kicked ass, running the show like a beautiful, well-oiled machine. The only interruption was the change of afterparty venue due to a murder near the pub. Seriously. Some things you just can’t plan for. We had an ace time at the relocated party, ate chips, and sold lots of our excellent new handmade badges – so now we have funds to try and outbid Twisted Mister for old pads on ebay. Superby.

Huge thanks to CCR for popping our bout cherries in such a well organised fashion – it wasn’t exactly painless, but it was a pleasure to skate with you. Thanks to Angela Momentum for getting us to Birmingham in one piece – we were stressing about being late so we made her drive crazy fast even though she was trying to eat pastries. And finally thanks to our favourite derby photographer, David James Coxsell, for the use of all these ace pictures. Apart from the one of the badges; that’s just shameless merch promotion on our part. Want some?

victory

badges214

http://www.in-depthphotos.co.uk





Get your comment on

3 12 2008

It’s been an interesting few days on the Rollerbillies’ blog. Thanks for stopping by to check it out – we’ve enjoyed the comments, the debate, and the spiky blog stats. Free speech sure does keep life interesting; however, if you have a computer-based job it does tend to have a negative impact on your productivity.

I used to think we ought to pay real money and get a website; now I’m glad we were skint and had to get a free blog. They’re ace. If you write one, or if your league has one we don’t know about, tell us; we’d love to add you to our blogroll.

As well as tracking down some derby blogs, we’ve been adding more links for UK leagues; if we’ve managed to neglect yours then (a) get yourselves on the wikipedia list, and (b) shout and we’ll add you. And hey, why not get a blog? You can do it for free on wordpress, blogspot, livejournal, or typepad (none of whom are paying me to say this) and it’s a cakewalk compared to myspace. If you want to capture the evolution of your league, write some commentary on bouts, or if you like licking other people’s pads when they’re not looking and want to tell us about it, get it out there.

keyboard-green-speak-your-mind





The hazards of constructive criticism

29 11 2008

If you check out the comments below the last entry, you can see that one of the Dames wasn’t happy with the write up of Band of Brawlers. As one Rollerbilly to that one Dame, I figured I should respond:

I’m sorry you don’t like the blog entry for band of brawlers.

I have no doubt that bouts are hard work. This is a public blog. I’m writing as a fan. Obviously I’m not going to be aware of whatever is going on with your production team. I paid to see the event and I’m writing it up.

I’m a little shocked that you don’t think both teams playing deserve to have encouragement and support. The Dames had all their friends and families present; why shouldn’t some people in the audience cheer for the visitors?

If I’d come all the way from Germany to play, I’d like to think someone would show my team some support. We’re not actually living in wartime. I can support Germany if I choose to.

You shouldn’t be afraid of people encouraging your opposition. Every player who gets better forces others to improve, and drives the sport forward. That’s what the fans want to see, and it should be what the skaters want to see too.

As for the reffing, all I said was that from an audience point of view the bout was confusing. We’re members of the audience, we’re trying to understand the play. I didn’t say there was anything wrong with the calls or scores, I only said that there wasn’t much commentary to make them all clear.

Not every audience member is going to be a rollergirl; the rules are complicated and as the Dames point out on their blog, they do change. New versions of the rules make it even more important for you help the general public to understand what’s happening.

We definitely learned that staging a bout is a lot harder than it looks. It’s up to you whether or not you do cupcakes and how frequently you decide to bout. I stand by my review and you should stand by your event without making excuses.

Mollie