"A charm of powerful trouble" - South Sea Roller Derby's "All Hallow's Scream"

Dolly Rogers work hard to control Cutthroat Charmers in SSRD's final home bout for 2012: "All Hallow's Scream", 20th October 2012. 

I couldn't resist opening with a Macbeth quote for the spooky, Halloween-themed bout for South Sea Roller Derby, named 'All Hallow's Scream', which took place on October 20th in Keysborough, Victoria.

The event was ominously the 13th for the league, and the final bout for what has been a milestone year for players in both home teams, the Cutthroat Charmers and the Dolly Rogers, after the league's first TGSS visit, many home and travel bouts alike, along with plenty of fresh meat joining the ranks.

I knew immediately on setting off for the venue that something was different. In my last SSRD recap I noted that it always rains when the league puts on a bout. Instead, the sun was shining over the southern suburbs, and continued to do so longer than usual due to daylight saving time. You could say the superstition of the bout theme was getting under my skin, but I couldn't help but wonder what else would be different about this event. As it turns out, many things were.

First Half

First up on the jammer line for the evening's toil and trouble were Terror To Pieces for the Dolly Rogers, and Mel Adjusted for the Cutthroat Charmers. With a blast of the whistle, they launched off the line. Mel Adjusted was pushed out of bounds and recycled back behind the pack. Terror To Pieces was a bit more fortunate, breaking out in front, but had accumulated a track cut minor penalty in the process, resulting in a lack of lead jammer status. Realising this, she strode through the turns with haste to make her chance at a scoring pass as high as possible.

A conglomerate of red and purple were tumbling in the pack as Mel Adjusted continued to struggle to break free of the pack on her initial pass, and took a big hit from the Roger's Oriental Xpress. Meanwhile, Terror To Pieces slid past her opposition, scoring a natural grand slam and went on for more. Eventually Mel escaped the pack's clutches cleanly, obtaining lead. She called it off to end the early onset of 14 points of damage delivered by the Dollies, after taking a point for herself.

Fresh up on the line in the next rotation was the ever-smiling and ever-dangerous Danger Agent for the Dollies, facing off against Jack of Hurts. It wasn't long before Danger Agent demonstrated why she is one of the best jammers in the entire league, quickly catapulting out of danger itself and round for points; though Jack of Hurts was not far behind her and upped the pace to keep the pressure on. This paid off, as Jack of Hurts was able to score a few points while Danger took 5 as well.

This pattern continued as we saw Blitzkrieg Deluxe, a formidable Charmer renowned for her blocking, unusually don the jammer star alongside Sigh N Hide. The Dolly jammer slid out of the grasp of Mollycious Intent and T'Kill Her Shots for lead, but two of her teammates then visited the bin. Once again, both teams put points up on the board, with the Dollies maintaining their lead at 22 - 7.

The first of many an official timeout was called, followed by a duel between fresh jammer Ale Mary for the Dolly Rogers, and Mel Adjusted returning with the star for the Charmers. As Ale Mary rapidly picked a hole in the inside line, slipping gracefully past Raggedy Annethrax and ZomB, Mel Adjusted picked up her fourth minor for a track cut and was sent to the bin. Ale Mary wasted no time in taking advantage of the power jam despite Charmer blockers such as Sailor Mouth Sadie upping the ante to try and slow her down as the clock ticked on, culminating to reflect a confident gap extended by the Dollies at 51 to 12.

A few jams later, crowd favourites Danger Agent and Mollycious Intent battled it out. Despite coming up against some serious opposition by fresh debut Koffen Kandie and Oriental Xpress, Mollycious beat her opponent to the second turn and absolutely rocketed back through the pack at a blinding pace. Mel Adjusted echoed this with 3 of her own on the next jam while Blitzkrieg Deluxe and Harmin' Miranda completely locked down Sigh N Hide.

It wasn't until rookie Emmalition, number #351 for the Dolly Rogers, put the jammer star on that the Dollies started scoring again. Her opponent Jack of Hurts was dealt some crushing defensive work by new recruit Blondage, but still managed to put points up before Emmalition called it off on her second scoring pass. The score stood at 62 - 32 for the Dollies.

What followed mid-way through the first half was a catastrophic upset for the Charmers, and an enormous advance by the Dolly Rogers. Harmin' Miranda was jamming for the purple team, while the Dolly Terror To Pieces had returned. Terror jumped around the outside of the pack past Fizgig. Two Charmers were then seen to be in the bin when Harmin' Miranda suddenly joined them, leaving only Inkabelle and T'Kill Her Shots. There wasn't much else to write, as this was a textbook power jam, and Terror took the Dollies just shy of the century mark at 96 - 32. Unless I missed a jam (and I do), 34 points had her name on them in those two minutes!

What we were seeing was a classic case of the damage that penalties can do in modern roller derby, when the advantageous team bring pack speed to a halt and have the majority on the track. While it couldn't be denied that it was hurting the Charmers, they were not to be psyched out, and even while the Dollies pushed ahead to 105, Harmin' Miranda returned from her previous penalty by answering with 16 points for her side, followed by Mel Adjusted taking another 5 despite incredibly strong defense by Gert-Rude and the Dollies captain Dani Darko.

But the penalties continued unabated. With two Dollies and three Charmers in the box, Terror To Pieces and T'Kill Her Shots treated the anxious crowd to some jammer-on-jammer action. Terror found her way through the pack for points somewhat easier, due to the slight advantage in numbers on the track for the Dollies and some excellent teamwork by Koffen Kandie, Oriental Xpress and new bouter Amygeddon who made life hard for the Charmer jammer. Later, Emmalition returned to jam, and performed what looked like a full scoring tour of the track: taking her first points on the second turn of her scoring pass, more at the third on the next lap as the pack picked up a ferocious racing speed, and then a few more near the jammer line on her last lap before calling it off with 12 points under her belt. The score stood at 138 - 86.

Just when it began to look like the Dollies were slipping further and further away, Terror To Pieces went to call off a jam with lead status, but had simultaneously been issued a major and handed over a powerjam to the Charmers. While Mel Adjusted went to work for points, T'Kill Her Shots and Cookie Crackhouse engaged in some very efficient dismantling of the Dolly wall, by attacking in side-on manoeuvres to clear the outside line for their jammer. Eventually Terror was released back to the track and was scoring points having already completed her initial pass, but the jam wound up with the Charmers having delivered a huge comeback into the game with only 42 points behind at 149 - 107. And we weren't even through the first half yet!

Two zero-point jams followed due to magnificent blocking on both sides - particularly in the latter jam by Talibamma Slamma and Dani Darko who prevented Mollycious Intent from gaining further ground. The first half ultimately closed at 169 - 123, with jammer Danger Agent evading the barrier of Misty Meaner and Raggedy Annethrax, while Harmin' Miranda was not fazed by the obstacles of Sigh N Hide and Gert-Rude.

As the appropriate tunes of Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' flooded Springer's Leisure Centre, I stretched my legs and mused on what we spectators had witnessed. The first half showed how prone the Charmers were to penalties, but conversely their renewed focus was convincingly fighting back against the strength and confidence of their long-winning adversary. Underdog aside, though, there can be no talking down the pure skill of the Dolly Rogers, whose demonstration of their famed reputation for teamwork and near-flawless jamming was allowing them to maintain a lead consistently throughout the entire first half.

The second half would have to see continued restraint by the Charmers to keep their players out of the bin. The Dollies, meanwhile, would do well to double their efforts in their blocking contingent to try and hold 'The Purple' back.

Second Half

The concluding half of this game began with Terror To Pieces jamming for the Dollies, who was sent off for a penalty, while Mollycious Intent struggled against Oriental Xpress and Dani Darko before getting lead and the subsequent power jam. Darko continued to deliver some outstanding defense to minimise the opportunities for Mollycious, who was forced out of bounds several times before managing to add 10 points to the Charmers score.

Roles were reversed in the second, as Blitzkrieg Deluxe pushed past Talibamma Slamma and took lead, but was issued another major. Terror To Pieces, having been in the bin during the last jam, had her turn at a power jam but only could afford another 5 points against very strong opposition by T'Kill Her Shots and Cookie Crackhouse before once again being sent back to the bin as the jam ended! A 34 point difference separated the Charmers from enacting revenge against the Dolly Rogers, and it was early days.

Jack of Hurts began the next jam with instant advantage due to Terror being back in the bin. More excellent impeding by Dani Darko recycled Jack a couple of times, but she put 9 points on the board before bench coach (and sometime referee) Polly Alloy shouted to call it off (though Terror hadn't been released yet - so presumably this was to give advantage to the next Charmers blocker on the following jam).

Later, Danger Agent (who received an MVP for her sterling performance for the Dollies at the end of the game) blasted around ZomB but was taken out by Inkabelle as she re-entered the pack for points. Losing her momentum, she made a good decision to call it off - as the Charmers jammer Mollycious Intent had just been sent to the box. This would start the next game with an instant powerjam for the Dolly Rogers, who hadn't advanced as far in the second half yet as they had in the first.

Ale Mary returned for the Dollies to take that power jam, and though being denied advancement through the pack a couple of times by Harmin' Miranda (definitely one to watch on the Charmers side as one of their best blockers), took away a satisfying 12 points.

Up next we saw yet another powerjam, as Danger Agent swept away while Mel Adjusted was sent off. Sailor Mouth Sadie, though, was not going to make it easy for her, and managed to kill a significant amount of clock time for Danger by knocking her down, as did the efforts of Blitzkrieg. Danger kept grinning, though, not least because the Charmers efforts landed Sadie and Raggedy Annethrax in the bin, leaving only one blocker remaining. It cost the Charmers another 20 point extension to the Dolly Roger lead, with the score at 234 - 153.

The Dollies would put another 30 points on the board before the Charmers could get more than 4, and again this large differential was mostly due to power jams - though it took fantastic skating by jammers such as Emmalition to make the most of it. However, the Dollies were no angels either - at one point seeing three of them in the bin while Charmers jammers incremented their score forward at 4 or 5 points per jam towards the middle of the second half.

With 11 minutes remaining on the clock, Jack of Hurts leapt for the opportunity to make up some ground on the scoreboard during a power jam of her own. She was momentarily shutdown with one of the best blocks seen on the evening: Amygeddon and Ale Mary both collided into either side of her, sandwiching the Charmer jammer and knocking her to her knees. Despite this, she bounced right back up and with some nimble footwork she edged her team closer to the 200-point range, at 180. But at this point, the Dollies were firmly in front at 270.

Dani Darko had her turn at jamming and it turned quickly into yet another power jam after Fizgig was sent to the bin. She racked up 24 points for herself but the fatigue was showing after so many laps.

Finally, both teams were in the 200-point bracket when Talibamma Slamma became the only blocker on the track, followed by only Emmalition when Slamma was sent off, and a big opportunity opened up for Jack of Hurts again. She managed to roll in 27 points in the two minutes. This really was the night for big power jams, with many jammers repeatedly landing huge increases to the scores on either side.

One more of the many official timeouts was called, with Polly Alloy disputing possibly whether a member of the red team had served her penalty or not yet. After this matter was resolved, Koffen Kandie of the Dolly Rogers lined up against Misty Meaner. Kandie looked for an opening but got firmly pinned down by some unrelenting blocking technique by the Charmers. Sigh N Hide and Ale Mary were not making it easy for Misty either, but she managed to snatch an opportunity through the inside which Sigh N Hide failed to protect. She did this again before calling it off. The Dollies had reached 302, with the Charmers trailing at 229.

The seconds were precious: 1:47 was all that remained as Mel Adjusted took on Gert-Rude in a rare pivot line start. The Charmer outpaced her Dolly adversary and even took her her out in the process. But Gert-Rude wasn't ready to hand it over and kept up the pace, despite having to engage with some veteran blockers such as the likes of Mouldylocks around the second turn. The pressure of the chase meant Mel eventually called it with a quick 4 points - a smart move to prevent leaking further points over to the Dollies, but it was not nearly enough needed this late in the game.

With only 50 seconds ticking on the bout clock, the omen I remembered on my way to the event finally arrived. With a resounding crash, everyone stopped - even the MCs - as a tumultuous outpouring of rain descended onto the roof of the leisure centre without any warning. It would not be a night out on the high seas with South Side if a storm did not accompany us!

As if combining a rainstorm with thunder, Fizgig and Danger Agent clashed on the jammer line for what seemed likely to be the last jam. The soon-to-be-MVP Fizgig belted out past Talibamma Slamma for lead and a very quick 4 points before calling it. Immediately, the Charmers bench shouted for a time-out, freezing the clock at 5 seconds. There would be one more!

Taking the hallowing night to its screaming conclusion, Raggedy Annethrax put on the jammer star for the first time for the Charmers. Up against her would be the intimidating Oriental Xpress. Annethrax showed early promise but was shut down by Blondage and Gert-Rude, forcing a penalty on her and a visit to the bin. Meanwhile, Dani Darko and Gert-Rude trapped Charmers pivot ZomB right at the back of the pack, preventing her from joining her teammates. They seemed to do ok without her though: Harmin' Miranda and Cookie Crackhouse got right up in the path of Oriental Xpress, with Miranda skating in reverse while locked shoulder to shoulder with the Dolly jammer.

As Raggedy Annethrax returned to the track, Oriental Xpress was forced off track and goaded back into the pack while Annethrax threw herself around the track in a last-ditch effort to add to the Charmers score. Her teammates on the bench were screaming encouragement at her, and the crowd was chiming in. Finally, the game came to an end, with the Dollies taking out another win at 318 to the Charmers on 240.

Final Score

Dolly Rogers                 318

Cutthroat Charmers     240

This really was an incredible game: the fact that so many debuting skaters were setting skate on track made the results that much more impressive. The packs were often moving swifter than usually seen at SSRD matches, and we all love some fast derby. The Dolly Rogers proved once again that they are one venerable force proving very hard to shut down. Ale Mary spoke to me after the bout and told me she believed this could be attributed to the Dolly's strong sense of teamwork, even with 5 new skaters.

"We also have a lot of very strong jammers", she admitted, and having such a line-up allows for frequent transitioning to reduce fatigue.

That said, the last two home bouts have seen the Cutthroat Charmers bring the point differentials to a shrinking gap, although suffering from penalties. Though without the likes of Slamdora on this evening, their jamming was top notch - but far more noticeable was their blocking skills, which have recently reached new heights. Any Dolly Roger would readily admit that this was one tough, hard-fought game, and hence the title of this article. While the Dollies are proving to be consistently the stronger team, I have the feeling things are ramping up at South Sea as the competition gets fierce.

But the excitement of the night wasn't only felt on-track. It takes a concoction of elements in the cauldron to make derby so potent: and this included a more energetic and vocal crowd than usual (believed to have been generated, Ale Mary considered, from friends and families of the new rookies who brought fresh enthusiasm on their first visit to roller derby). Combine this with fantastic music, a great charitable cause that is the St Vincent's Christmas appeal, and all in all, you have yourself an unmistakable atmosphere. This is the roller derby I know and love.

This concludes SSRD's intraleague bouts for the year, but it's not over! Check out the schedule and you'll find November sees the travel team (South Sea Sirens) take on the Launceston Van Diemen Rollers, along with Fresh Meat intakes and much more.

These photos and more were by the amazing Beeetle. See her full album here.