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.





NICE ASS. Want to hit me with it?

2 09 2009

The Rollerbillies are recruiting – and we want you to join us! Our team has gone from strength to strength over the last year – we’ve been part of the awesome Team East Angrier, we’ve done a bit of guest skating, we’ve celebrated our first birthday, and we’ve been to some great bouts. We’ve had a lot of fun meeting new people, learning more skills, knocking each other over, and sinking ever deeper into our torrid love affair with roller derby. We’ll be playing our first bout against Glasgow Roller Girls’ Maiden Grrrders on October 31st, and we’re looking forward to getting out there and playing more teams in the year to come.

If you’re interested in roller derby, come and meet us! It’s an amazing sport, and the UK scene is full of inspiring people – come and be part of it! You’re welcome to come along to a training session to watch, we can lend you equipment if you want to try it out for real, and we can teach you to skate. No experience is necessary, just enthusiasm. And if you’re interested in supervising or facilitating the hurly burly rather than being in the thick of it, we’re also looking for referees and non-skating officials. Get in touch!

You can leave a comment here on the blog, or email us at info@rollerbillies.com. You can also check out videos and more information on the game on our about roller derby and how to play pages.

flyer aug09





TEAM! EAST! ANGRIER!

24 07 2009

Tournament time! Team East Angrier were drawn against the two longest standing leagues in the tournament – London Rollergirls and Stuttgart Valley Rollergirls.  Lucky us! After the swirly gold special effects wore off, we did start to doubt that She-Ra’s good advice and our gold spandex were going to get us out of it alive. We may be powered by unicorns, but we were shitting ourselves.

However, taking the philosophical view, when we saw derby for the first time we weren’t thinking ‘let’s do this so we can win and get prizes!’ We were just thinking LET’S DO THIS. As X-Ray pointed out, LRG are the reason we got into derby; we started skating hoping one day we’d be good enough to play them. So all we needed to do was take the ‘be good enough to’ out of that sentence, and our dreams had come true.

melee

jam mollie

And anyway, 12 teams of skaters would be coming to London to make history. History! So we put aside our (very real) fears of being snapped like twigs, and embraced the momentousness of the occasion. And the excuse to make badges. Or, in Bettie and Cherry’s case, the excuse to make a SCARY GOLDEN ZENTAI MONKEY. It’s not the winning that counts, it’s the making art.

happy us

Aside from the making art, it’s a bit blurry. We did a bit of hitting, we took a lot of hits, we went down, we got up, we had a laugh, did some shouting, Munchin delivered the transition whips, and we even scored some points. It’s true: we played LRG and we scored some points! It wasn’t like in our nightmares at all. The crowd were amazing, Voodoo make a kick ass unicorn flag, our crew waved it, Bane-ana was our mascot (we are now a bit in love with him), and we wore our seriously tasteful gold leggings. We loved it. We loved being part of it. And we sold all our shirts. Does it get better than this?

awesome montage

And the final score?

this woulda been great

Not really. LRG exceeded the scoreboard’s capacity to display points. Le sigh. Voodoo says she’s going to get 11 tattooed on her ass.

If you missed out on Roll Britannia, go kick yourself. Or better still, get a rollergirl to kick you in the shins with her big old skates on. Failing that, watch the trailer by Baron Von Strange and just weep quietly. If you look carefully you may see some shots of us falling down. Score!

So yep, at the time it was a bit terrifying, but now it’s just awesome. Want to be having the time of your life? UK derby is the place to be right now. Y’all are going to look back on this some day and it’ll be like that weepy scene at the end of A League of Their Own where the old ladies are in the baseball hall of fame. Your knees may be busted and your legs may be partially made of metal, but your grandkids will be impressed.

Thank you to LRG and Stuttgart Valley Rollergirls for being so great on the track – and props to SVRG for having great defense, and the most respectable LRG points differential of the entire tournament. As usual, massive thanks to the LRG crew, this time for making European derby history and bringing Sunday’s games to a worldwide audience – and for inviting me to help boutcast LRG vs BBDD for DNN.

And, inevitably, congratulations to London Brawling for becoming Europe’s official roller derby champions! You are indeed awesome, but we may have to insist you go calling to some more, uh, faraway towns. Europe can’t handle it. But in the glass-half-full sense, pitted against you, we all score roughly the same. We are one derby nation, equal under LRG.

glory teshi

Team East Angrier would also like to thank our sponsor and landlord, Dave, for sponsoring our tasteful kit. We love you Dave. And we also love Pat the Butcher for making us bags of spangly panties.

All the ace photos here were taken by Andy Stubbs, Teshi Tailor, Neal Humphris, and Daz. Cheers guys!