With Newcastle Roller Girls' first International Tournament, EuroClash, less than a week away, we just have time for one final interview topic...
...the hosts of EuroClash themselves, Newcastle Roller Girls. NRG's Canny Belters had a very good 2016, playing across in the USA for the first time, as well as topping British Champs Tier 1 (becoming the second ever Champions). Along the way, they also came up with the idea of hosting their first ever International tournament - and people will probably remember their campaign to win funding to support it. This being successful, the last few months have been spent on organising the very tournament which we're writing about...
Missy Pow Pow, Canny Belter's Co-Captain, and one of the driving forces behind EuroClash answered some of our questions:
Newcastle's Canny Belters had an exceptional year in 2016, topping British Champs Tier 1, after promotion from Tier 2 the previous year. You've now stepped down from British Champs this year, leaving the Hinnies to carry the torch - but was the Championship win your goal from the start, and how did it feel to win it?
We always play to win! [laughs] But we didn’t think we’d necessarily will ALL the games. The first win against Glasgow came as a big shock to me, I just wasn’t expecting it. The game was actually a WFTDA strength factor challenge so we had a score in mind that we wanted to achieve, which was nowhere near a win. I remember looking at the score board during the game, unbelieving!
We quickly re-assessed our goals and from that point our aim was to win the whole Championship. It was an amazing experience, watching not only your team mates, but the rest of the league, friends and family come together to support and push us forward.
You also played over in the USA, at the most popular destination for EuroClash attendees - Beach Brawl in Florida. This was Newcastle's first trip to the USA, and, as is traditional, you beat expectations about the US teams you played. How was the transatlantic experience - the environment, and the potentially different style of play?
We were really excited to play US teams for the first time; it felt like a good way to benchmark where we were, as it can be hard to gauge from rankings alone. The tournament was an amazing experience – being in one place that was all about roller derby, being surrounded by different teams, most of which were from the USA and Canada, and of course having the opportunity to bond as a team away from the pressures of work, and derby admin, was wonderful.
With regards to style of play I don’t think there is a European style or an American style. Each team is different. We played two American teams, Blue Ridge, and Oklahoma, and they were entirely different. What I liked best though is not knowing a lot about who we were playing, therefore we were able to go in to each game just playing our own game without thinking about the style, strengths or weaknesses of the opposition.
Your brother league, Tyne and Fear, have been hosting the Men's European Cup for several years now - it almost seems surprising that there's not been a women's equivalent in Newcastle until now. What led to the decision to organise EuroClash this year?
We've been working hard to climb the rankings so we know how hard it can be for teams to get high level WFTDA sanctioned games. In 2015 we played our first European tournament at SKOD, then last year Beach Brawl; both tournaments not only boosted our rankings but really raised our game - we learned a lot. Having had such a great experience abroad, we decided we wanted to create opportunities like that here in the UK, to play our part in developing the sport. So we're really excited to put on a whole weekend of high level European games, including teams who don't often play in the UK.
How did you select the teams attending EuroClash - they're all pretty close in the European Rankings, but were there other considerations?
It mostly came down to where teams were ranked as all of the games will be WFT-DA sanctioned. We really wanted to play (and watch!) some exciting games and we also thought about which teams had never played each other before.
2017/8 has really become the "year of European Roller Derby" - with so many tournaments, new and established, located or relocated to Europe. How would you place EuroClash in all of this?
We’ve been planning EuroClash since last year so we like to think we were ahead of the curve there! [laughs]
Getting the opportunity not just to play but also to watch more high level live roller derby at the likes of the first WFTDA Playoffs in Europe this autumn and the 2018 Roller Derby World Cup is fantastic - it makes everyone raise their game and that can only be a good thing for the sport.
Which teams are the Canny Belters most looking forward to playing at EuroClash?
We’ve never played Bear City or Paris before so we’re really excited to play both of those teams. We watched Paris play at Beach Brawl last year, and the year before at SKOD and they’re such a strong team that keep going from strength to strength. I’m really looking forward to seeing how we fare against them.
I have to admit that I’ve never seen Bear City play. They are a complete mystery to me, which in itself is super exciting! As for Central City, we played last in 2015, it was a close game with CCR narrowly taking the win. This game is bound to be an-other nail biter!
And which teams, or matchups, are you most excited to be able to watch when you're not skating?
Bear City v MMR looks like it’ll be an edge of the seat game - they’re even closer now the new WFTDA rankings have just come out. And we’re really looking forward to seeing some of our NRG team mates in action in the Team Ireland v Team Scotland re-match - we didn’t get to see them at Road to TBC last year, but even just following the game on Twitter had our hearts racing so we think that game will be a brilliant way to end the weekend.
Finally, after EuroClash, what's next for the Canny Belters in 2017? (And is it too early to predict a 2018 EuroClash?)
We’ve got some home fixtures still to confirm for this season, but the big news is that we’re off to Colorado in June to play at Mayhem. And if EuroClash 2017 is a success then we’d love to make it an annual event; watch this space…
EuroClash will be held from the 25th to the 26th March at the Walker Activity Dome, Newcastle. Ticket available here:https://www.euro-clash.com/tickets , and on the door.