An interview with Crazylegs.

Posted: by aoanla
Tags:  interviews roller derby world cup 2011 team scotland

All the skaters in Team Scotland are important, of course, but Co-Captains Lily Lethal and Crazylegs were responsible for leading the rest to victory in Toronto. We caught up with Crazylegs to talk about the challenges of competing in the world's first international Roller Derby World Cup, and of the future for Team Scotland.

Although we’ve talked about this before the World Cup, it’s worth revisiting now: how did you prepare for the world’s first international Roller Derby competition?
I went to as many training sessions as physically possible - both with my league (the Auld Reekie Roller Girls) and with Team Scotland, and sometimes with the lovely GRG.  I also did a more intense off skates cross training regime to get fitter to be able to handle more than one game per day.  I had no idea what kind of intensity to expect or how many games we would be faced with in Toronto.  Team Scotland organised as many practice dates together as we possibly could in the lead up to the Tournament, we had an advantage in being geographically close with our team mates, but because of other commitments – individual league bouts and practices to plan around, we didn’t manage to hold as many as we would have wanted.We also did some research on the teams/skaters who were listed to take part in the World Cup – stalking if you like, and tried to keep a lot of our focus on bringing Scotland onto the world stage for derby in a good light.
In pretty much all of your bouts, Team Scotland did better in the second period; in fact, you only lost the second period against Team USA and Team Australia (which isn’t bad company to be in).
Team England shared a similar property of having a sudden revival after their initial start, thanks to Ballistic Whistle calling a time-out and restrategising; is Team Scotland’s approach similar, or does Knuckles just incredibly inspirational in his half-time speeches?

It’s interesting to note this trend for second period come backs!  In a tournament situation, it’s almost certainly linked in some part to the warm up and preparation – we had less time generally to warm up and get our heads into the game than in a usual bout situation, something we’ve learned from and will certainly plan for next time. In my mind the Germany game stood out as the most significant in terms of performance difference per half and this was due to a distinct tactical change we made in our game at half time.  In saying that, Knuckles always does give a good half time booster chat – in fact he’s possibly the most positive and encouraging person I have ever met!

While meeting all of the national teams was obviously a major part of the tournament, everyone really wanted to lose to the USA. How did it feel playing the best roller derby players in the world?
How long did it take to switch from being star-struck to trying to hip-check Suzy Hotrod?

The USA game was all about the enjoyment and learning from madly talented skaters. We had a goal to minimise the amount of points they scored which is hilarious to think of now.  I was really focussed on the game, so no time to be star struck.  It's all a bit of a blur with random faces you know appearing and you think 'oh God that's Bonnie Thunders sailing past me!'  I had no idea I had knocked Suzy Hotrod over until I saw my Facebook page that night.  It was amazing the amount of sheer control they had over us – it was like they were playing in slow motion Matrix style and we were just madly reacting to everything and keeping going like duracell bunnies.  I have never expended so much energy in a bout before – I loved how our skaters kept getting back up and never gave up pushing, all with huge grins on faces.   I did notice Sexy Slaydie’s rear end holding me back on more than one occasion though, and after the game blurted out ‘I love you’ to her, like a geek.

Team Scotland ended up placing 11th in the rankings. How do you feel that ranking reflects the team’s performance?

I’m happy with 11,  It’s my fave number!   In truth – I am very proud of the whole team for playing with such heart, and our management team for organising us so well.  I think unless we’re looking at first, second, third or fourth place - which we will be for next time ;-) - it really doesn’t matter too much where you come.  We got to play some of the best teams from places furthest away from Scotland and I’m pleased about that. We have all come back with so much new knowledge and of course there are some key area’s I would like us to focus on for any future TS endeavours, but I’ll be keeping that to myself for now!

Going on from the World Cup, clearly you will have picked up lots of contacts and tips from the rest of the international roller derby players present, in addition to getting a better feel for how Team Scotland plays. What do you think Team Scotland will be working in before their next appearance; and what tips did you pick up from the rest of roller derby?

Being Co-Captain meant my time between bouts was focussed on the next bout, helping to re-write line ups, team rosters and making sure the team were happy and the occasional power nap/toilet dash! I didn’t get as much chance to ‘internationally network’ as I would have liked to; but I did get a chance to catch up with some familiar faces from past bouts, which was lovely.   We were given some great advice from the TORD coach, and I know a lot of our skaters did manage to get some good advice/chats and bonding in, so we’ll be making sure we utilise everything we can in building an improved team for future games/tourneys. One area is of course more integration and practice between skaters from the different leagues involved and being fast to adapt our strategy when required.

It’s not much of a secret that at least some of Team Scotland are already thinking about further bouts against national teams post-World Cup, especially since you didn’t get to play all of the European teams during the tournament itself. Do you have any particular team you’d like to play that you missed during the Cup?

As it happens, there is already some secret squirrel planning underway looking at future bouts, so hopefully something will be arranged.  I would jump at the chance to play any of the teams we didn’t manage to play against.  Ireland looked really good and would be an interesting match up I think, and I really wanted a chance to play against Sweden…but then France did so well too…oh so many to choose from. Hopefully we can play them all one by one.

Being from there originally, would you have tried out for a Team Wales if one had existed in time for the World Cup?
(Now you’re wedded to Team Scotland by the team selection rules, how would you feel about a Team Wales participating in the next World Cup?)

A good question! It would have been a difficult decision, but ultimately I skate for a Scottish league and my home is here now – so even though my immediate family are still mostly based in Wales I would have had to choose Scotland (sorry mum).  I've so much respect for skaters that I've played with and against from Scottish leagues and geographically it makes more sense for me to be involved with planning, practices and bouts for Scottish Roller Derby. It was a real shame that Wales was not able to represent this time – I know there are some amazing skaters emerging in Wales already, and I would be so excited to see a Welsh team in future tournaments.  I would definitely be their biggest supporter!

And, in the medium term for Team Scotland, what would you like to see happening? There’s been talk of a European Cup in the next year or two, for example, or just more international bouts in general?

A European Cup would be awesome in the interim – the more time we can spend playing with the best skaters from countries outside of Scotland, the faster we will learn, improve and hopefully close the gap between us and the USA!

Finally, how do you feel about the next World Cup, in two or three years? Will you be trying out for the national team again?
Well I’m no ‘spring chicken’ at 38, but I do think that with careful training and looking after myself, I have a few good derby years in me yet! I’d love to be able to try out for another World Cup or European Tournament; it was the best experience ever, hands down.  But in saying that, there are so many talented new skaters springing up all over Scotland, that it may be time for some new blood take my place? I’ll definitely fight them for it though ha-ha.

Auld Reekie Roller Girls-Home Season

Posted: by scottishrollerderby
Tags:  arrg cherry bombers leithal weapons skatefast club upcoming bouts

Image courtesy of ARRG

Auld Reekie Roller Girls kick off their Home Season next month.Three teams will battle it out over between January and the final in April,all bouts will take place at Meadowbank Sports Centre,London Road,Edinburgh.There will be more details nearer the time,but the dates to mark in your diary are...

Cherry Bombers vs Leithal Weapons 21/01/2012

Skatefast Club vs. Leithal Weapons 25/02/2012

Cherry Bombers vs Skatefast Club 07/04/2012

Home Season Final: teams TBC 28/04/2012

You can pick yourself up a season ticket that gets you discounted entry to all four bouts over at Eventbrite,be sure to read the Terms & Conditions

An Interview with Wild Oates

Wild Oates in action - photo by Dave MacLeavy

The first-ever Roller Derby World Cup may be over, but that doesn’t mean that we’ve stopped talking about it!

Team Scotland secured a very respectable 11th seed, and made a great impression on the other teams and commentators alike. One of the most-talked about Scottish skaters was Wild Oates, from Glasgow Roller Girls, who gained quite a reputation for scoring Team Scotland’s only point against the favourites, Team USA. She was even rewarded with a custom designed t-shirt from their star jammer, Juke Boxx! We catch up with Wild Oates on her return from Toronto to ask, “How was it for you?”

First of all, huge congratulations on your performance in the World Cup! It was great to see the support for Team Scotland from fans back home, but what was the support like over in Toronto?

We had a little group of fans that came and showed support during each bout we played and that was seriously awesome. We also ran out of merchandise to sell on one of the days. Those Team Scotland T-shirts proved to be quite popular so we may have gained a couple of new fans during the weekend!

How did you and the team react when you found out that you’d be up against Team USA in your second bout?

I was watching the live draw on DNN when it was picked and I actually screamed when I realised we would be getting the chance to play either Canada or USA in the first bouts. I may have done a little dance around the sofa when it finished and I knew we were up against New Zealand and USA. Then of course anxiety set in as there are 20 skaters on the team but only 14 can picked for each roster. I think the Captains had a really hard time deciding who would play in each game. I know they wanted to go in all guns blazing against New Zealand to ensure we got a good position in the initial seeding. The USA game was more of an opportunity to play against derby royalty. I don’t think anyone had any misconceptions that we were going to come out on top against their line up. However, it was all very exciting to get to be a part of it.

Once the group line-ups were revealed, how did you prepare for the challenge ahead? It must have been tough knowing that you’d be playing your first two bouts within a couple of hours of each other!

Well, a few of us only landed in Toronto an hour before Team Scotland’s scheduled training time the day before our first bouts. It was a case of getting up at 5am in Glasgow, jumping on a seven hour flight, landing in Toronto and getting in a hire car to the venue before strapping my skates on for a two hour practice. Panic did start to creep in as the tiredness didn’t make for particularly good balance and agility! I had planned to stay at The Bunker to watch the Team USA vs Team USA but had to make the decision to go back to the apartment to try and get some rest before the next day, which in the end was the best idea as by about 8pm I was close to tears I was so tired.

The first two bouts we played the following day were only 20 min periods so shouldn’t have been as physically taxing as we would normally be used to. Getting knocked about by the amazing blockers of Team NZ and Team USA was quite gruelling though. When we then found out we’d be playing Australia later on and it was their first bout of the day, we were a little concerned we may not have as much reserve energy as they might do coming into the bout fresh. I think we all just tried to stay hydrated and make sure we ate something sensible in between bouts. Some of us even managed to have a nap in the skater’s area but I was too nervous for that.

What was it like skating with the tournament favourites, Team USA, and then getting presented with a custom-made t-shirt from them?

Well, before the bout I was speaking to one of the skaters from New Zealand and they had likened blocking against Team USA to “trying to hit very fast moving refrigerators”. I think that’s a pretty good description. Those skaters have cores of steel and it’s impossible to move them! Even holding one of their jammers back for a second felt like a huge achievement, as they ran round us scoring at least 30 points each jam – ha ha! At one point Deranged turned to block me backwards and I tried to run at her chest to no avail, she may even have smiled at my attempts to budge her. But hey, once you’ve played against skaters like that, you are never going to worry about being hit by anyone again as you’ve been hit by the best!

The lovely Juke Boxx made my t-shirt as she had seen my rambling DNN interview. Our bench manager Knuckles found me, said he had a surprise for me and I had to follow him. I was convinced it was a hilarious cunning plan to get me back working on the Team Scotland merch stall but instead he led me to Juke Boxx and Disco who presented me with the shirt and took my photo. Disco customized it, Juke wrote my name and Fisticuffs mum wrote the script underneath. I kind of want to wear it everyday then get buried in it but I’m worried if I put it anywhere near a washing machine I’ll ruin it, so currently it’s hanging up in my bedroom as an amazing souvenir of an awesome weekend.

What was your most memorable experience of the tournament?

Possibly when my girlfriend Jen came out with a birthday cake at the end of our final game against Brazil and the team sang Happy Birthday to me, I ended up bursting out into tears. There were loads of memorable moments on track. Lawless getting that 30 point power jam in our first game was a pretty big one. Marla being awarded MVP was another. Thank goodness Dave McAleavy was with us to capture them all on film for us!

You skated alongside some extremely talented skaters - did you pick up any top tips from them, or strategy plans that you’re keen to try out back in Glasgow?

I think everyone probably took something different away from their experience. I was already aware of my need to improve my posture and stride and getting put on to jam a few times during the weekend really hammered home the importance of me improving these as I just wasn’t anywhere near as quick as the other jammers once I was out of the pack. Also Team USA hit you really effectively, just in the right spot to buckle your knees from under you – learning to do that would be pretty useful!

There have already been rumours of a European Cup - if this materialises, would you try out for Team Scotland again?

Definitely! Any chance to play more derby will see me trying out for the team. It would be great to play against more of the European Teams as Germany was the only one we had the chance to at the World Cup.

Are there any plans to catch-up with skaters from the international teams sometime soon? I bet you met lots of people that you’ll want to stay in touch with!

Well, they all have an open invitation to come and stay in Glasgow whenever they like! I’m a bit socially awkward at the best of times so wasn’t particularly great at walking up to amazing skaters and striking up conversation, but luckily for the socially inept like myself there is Facebook so I can stay updated if there are any meet-ups arranged. My league, Glasgow Roller Girls, are playing some European teams (Berlin,Paris,Malmo) this year so hopefully I’ll be seeing a few familiar faces.

What about your Team Scotland teammates? Can we expect a reunion and a challenge for ‘the best of the rest’ of Scotland’s roller derby players?

I think there are hopefully going to be more bouts on home ground for Team Scotland, the team stays fixed until March and then there is another selection so I’m sure the current Captains are keen to organise some bouts before then. There was talk of organising regular training sessions which I am excited about.

What advice would you give to skaters who want to try out for the next international roller derby tournament, whenever that may be?

Even if you don’t think you’ll get on the team, try-out anyway and play your heart out, you might surprise yourself. I had pretty much decided there was no way I would be selected for the team but saw the try-outs as an extra opportunity to skate with girls I hadn’t trained with before and perhaps learn something new. I was totally over the moon when I got the call to say I’d made it on the roster.

An Interview With Violent Bob

Posted: by scottishrollerderby
Tags:  interviews roller derby world cup roller derby world cup 2011

Photo courtesy of Wicked Shamrock Photography

In the first of a series of post World Cup interviews,we talk to Violent Bob,Head Coach of All Ireland Roller Derby.

You have managed a national team and represented your country at a world class event,can you put into words how that feels?

It feels amazing. Thinking back to only a mere 2 years ago when Dublin Roller Girls held their first meeting, and I myself pulled on a pair of skates for the first time and started this journey, never in my wildest dreams did I think that I'd be coaching the first national team at the first ever World Cup. It's been a long year that involved a lot of hard work from a lot of people, and it was a tough week while we were over there, but it was an experience like no other and I'm proud to have been a part of it.

What were your impressions of the World Cup?

I know there has been some backlash from supporters, podcasts etc, regarding the live stream, the venue, the pillars which blocked people's' view etc, but I can genuinely say that the atmosphere at the event was incredible. I think there has been a definite divide between those who were there and those who watched online. The closeness of the crowd to the track, the packed bleachers, flags, the banners, the sheer noise and volume... I've never known anything like it. The support was brilliant, (I think Team Ireland converted a lot of the neutral fans which was nice), and the camaraderie in the locker room between all of the teams was fantastic as well. It felt like a mini-community in the venue, between teams, staff, supporters, I really can't speak highly enough about the whole thing.

I also think that everyone was big enough to realise that it was the first time something of this magnitude had taken place. There were some issues with the buses to get everyone to and from the venue etc, simple logistical things like that, but honestly I think everyone just rolled with the punches. It can only improve, I think everyone will be able to learn from this event and it will help it run more smoothly next time.

What are your World Cup highlights?

There are a few things that really stood out to me over the weekend. From a Team Ireland point of view, finishing in the Top Ten was THE highlight. We'd gone over with that as our goal, and we were delighted to have achieved it.

Otherwise, a few more specific things, the performance against Team England was huge for us. Granted, the scoreline got away from us a little in the end when England won out by a score of 199 to 64, but to have rattled them the way we did with only a 20 point difference going in at halftime, and to have pushed them all the way and make them work for every point that they scored, this was really like a Team Ireland "Coming Out" party! We showed the world that day that we were here to play, no matter who the opponent. I think I speak for everyone on the team when I say that we felt like we won that bout!

The bout against Team Finland was another highlight, the closest game of the whole tournament, and what so many people came to tell me was the high point of their weekend.

On a personal note as well, I also enjoyed how the crowd got behind us. I'd jokingly dubbed us the "Green Machine" before the tournament until someone could come up with a better nickname, but it seemed to stick, and to hear huge sections of the crowd chanting that back at us gave me goosebumps. Definitely something I'll never forget!

Ireland drew quite a mixed group with England and Argentina as opponents,obviously England were always going to be a hard team to play,but Argentina were one of the competitions unknowns,how do you prepare tactics for teams that so little is known about?

This admittedly was a tricky task. There was talk about the Argentina team being the unknown entity in the tournament, but I was adamant all along that we would go into every bout with the same approach. We knew that we had quality in our team, but that people would underestimate us due to our lack of experience - I stressed to the team before every bout that we needed to respect our opponent no matter who they were.

Like many teams in the competition,Ireland's squad was made up of skaters of different levels of experience and some of your skaters had only bouted a handful of times,what difficulties did that raise?

We made sure to get experience together as a team prior to travelling for the tournament. By bouting three times in the UK before we went over, it meant that regardless of people's' experience in terms of bouts with their home leagues, we had plenty of time on the track together and this helped enormously when we went into our games in Canada.

The only other concern was the 3 skaters we had practice and meet with the team for the first time when we arrived, Wile E Peyote, Canadian Psycho and Pippi Strongsocking. However after our practice session together it was clear that these skaters were fitting in beautifully, so it worked out perfectly!

Ireland's bout with Finland was one of the most exciting of the whole competition to watch,how was the bout for you?

Stressful! Looking back on it now, it was a hell of a bout, so back and forth, and had we had maybe one more jam, who's to say the result might not have been different?! I've never been one to get hung up on the "what ifs?" though. All credit to Team Finland, they're an amazing team with an amazing coach, we'd both wanted the chance to play one another during the tournament and I'm glad it turned out to be such a great bout.

For me, that one was where I feel like I could have done more. Feel like I spent a lot of time yelling at the officials rather than focusing the team, and I think I got something of a reputation among the officiating crew after that bout!

But it was awesome. I love that Team Finland went on to finish 5th in the world, they deserved it, but we'll definitely be hitting them up for a rematch!

Part of Derby is learning from all your opponents,whatever their skill level,what lessons have you learned from the teams you faced during the competition?

We learned something from every team we played, without a question.

The heart of Team Argentina and Team Brazil, both of whom played every game with a smile on their face and took on all comers. The improvement shown over the course of the weekend was nothing short of breathtaking, and if they can do what they did in the space of 3 days, they'll definitely be ones to watch in a few years!

Team England taught me that no matter how much a game might go differently to how you expect it to, by sticking to what you do well and keeping your head, you can effectively shut down an opponent and finish the game ruthlessly.

Team Finland, I can't say enough about. They taught not only me, but the whole world, that experience might stand to a lot of people, but clean, disciplined play, staying out of the box, and working together as a shiny silver machine will win out.

And Team Germany, with no disrespect to anyone else we played over the weekend, were simply the strongest team we played. I think skater for skater our two teams matched up very well, but on the track... those walls were impenetrable! They played a super effective team game and fully deserved to win the 9th/10th place game. Another rematch we'll definitely be looking for though!

What has the press and public reaction been like in Ireland,since the team returned from Canada?

It's been excellent, I must say. The cynic in me would say that it's a pity that despite our best efforts before we went over, no-one wanted to know, but since coming home, I've had both RTE and The Irish Times contact us for interviews and coverage, which can only benefit the sport.

This also seems an opportune moment to say a massive thank you to the online support we got from people all over the world, but especially those in Ireland. One of my favourite parts of every day was getting back to the hotel and checking in to Facebook to read the outpouring of well wishes and support. You're all awesome, thank you!

What do you think the interest in Roller Derby generated by the World Cup will do for the sport in Ireland?

Like I said, I hope it will just raise the profile. With more media coverage, we might attract more sponsors, attract more freshmeat, attract bigger crowds... The possibilities are endless! Also, I truly believe it will raise the bar for the existing leagues. Like I said to the skaters when I got home, 2 years ago the Dublin Roller Girls, and Roller Derby itself, barely existed in Ireland, and we go on to finish tenth in the world. There's talk of another tournament 2 years from now, and so I expect Ireland to be even stronger next time around.

With the first Roller Derby World Cup a success,there have been fresh suggestions of a European Cup,what do think of that idea?

Where do I sign up?!

Monthly Diary of a League: Fierce Valley in December: FunGhoul

Posted: by aoanla
Tags:  fierce valley roller girls fvrg interviews monthly diary

December is the darkest month, so it's a good job we have another monthly entry in Fierce Valley Roller Girls' selection to brighten up your day. Last month's interviewee, Max Attaxx, selected Fun Ghoul as her successor, so here's her views on her past month or so.

What first attracted you to roller derby?

My first memory is of seeing ARRG’s 2010 “The Prisoner of Azkaslam” bout advertised in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival programme, and deciding to book myself and a couple of friends tickets as a post-birthday present [to them] to watch the bout.

In the run up to the bout I did a bit of internet research into derby, but my first bout was still a confused blur of watching the girls with the star panties zoom round and score points whilst the other girls tried to hit the hell out of her. I’d already decided before the bout that this was definitely something I wanted to try, and afterwards I needed no more convincing.

I’m not sure what it is about derby that made me so attracted to it, but most likely a combination of that I was looking to take up a new sport/leisure activity, it looked like a challenge, and I loved skating when I was a kid, the punk/DIY/grassroots aesthetic of the sport, the camaraderie…oh, and the hitting!!

What was your biggest initial difficulty?

My biggest initial difficulty was definitely being able to find a league I could commit to the training schedule of.

I work shifts, mostly evenings and weekends, which is obviously when most leagues train, so I’d looked into GRG, ARRG and Fair City’s training and the commitment they needed from Fresh Meat, and, sadly I had to resign myself to the fact that because of my shift pattern, I would never be able to skate.

Then in the December of last year I heard that there was a new league starting in the Forth Valley area, I finally managed to track them down around Christmas, and started skating in mid-January. To make the training I had to go to a lot of Sunday afternoon shifts at work without showering afterwards, but it was worth it in the end. Plus, I picked up the skill of the “derby shower” very early on.

Derby names are one of the best known aspects of roller derby. How did you pick yours?

Basically, Fun Ghoul is Frank Iero’s character in the “Dangerverse”…which is the world in which My Chemical Romance’s Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys is set; he’s one of the Killjoys. I’m a fan of theirs, and the whole post-apocalyptic, post- punk, DIY vibe of the Dangerverse world I think gels with grassroots derby. Plus, they wear garish colours, face-paint and kick-ass, which makes up at least a small part of what we do.

Lots of rollergirls find it hard to not spread the word about their new sport. How've you been spreading the word?

Harassing everyone I know about how amazing it is! Making them come to our events, buy raffle tickets, sponsor our Goodwood skate…friends, family, colleagues, sometimes strangers, no one is safe from the derby word.

To be honest though, the internet is an invaluable resource for derby, especially social networking for getting information about your league and events out to the public, and also sites like Derby News Network and Roller Derby UK TV for screening and archiving bout footage, so if people aren’t sure what it’s all about, you can point them at an actual bout there and then.

What's the most important thing you've learnt/done this month?

Don’t forget the endurance!

I think before our first bout we got a bit wrapped up in technique and drills and let our endurance drop a little. At the time we only had one session a week focussed on anything above Fresh Meat level, so it was a compromise we had to make.

Now we’ve got our new Friday session, it means we have time dedicated to on-skates endurance, which is so fantastic, but it’s been a killer to get back into! I was wheezing after a five minute skate last week after pushing it too hard through determination not to get any less than my usual 30 laps (silly, I know!).

Other than that, I learn new ways that my league mates are utterly fantastic every session, and I’m so lucky to know such an inspiring, and insane, bunch of ladies (and gents!).

What were the most difficult and the best things you've done?

The answer to both those questions is our first bout (see above).

It was difficult, as it was only the second time ever we’d skated as a whole team, we lost two of our players pre-bout to injury and illness, and we were on home turf, so there was pressure to not get our asses totally handed to us! I think the first half was toughest, as we were trying to find our rhythm, but by the time the second half kicked off, we were all just out there to have fun and really enjoy the best 1st birthday celebration ever as a league!

It was also the best, as I was awarded MVP for the Parma Violents, which has definitely been the highlight of my derby career so far.

What's new with the league as a whole?

We’ve just had our first AGM, and as a part of that set up a lot of new and exciting committees, so I’m really looking forward to seeing them push FVRG to the next level over the coming 12 months.

We have our First Annual (hopefully!) FVRG Awards taking place on the 16th, which I’m organising with the help of the lovely Max Attaxx, at our whole-league Christmas roller disco, so we’ll be doing a dodgy Oscar/BAFTA style double-act presenting bit that will probably end in chaos after too many sweeties are consumed!

And then next year we have our first open bout (!!) “Bruise Brothers” on the 18th February against Dundee Roller Girls’ Silvery Tayzers, up in Dundee, so I’m really looking forward to that, and keeping everything crossed that I’ll be picked to bout for the Parma Violents again.

I can’t wait for an even more awesome derby filled year with FVRG in 2012!!

A European Cup : Some considerations.

Posted: by aoanla
Tags:  roller derby world cup 2011

There were 7 European National Teams participating in the first ever Roller Derby World Cup this weekend.

With some momentum building for more interaction within Europe even before the start of the Cup, the mixing of teams over the last few days has really begun to start a ball rolling within European derby. It therefore looks increasingly likely that there will be a European Cup of some kind (I currently favour an X Nations label) within the next two years.

So, what would such a tournament look like?

Well, one of the constraints for the World Cup was that the lack of any established rankings meant that a large number of bouts needed to be played initially to establish rough seedings for the tournament proper. (Single-elimination tournaments are basically useless if you don't order the initial round matchups properly.) Ironically, the number of bouts needed in total (including consolation round bouts for each round in the tournament) was greater than that needed for other tournament types (double-elimination, or even triple-elimination, brackets) which wouldn't have needed as good seeding in the first place.

Now that we have rough rankings for all of the teams in Europe, a European Cup could run with those rankings as seeds for its own tournament structure. With the caveats on the accuracy of rankings derived from single-elimination tournaments, a double-elimination structure would seem sensible, and would require only 13 bouts if only the 7 World Cup participants were present.

For example, based on the rankings from the world cup:

The advantage of a double (or triple) elimination tournament is that it would scale to additional teams from Europe (Norway, for example, or Wales, amongst others), with only a small increase in the number of required bouts - twice the number of participants minus 1 for double-, and thrice minus 1 for triple-elimination.

With only 7 or 8 participants, however, the advantages of double-elimination don't necessarily outweigh those of round-robin tournaments (where everyone plays everyone else). Round-robin tournaments necessitate more bouts overall (X*(X-1)/2 for X participants, so 28 bouts for 8 teams, or 21 for 7), but everyone does get to play the same number of bouts as each other, and the rankings produced are close to definitive as a result. This is how, for example, the 6 Nations Rugby Championship works, with the large number of contests spread out over several weekends hosted by each of the competing nations. The disadvantage of this kind of contest is, of course, that there is no "final" contest - the ranking is a result of performance over the entire tournament, not progression through elimination; this can be problematic for spectators, who have no "big" game to focus on.


In either case, the best way to integrate such tournaments into the already fairly busy derby schedules may be to have the initial rounds distributed geographically, with the final core brackets (for elimination tournament structures) held at a central venue. This would limit the time pressure on such an event (one of the teething problems with the World Cup being the time and scheduling pressure from having to host so many bouts in just a four day period), although a 13 game double-elimination tournament would fit into a (busy) weekend with a little squeezing, with the 20 game triple or 21 game round-robin probably needing 3 or 4 days to give it room to breathe.

Whatever the structure, a European Cup would be good not just for European Derby, but also for the individual teams' experience (and that of their home leagues). One of the advantages of roller derby leagues in the USA (other than the sheer depth of experience they've had the time to accrue since the revival) is the vast number of potential competitors they have available, giving them a tremendous breadth of styles to incorporate. In order to replicate this effect outside of the world's largest Western economy, the only reasonable approach is to play more with our European neighbours - with the links forged in this past World Cup, perhaps this is the right time to take the next step towards a full European Derby culture, and a regular tournament is just the right excuse.

World Cup Day 4: One big upset (no, the USA still won...)

Posted: by aoanla
Tags:  roller derby world cup 2011

With Team Scotland cheering from the stands, Scottish roller derby was still represented on track on this final day of the tournament. Both of our Scottish referees, Ella Bella Bang Bang and Cherry Fury, were officiating at many of the jams today; Cherry Fury refereeing the semi-final in particular.


First up in the day's schedule were the semi-finals. With the dominant USA facing a strong Australia, no-one expected the latter team to win; including, apparently, Australia themselves. Playing a roster which didn't include some of their better players, in order to save them for the 3rd place play-offs, Australia couldn't compete with a hard fighting USA, losing 532:4; at least partly due to giving away a few too many power-jams.

The second semi-final was always expected to be close, England and Canada both sporting members from teams ranked in the WFTDA Eastern Regionals. Both teams have truly exceptional jammers (Iron Wench,Georgia W Tush,Luludemon for Canada, Stefanie Mainey, Jack Attack and Kamikaze Kitten for England), and the defence in the packs was somewhat heated because of it. With the first period closing at 78-51, with England closing in on Canada for most of the second half of that (team coach Ballistic Whistle has a habit of watching his team for the first third of a period, and then calling a time-out to adjust their strategies for victory), it seemed entirely possible for England to pull out a win. After a tight first 10 minutes, ending with Georgia W Tush leaving the track with what turned out to be a broken clavicle, the second period did seem to be narrowing Canada's lead once more; only for an unfortunate set of penalty issues for England, culminating in a last-second track cut major for Kamikaze Kitten, handing Canada the perfect chance to pull their lead ahead. While Stef Mainey did take the final jam of the bout, even she couldn't turn the tide; Canada won, 161:90, proceeding to the final.

In the playoffs for 5th/6th place, favorites Sweden found Finland a surprisingly tough rematch; both teams picking up a significant numbers of penalties. While Finland managed to maintain a small continuous lead, Sweden never really let them extend it, Ankefar and Mad Malooney taking just as many lead jammer calls as the Finns' Udre and Kata Strofi. Unfortunately, with Sweden's captain Swede Hurt having to work extra hard in the pack, she fouled out for the final quarter of the second period, and Finland took advantage, slightly extending their lead to a final victory 126:100. So, with the biggest upset of the tournament, the #10 seed took #5th place in the tournament proper, Sweden settling for an almost as impressive #6th place ranking.

The playoff for 7th/8th place was almost as close, France playing New Zealand in a very tight first half that saw the scores even at 46:46 around a quarter of the way through the bout (Axl-Slash-Her and Miss Metal Militia pulling the NZ score up after an initially strong French play). Thanks to some great jamming from Francey Pants and Dual Hitizen (on a power jam), France managed to pull ahead by the end of the first period, 88:62, despite a last minute resurgence by NZ again. In the second period, NZ continued their fight back, almost erasing France's lead in the first 10 minutes, before a complex power-jam with Axl-Slash-Her and Francey Pants trading places in the penalty area removed their momentum. The second half of the period saw some excellent French pack work and jamming pull their lead ahead again, capping it with a 20-point power jam just outside the final 5 minutes. While NZ never stopped fighting, they couldn't recover from that disadvantage, losing the game 180:129. So, France ended the tournament ranked 7th, NZ settling for a solid 8th place.


With a pause in proceedings to rearrange the venue, opening up the partition between the two tracks to allow maximum spectating space for the 3rd place playoffs and final, the crowd was entertained by Mens Roller Derby legend Quadzilla demonstrating his famous jumps, managing to leap over 9 prone volunteers in an impressive display of athleticism.


With the track rearranged, it was time for the 3rd place playoffs, England vs Australia. As is usual, England started the first period poorly, Australia managing to score 44pts to England's 15 before Ballistic Whistle pulled his traditional first time-out restrategising. Armed with a tuned tactical plan, England returned to the track dominant, improved blocking strategies letting Stef Mainey and Kamikaze Kitten take lead jammer almost instantly in their next bouts, while keeping Australia's ShortStop locked up (and in the sin-bin). All of the English jammers managed to pick up points over the rest of the first period, bringing the score at the end of the first period to a strong 116-62 (even if Vagablond managed to get herself ejected from the bout for gross misconduct). While Australia fought hard in the second half, especially when England started feeling their traditional high penalty rate bite, great work, especially by Kamikaze Kitten, kept their lead intact. England closed out the bout 198:85 to take a well deserved 3rd place spot, Australia taking 4th.

Of course, the big event of the day was the final, with the local crowd hoping that #2 seed Canada might be the one team capable of causing the USA pause. As it was, the USA opened the bout in their typically dominant fashion, Atomatrix taking a 15point jam while Canada desperately tried to break their own jammer through the pack. With Canada feeling the loss of star jammer Georgia W Tush, it was left to Luludemon and Iron Wench to crack the solid US defence; Luludemon finally pulling out Canada's first score of the bout during a power-jam from Suzie Hotrod - such was the strength of the opposition that she had to fight the entire way just to pick up 5 points. With the demonstration that it was possible, Iron Wench repeated the performance without the assistance of a power-jam; with no more scores from Canada in that period, it ended 178:9 (still the strongest performance against the US from any team in the tournament).

With a second power-jam for Luludemon in the second period allowing the Canadian jammer to show what she'd learned the first time, the Canadian score doubled to 19 points in a single jam, with Iron Wench and Luludemon continuing to pick up points throughout the period. Of course, there was no stopping the USA either, with Suzy Hotrod, Tannibal Lector and a host of other Derby Names pulling out big scores for their team. With the score ending 336:33 to the #1 seed, it was an unambigious win for the home of Roller Derby; but a notable success for Canada too, scoring more points against the US in that one bout than had been scored in the entirety of the World Cup to that point.


So, the final rankings were:


2 Canada

3 England

4 Australia

5 Finland

6 Sweden

7 France

8 New Zealand

9 Germany

10 Ireland

11 Scotland

12 Brazil

13 Argentina.

The colour coding of the list is intended to represent the general grouping of ability, based on the closeness of bouts between teams. Within a colour group, if we replayed the World Cup right this moment, I would expect at least some of the teams to change their ranking by one or two.

If a World Cup was held in two to four years' time, I think the entire field below 4th place would be open to complete rearrangement (Brazil and Argentina's main issue being their lack of experience, rather than anything else). Within the top 4, I could see the ordering of 2nd,3rd,4th change as Canada, England and Australia all improve over time. I suspect the USA would still win 1st place, but with a significantly reduced majority.


All that remained was the handing out of the medals; Australia obtaining the "Down Under Cup" for best performance in the southern hemisphere, the top three ranked teams all getting their relevant medals. And, of course, the medals for the Team MVPs for the tournament:

Sargentina (Argentina), ShortStop (Australia), Nanda (Brazil), Iron Wench (Canada), Kamikaze Kitten (England), Kata Strofi (Finland), Francey Pants (France), Heavy Rotation (Germany), Zola Blood (Ireland, also not present to pick it up!), Skate the Muss (New Zealand), Marla Mayhem (Scotland, after some exceptional jamming), Swede Hurt (Sweden), Joy Collision (USA)

Tournament MVP went to Canada's Smack Daddy.

World Cup Day Three: Great news... for Scandinavia.

Posted: by aoanla
Tags:  roller derby world cup 2011

With Scotland relegated to the round 1 consolation pool after facing the Cup's dark horse, Australia, in their last bout of the day on Friday, the highest potential ranking they could attain would be 9th, requiring an unbroken streak of 3 wins against the other teams dropping out in the first round.

(As an aside, this is one issue with single elimination tournaments with consolation pools; the actual "true" rank of a team losing in the first round could actually be as high as #2, if the seeding was poor; in this case, actually the realistic cap would be #5, given the byes for USA, Canada and England.)

Facing off against Argentina first, Team Scotland managed a a close win, after an uncomfortable period with precisely level scores, Scotland ended the first period ahead by 33 points, thanks to a 23 point jam by Clinically Wasted. The second period was similarly irregular, trailing an dominant first quarter (Wild Oates taking a 20 point power jam) with a worrying central set of jams where Argentina picked up 33 points of their own, helped by an almost continuously depleted Scottish pack. Happily, Scotland resurged in the final 2 jams, Blazin' Phoenix taking 8 points in the last jam of the bout and drawing out the time to ensure it closed, for a final score of 114:91.

Second up against Scotland was Germany, probably the team who least expected to be in the 1st round consolation pool after a loss to New Zealand. After a fairly even couple of jams, Germany started to pull ahead over the rest of the first period, showing generally better discipline than Scotland. That said, the score at the end of the first period, 73:7, was an overstatement of the advantage from Germany. After what must have been an impressive half-time speech from Knuckles, Team Scotland played a totally different second period, matching Germany score for score, and vastly improving their discipline in turn, to bring the final score to 104:41. (Yes, the second period score balance was 31:34, a narrow win for Scotland). On another day, on the basis of the second period, Scotland might have won this one, but it wasn't to be..., with Germany off to play their next bout to snatch 9th place overall (over Ireland), Scotland was playing derby newcomers Brazil (who had lost to Ireland) for 11th place in the tournament. Both teams had vying for the title of "Most Loved Team in Tournament", with the South American team showing almost as much heart as Scotland in all of their jams, although without the advantage, perhaps, of the loudest supporters in the Cup (in several bouts, the commentators noted how deafening the Scottish crowd's cheering was...). With Brazil heavily reliant on their one highly experienced jammer, Nanda (who plays as Brazil(ian?) Nut for Gotham Girls Roller Derby, but adopted the Brazilian tradition of sporting stars skating under their first names for the national team), Scotland just had to control her, and pick up points when she wasn't jamming. That's generally what they did, Marla Mayhem and Mistress Malicious picking up the majority of the points for the Scottish team, with the latter managing not just a 19 point power jam, but a 15 point natural as well!  With a final power jam, Brazil's Bianca off for track cutting, Blazin' Phoenix capped off the score with another 13 points, taking the final score to 113:64

With that win, Scotland had played all of the bouts in their consolation pool, 2 wins and 1 loss placing them at rank 11, a solid middle.


Meanwhile, in the elimination tournament, Australia continued their rolling defeat of all challengers, knocking a resilient Sweden out of the 2nd round by 126:80, and the USA, Canada and England all (predictably) won their 2nd round bouts against New Zealand, Finland and France.

This puts the semi-finals as USA : Australia, Canada : England today. While the Canada : England bout could go either way, it would be an impressive upset for Australia to beat the USA (but also probably the most exciting result you could expect in the tournament overall).

Meanwhile, in the 2nd round consolation bracket, fighting for the maximum rank of #5, Sweden defeated New Zealand, and Finland, France, meaning that it is likely that the battle for 5th place will be between the two Scandinavian countries. The last time Sweden played Finland, pre-World Cup, they managed to achieve a win; if they can repeat that performance today, they'll confirm their #5 seeding. If Finland win, they'll be managing a big upset, as they entered the tournament proper with a seeding of only #10...


So, with Scotland now officially the 11th ranked country in the world for Roller Derby, their ranking with the crowd at the cup seems significantly higher. Scotland's determination, and good heartedness (and impromptu dance party in half time versus Brazil!) have seen them mentioned more times by commentators than most of the other teams; challenged only by New Zealand's haka (which was exceptionally novel to Americans, who aren't really a Rugby playing nation... ) and Brazil's general massive underdog status. Wild Oates, in particular, seems to have become a commentator favourite; that point against the USA branding her into the consciousness of everyone with a microphone as "that Scottish skater".

So, with a next potential World Cup in 2 to 4 years, and the possibility of a European Cup (which some people are now mooting as a "7 Nations", based on the European component of the current tournament) on a similar timescale, we have a while to wait until another roller derby event of this magnitude. I think it's fair to say that Scotland will be taking advantage of the remaining day of the Cup to spectate at all the remaining derby; and probably continue to pick up fame from deafening the announcers...

World Cup Day Two: Hammer of the Scots

Posted: by aoanla
Tags:  roller derby world cup 2011

The second day of the Blood and Thunder World Cup began with the second half of the pool placement rounds. As Team Scotland were arriving on multiple flights, they couldn't play any bouts on Day One, so both of their pool bouts were held today.

After fighting New Zealand in a close bout (thanks, in particular to sterling jamming by Marshall Lawless, with a 30 pt jam in the first period, and a 12 point jam, while visibly exhausted, in the very last jam of the bout) only to lose 124:111.

The bout against the USA went as predicted; despite some individually good performances, Team Scotland was as (happily, from their faces) outclassed as most of the teams in this tournament would be. The crowd was clearly with the Scottish team, however, with a huge cheer when Wild Oates scored Scotland's one and only point. (This seems to have made Oates something of a minor celebrity, considering the number of later namechecks by commentators. In fact, DNN took the time to interview her after the bout, and stuck it up here:

Unfortunately, due to the use of a win/loss, points bracket scheme for seeding, the seeding placements for many of the teams were not reflective of their true skill (New Zealand and Scotland both ranked lowest in their win/loss ratio bracket, putting NZ 9th and TS 13th, just because they lost overwhelmingly to the best team in the world, while some other teams seem to have been seeded higher than I would have expected based on their performance.)

Seeding 13th set up Team Scotland for their 3rd bout of the day, their first in the elimination tournament proper, against 4th seed, Australia (who hadn't played a bout in the day). While the first 5 or so jams were actually fairly close, an clearly tired Team Scotland kept making mistakes and picking up penalties; the final score of  251:48 to Australia reflects a multitude of factors other than the skill of the players (Australia would probably have won the bout with a fresh Scotland, but not by such a landslide.)

Scotland will now play Argentina (who were seeded 12th, after a drubbing by England in their final pool bout, and then defeated by an tired Sweden (like Scotland, playing their 3rd bout of the day) in their first elimination bracket). Depending on how well Brazil and Ireland do, a win in the consolation bracket could potentially place the Scottish team as high as 9th.

If there was a consistent theme to all three bouts, it was the same weakness that was evident in Team Scotland from their exhibition bouts: that is, a particular fondness for the sin-bin. In all three bouts, Team Scotland played very well when all of their skaters were on the track, and exploited power-jams themselves exceptionally; but there were far too many times when there were only 3 or 2 blockers to hold back the opposing team.


The other events in the day were: England methodically dissecting All-Ireland and Argentina and Canada steamrollering Sweden and Brazil (bouts which, like the USA matchups, Ireland, Argentina, Brazil and Sweden were never going to win, but fought hard on nonetheless), Germany ekeing out a win against a very determined Finland (in a bout where the lead changed multiple times, but a serious Second Half strategy by Germany ensured the win), France trouncing Brazil (rather like Scotland, Brazil have problems with keeping all their skaters on the track, but France outplayed them as well),  and, finally France being generally outplayed in a low-scoring bout against Sweden.

This set the seeding for the elimination tournament as shown here:

Other than the Scotland/Australia and Sweden/Argentina bouts mentioned above, the other two elimination bouts played were:

France facing off against Brazil (again!), in a much closer bout than before, but still easily leaving France the victors.

All-Ireland facing off against Finland; in the first upset of the tournament, #7 seeded Ireland was defeated in a close 148:134 by #10 seed Finland.


The next bout of interest to Team Scotland supporters is the play-off against Argentina, at 3pm GMT.

The other bouts are:

Germany v New Zealand

Australia v Sweden

and then the rest of the brackets to be determined by the results of the games to be played.

World Cup Day One: Some impressions.

Posted: by aoanla
Tags:  roller derby world cup 2011

With the schedule of bouts for the first day of the Roller Derby World Cup almost complete, now is as good a time as any to start looking over the events for insight.

Australia and New Zealand entered the tournament as the dark horses; not having played anyone in the US or Europe, we had no idea how good they'd be. Arguably, we still don't know how good New Zealand is - anyone could lose to the USA by 377:8 - but we do know that Australia is as formidable as some had feared, beating the seeded Team Germany with triple their score, and Finland by a larger margin. Personally, I'd go as far as suggesting they're the only team outside the North American continent who might be able to win.

New Zealand are most memorable for borrowing the tradition of the Haka from their Rugby playing compatriots; we'll see if it has more intimidating effect on Team Scotland than it did on the USA, tomorrow!

Meanwhile, the France-Canada bout went just as we might expect, as did the Sweden-Brasil match up (although Brasil played a little better than I'd expected; despite also picking up a worrying number of penalties). Argentina-Ireland was hard to call, but All-Ireland proved they have the potential to go far in the elimination round, beating the South American team handily. (Indeed, the Scottish Roller Derby Blog seems fairly agreed that Brasil may actually be a stronger team overall than Argentina is, based on their first bouts played.)

The scores were:

Canada 244 : 17 France

Australia 136 : 53 Germany

Argentina 51 : 164 Ireland

New Zealand  8 : 377 USA

Brasil 30 : 163 Sweden

Australia 179 : 29 Finland

Scottish Referees Ella Bella Bang Bang and Cherry Fury made appearances refereeing the first two bouts, and returned to ref on the exhibition USA-USA bout proceeding as I write this.

(Team Scotland Photographer, and talismanic lens Lenszilla, made visible appearances as well. We look forward to seeing the fruits of his labour.)

Anyone who missed a bout should be able to view the recorded footage from Derby News Network's archive, eventually. It looks like the World Cup is creating a high enough load that archive copies may only be available after the Cup itself, however.