A dolly good rogering at SSRD's BRAmageddon

Every time I've gone to a South Sea Roller Derby bout, it's rained.

This time was no exception. Perhaps, I considered as we rowed our boat down the arduous and treacherous M1 freeway, it was an omen of sorts. Not in a bad way, mind you - but a welcoming squall sent in from a fearsome league of pillagers and rapscallions on wheels.

I was, of course on my way to BRAmageddon - the third intra-league bout for the South Sea Roller Derby league, held as usual at the Springers Leisure Centre in Keysborough, Victoria. Each SSRD bout usually features its own terrific pun for a name, and this was no exception. The event was donating a portion of sales to Project Uplift - a fantastic organisation that collects and distributes donated (and new) bras to disadvantaged women across the Pacific region such as Fiji, PNG, the Solomon Islands and the Philippines, along with others. It was great to see, upon even entering the venue somewhat early, that the bra donation container had plenty already! What a great way to spend an evening while contributing to a kind and important cause.

This bout was the first bout to see the two SSRD home teams, the Dolly Rogers and the Cutthroat Charmers, play head-to-head since April of this year, and prior to the Great Southern Slam. The event saw the Dolly Rogers maintain their existing winning streak against the Cutthroat Charmers, ultimately taking out the match at 179 to 137.

Before I get started with a description of the game, I'd like to give SSRD props for their customary mock demonstration of Roller Derby rules, which involves a pretend jam featuring players from both teams as well as the referees. While it's not always easy to hear the MC's explanation in that centre, it's done at a slower pace and with exaggerated movements and hand signals by the ref. I think this extra two minutes is well worth it for those first-timers coming down to watch 'the derby', and makes them feel welcome. In fact, I'll go as far as to say that South Sea's bouts, in general, feel a lot more relaxed, friendly and less intimidating than many others I've been to. I hope this vibe maintains as the popularity increases.

First half

The bout was off to a slow start, with the Dollies jammer and veteran Lola Skater up against Mollycious Intent for the Charmers. Unexpectedly, both jammers managed to accumulate minors quickly off the whistle, resulting in no lead jammer and a surprise full 2 minute jam to kick off the evening. This immediately pushed the defence of both teams as they raced around the track, ultimately closing with the Dolly Rogers just in front at 12 points to 8.

It didn't take long to observe that this game would be a match of strategy and defence, resulting in the beginning of some snappy jams - particularly by the Dollies who were quickly calling it off when gaining lead after snatching up a few points here and there. The Charmers were clearly there to fight hard, with a score of 17 to 15 against their favour with only minutes into the game. However, the Charmers' Jack of Hurts was shortly sent off only moments before Danger Agent got sent to the bin. This released this number 99 for the Dollies, back onto the track who got down to business, opening up a slightly larger lead of 27 to 13. It was only the first of what was to become many a powerjam from this smiling speedster in red.

The next jam started with the Dolly Roger 'Terror to Pieces'. Unfortunately she landed an illegal procedure and was sent to the bin. Jack of Hurts, who was still spending time from the previous jam, returned to obtain lead jammer and score another 8 points with 20 minutes left on the clock - but not before Sign N Hide took the red team's lead to what appeared to be 43 to 21. An official timeout was called, and this score was then adjusted in opposite directions to 41 - 25.

Some strong defensive work by the Charmers attempted to contain Danger Agent during a power jam that left her with an additional 6 points while the Charmers inched forward with another 3. It was as though the blockers on both sides began to work harder in what looked likely to be a very close game - indeed, the next jam saw Mel Adjusted for the Charmers forced to call it off with no points going to either team. This was not what the Charmers needed while being almost 20 points behind. Both teams continued to incrementally put up points and generally maintain that 20-point margin across a series of similar jams. The likes of Blitzkrieg Deluxe and Mouldy Locks were putting up one tough wall for jammers such as Terror to Pieces to get through - but she managed to juke around and call off a jam with a sizeable lead of 75 to 41 with 9 minutes left on the clock.

It seemed - at least to my lame and irrelevant untrained eyes - that the Charmers jammers were habitually trying to take the outside between the first and second turns, which consistently saw them pushed out of bounds by the Rogers blockers, recycling them back into the pack and losing precious seconds. Perhaps the bout footage, which was filmed excellently as always by the Fans Of Derby crew, shows this also. We'll have to wait and see.

As the sea rose and lurched in time with the ticking clock, the point differential was stretched further by Cyndi Lawbreaker, but I must say that Blitzkrieg Deluxe, who seemed to have a strong night with the defence, really made her work hard to get past. However, while the blocking was no end of impressive, the Charmers' best efforts were marred by their jammers copping majors or being recycled from the outside, again losing opportunities to put up many more points towards the end of the first half which closed at 104 to 53 for the Dolly Rogers (much to the relief of my pins-and-needles legs. The suicide line is hard work, I tell you).

Second half

The second half sails were hoisted with two quick jams, both of which saw the Charmers get lead jammer status. However, the first resulted in a no-point jam for either side, and the second saw T'Kill Her Shots (playing, I believe, her inaugural bout) score 4 points but she called it off too late, allowing the Dollies to sneak across some hips and add the same amount to their side of the scoreboard.

Sign N' Hide tried to push it further for her Rogers, but collided with Blitzkrieg, bizarrely resulting in what looked like locked skates for a few precious moments. She was then sent to the bin for a major. Danger Agent took over to rectify some damage incurred by the Charmers who were sneaking up at 71 points, finishing her own jam at 112 points for the Dollies.

Suddenly a major upset ensued, with a penalty box full of Dollies. Mel Adjusted took advantage of the powerjam opportunity and shrunk the gap to 28 points, at 120 to 92. Jack of Hurts of the Charmers put the icing on the cake, helped by more excellent and efficient blocking by her teammates, and suddenly the score was at 122 to 104. It looked as though the Charmers had returned to the second half refreshed and determined to not let this one slip through their fingers. Unfortunately, it didn't last nearly long enough: powerful jamming by Danger Agent, clearly having one hell of a game with that star on her helmet, along with Lola Skater, retaliated. Not helped by Warrick SnapHer being sent to the bin, the lead was stretched to 149-103.

It was around this point, half-way through the second period, that some confusion kicked in whereby two referees, Polly Alloy and Ref 2D2, appeared to disagree as to which jammer had lead status. The jam was called off for a review to sort this out.

Shortly thereafter, the Cutthroats performed a star pass to the pivot Misty Meaner, which unfortunately backfired slightly as there were some issues getting the star cover onto her helmet. This cost precious time and saw Misty attempting to fight her way through at the back of the pack, where ideally it would've been more favourable had she been up towards the top of the Engagement Zone. I believe she then tried to call off the jam (not possible according to the rules in 3.5 - but someone please correct me if I misinterpreted her action as attempting to call it off).

With 11 minutes remaining on the scoreboard, Jack of Hurts scored a few more for the Charmers. Sign N Hide, once again, escaped the pack on the subsequent jam but with minors. This allowed Mollicious Intent to obtain lead, smartly calling off the jam immediately to deny any opportunity to her opposing jammer who was approaching her scoring pass. The score stood at 163 to 120, indicating a slow and steady comeback for the purple team. This rhythm continued while Lola copped a back block major, which Mel Adjusted capitalised on and took the Charmers up to 134 with 5 minutes on the clock.

Suddenly, something strange occured. All Charmers blockers (perhaps bar one?) were in the bin! How did this happen? To make matters worse, Slamdora, the jammer at the time, soon joined them. The Dollies jammer was already there waiting for her - but somehow the jam was called off before she was released back on, which as I understand is the rules. An official timeout was called to sort this mess out. Momentum walked the plank! Ultimately, a new jam began with no jammers at all, and after the whistle the Dolly jammer Cyndi Lawbreaker was released immediately. Suffice it to say, I have no idea what happened here, but like a good spectator (and a bad reviewer) I simply moved on with no further questions.

The minutes were dwindling with only two remaining. The Charmers kept pushing onward in the face of the steadfast Dollies. The last jam was a face-off between two of the star players from each team, Danger Agent and Slamdora - but it truly was Danger Agent's night. She took the Dolly Rogers' lead to 179 and called it off, leaving the Cutthroat Charmers trailing at 140.

I'll be frank. The Dolly Rogers dominated the evening - there were no lead changes. That said, the Charmers deserve huge credit for the revenge they delivered, especially in the second half. Time was not on their side, but their closing of that gap shows that the next bout might look a bit different. Both teams exhibited fantastic defence - possibly the best I've seen from this league all season - but it was the powerhouse of the likes of Danger Agent, Lola Skater and Sigh N Hide that kept the Dollies racking up those points, while the Charmers spent perhaps a little too much time in the bin. Despite the penalties, this was a mix of what makes exceptional derby: largely clean playing, yet big hits, and some serious jammer-on-jammer pace. Combining this with the friendly, welcoming vibe that greets you at Springers, and it's no wonder I'm content to keep sailing with this crew. Y'arr!

Many thanks to the refs, NSOs, the MCs, the first aid, the merch, Fans of Derby, and the venue as always. Congratulations, also, to the two MVPs for the night: Jack of Hurts for the Charmers, and Dani Darko for the Dolly Rogers. See you rink-side (or starboard? Too many pirate references? Never too many?) in October!

These photos courtesy of beeetle - more from the bout can be found here.

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