Over a week has passed, and I think I am almost recovered from celebrating Bristol Roller Derby’s 5th birthday. And what an incredible weekend it was…sitting down, going through our twitter feed and photos of the day I’m getting excited butterflies in my stomach all over again.
2014 was a year of change for BRD. In a relatively short period of time we lost a number of our strongest players to something called ‘life’. It turns out some people have one beyond derby, who would have thought?! Lots of changes and a tough season meant BRD had to stop, refocus, restructure and set new goals. All of these changes, alongside an excellent training programme delivered by our coaches, meant that BRD was on the up by the end of the year….just in time for Champs!
I realise this blog post is going to end up quite gushy (I spent most of the after party telling everyone how much I loved them…) but I think it’s totally justified. Our A team have performed far better in our British Champs tier than was predicted by the rankings. All our skaters have got behind our A’s, cheering them on at away games (as mentioned many times before, we have the loudest fans) and stepping up against them in training scrims. We have a very strong B(ee) team and our still relatively new men’s team, Vice Quad, won their first home game this year. We’ve also been steadily adding to our numbers over the last year or so through Drop-in Derby and we have lots of enthusiastic new faces. Basically, there’s a whole lotta love in our league at the moment and we couldn’t be stronger for it.
Our 5th birthday double header was held at UWE Centre for Sports, a location that we haven’t used for many years. Cons: long trek between the car park and sports hall. Pros: a massive hall where we can fit in all the stalls and seating most of the way around the track leading to an incredible atmosphere! Personally, I was sat on a mat on the floor by the first corner surrounded by a gaggle of BRDers in the midst of the action ready to shout until I lost my voice.
First up – Bristol vs Portsmouth. On paper it looked as though this would be a pretty close game, and the last time these two teams played, Portsmouth took the win. It took a short while for Bristol to settle into the game. Portsmouth took an early lead and Bristol didn’t look quite awake yet. Possibly the excitement of the home crowd (or too much cake), but thankfully our strong blockers meant that the first few jams were low scoring. However, an inspiring jam from Delta Strike, which included a display of incredible stability on her toe-stops, brought Bristol level with Portsmouth on 34 points apiece.
A flurry of power jams followed which meant that Bristol built up a 40-50 point lead that they wouldn’t let slide for the rest of the game. Blood took charge of one of the power jam opportunities and her sheer determination and resilience led to a significant points increase. I love watching Blood jam – from the look on her face she almost looks bored, and you would think you could catch her off guard. But don’t be fooled, she can take a surprise hit when skating on one leg at the edge of the track and still somehow stay in bounds!
Just before halftime, star jammer for Portsmouth, RIP McMurphy, completed a few powerful laps of the track (that girl is so STRONG!) and added to Portsmouth’s score, but a big hit from Raven and a bit of recycling meant the first half finished 124-61 to Bristol.
At this point I would like to mention the home crowd (which I was part of). I feel like we may need to apologise to the refs…apparently our cheering was so loud that the refs were having to out-shout us due to the din we were making. We were pumped on sugar (I ate a good few pieces of cake) and love for BRD and there was no stopping our constant chants of BRD, BRD, BRD!!! Halftime also saw the unveiling of a new roller sport courtesy of our B(ee) team, featuring some fabulous bee onesies, a broom and some bemused members of the audience – bee curling! This may not b(ee) its last appearance…
The second half started and there were a number of full 2 minute jams with both teams scoring plenty of points. Valkyrie Pain stung a formidable Bristol wall and took a couple of scoring passes, then Garfield juked her way through a swarm of Portsmouth blockers and did the same. Unfortunately, not long into the second half Bristol had their first foul out. The game was quite penalty-heavy which might have been down to how fast-moving and physical the action was.
More penalties and Garfield and Thorn were sat in the box, but they must have taken the opportunity to have a tactical chat as they returned to the track and qualified to score instantly with an unexpected star pass! Thorn is an incredible blocker but I love watching her jam. She went into the pack at full speed, managing to dance her way around Portsmouth. Some perfectly executed blocking from Blizz and the score sat at 209-146. (NOTE: you do NOT want to jam against Blizz – she’s like a brick wall and I swear she can cover four lanes at once!)
Nerves really started to kick in with around 15 minutes to go. Bristol had another two foul outs and the exit of hard-hitters Raven and Cormack must have shaken the girls a little. Portsmouth started to narrow the gap and the game got very heated. RIP McMurphy was clawing back points for her team but a full-force hip-check from Velizeraptor sent her down.
Final jam and RIP stepped up to take on Tils. RIP took the lead and made a scoring pass, but Tils wasn’t far behind her. The two girls entered the pack at the same time and RIP dramatically called off the jam with a potential injury. The crowd paused….was this the end? Why weren’t the refs blowing their whistles? Luckily it looked as though RIP was fine, the final whistle was called, and BRD took the win 305-253!! The crowd went MENTAL (as if they hadn’t lost it enough already). Phew, I needed a rest after that game. Both teams put on an incredible performance and made it one of the most exciting games of derby I’d seen in a long time!
Top of the table Windsor were to take on Brighton Rockers in the next game. Windsor have dominated the tournament and they continued their strong performance by taking a 348:196 win over Brighton. I tweeted this game for British Champs twitter feed and have two favourites from each team. For Windsor, Poison Cherry and Siouxsie Sutures – Poisin showed some excellent toe-stop agility, and Siouxsie Sutures can JUMP! For Brighton, Mighty Mighty Bash and Irish Mist – Bash can jam, she can block, she can do no wrong, and Irish Mist is small but deceptively strong and surprised a number of Windsor players by taking them down.
On to the after-party….Did you see our cake??!! Proudly placed on the ticket desk in the entrance of the hall, our very-own Vice Quad star Cupcake made us an incredible birthday cake. We saved this to be devoured at the after party. Our three original BRDers, including Blizz who put out the advert on Gumtree to start the team, cut the cake, and the party started!
All I can say was it was a booze and pizza-filled affair. EZ Roller reminded us that you don’t want to mess with her, on or off the track, by smashing the hell out of a sweetie (and tampon??) filled piñata. The venue was decorated in a rainbow explosion thanks to our social team, and much partying was had by all.
Thanks BRD for being so frikkin awesome – here’s to the next 5 years!!
– Scar Faith