Glory and Gold - WestSide wins over VRDL's up-and-comers

This recap was first published on VRDL's site here - I am cross-posting it here as an individual article and for discussion if anyone wants to use the Facebook comment feature.

Long after the The Great Southern Slam, long after its post-tournament 'flu comes and goes for most, one ache can remain: the post-derby blues. As the cold and damp of winter sets in, it's an unwelcome melancholy that is hard to shake off - but it can be done with the one cure known to us all: more derby!

I arrived for my remedy on Saturday the 21st of June with the rest of the crowd at VRDL's home turf of Darebin Community Sports Stadium, for what turned out to be a rather electrifying double header. If you needed another dose of good derby, you were at the right place!

VRDL's development team, the Gold Lions, opened the evening's derbyliciousness against WDDD's WestSide Glory, together weaving a story of the 'endless lead change' in much of the first half, followed by a battle of stamina, penalties and track awareness in the second. Such an even contest saw no shred of effort unspent by either side!

Photos by Dave Arnold

First Half

Upon the first whistle it was WestSide who answered first, as VRDL's Val Kyrie was picked up for a forearm penalty. This left WestSide's Trippy Tarka to claim first power jam for the evening, and she pocketed a clean pair of grand slams before calling it off at 0 - 10.

It took only 4 minutes before VRDL's blockers, particularly FYFE and Rasputina, delivered some punishing impact on WSDD's jammers to prevent any early runaway lead. Instead, a modest initial 2 points put up by VRDL soon grew to 14 over WSDD's 10 - the first of many, many mind-bending lead changes in this game. Each side began to leap-frog the other on the scoreboard, but it was WSDD who, through an alternating jam by Dozer and then Trippy Tarka, emerged after 7 minutes with a score of 21 - 28, then 24 - 38 in their favour.

Defensive methods stepped up, resulting in multiple sets of trips to the bin for both jammers in the one jam. Still, despite some nice recycles by VRDL after sending Trippy Tarka out-of-bounds, WSDD were comfortable enough with their advantage to call it with a small but steady lead at 32 - 51.

The Gold Lions were to tolerate no runaway margin, and perhaps used a long paperwork-related time-out called by the referees to regroup. Once that wrapped up, they sent Ranga Fanga erupting out of the pack with the star while WSDD's Belter Skelter took a visit to the bin. The latter returned but was forced to take a very distant re-entry 30 seconds later as VRDL's Blade Shark mercilessly rolled further and further back along the track, costing the WestSide skater valuable time. Ranga, meanwhile, had made the most of hers, with yet another lead change of 58 - 53.

It was answered swiftly as WSDD blockers Crotch Candy and Goldiblocks forced themselves in front of VRDL, offering up a better opportunity for their jammer to get her hips past some Gold and cause another lead change of 58 - 65. Goodness gracious! Praise the spectating gods, there was to be no blowout here.

With a significant pack advantage to WestSide as 2 Gold Lions sat in the penalty box, LadyWood and BloodyKell did a terrific job holding back VRDL's Lady MacDeth from obtaining points. The WestSide score grew to 58 - 74, before the Gold Lions roared a defiant hat-trick of 3 lead jams in a row, leaping back to 70 - 78 in hot pursuit. WestSide conversely stalled through 3 jams with no increase on the board, despite VRDL still losing several blockers to a variety of forearm and other penalties.

It was hard to believe there was still time on the period clock. But, as if the aim was to cram in the most lead changes (and power jams) in the one half, let alone the one game, the 18th jam saw Gold Lion Val Kyrie recover well from a solid hit from GoldiBlocks while WestSide's Dozer was sent off. VRDL were back in front at 80 - 78, but Val Kyrie was spotted delivering a back block, subsequently releasing Dozer back on. The WestSide star player made it past for 4 points - temporarily taken down by VRDL's Isabella Prude, before scoring another 3. There were more lead changes than wind machines at Eurovision!

The astonishing back-and-forth in the first 30 minutes of gameplay began to take its toll on VRDL's up-and-comers. 4 jams ensued with the home team unable to move past their 80 points, while losing a number of blockers as well as the odd jammer such as Ranga Fanga, into the penalty box. The half time whistle blew with WestSide in a more comfortable position at 80 - 114. The only certainty, however, was uncertainty: such a well-matched game meant every single jam, every last ounce of energy, would have to count in order to maintain any advantage for either side. Likely, penalties and track awareness would be vital in determining a victor.

Second half

The Gold Lions returned recuperated after the break with two very solid, consistent jams and a focused blocking contingent. They edged their way to 97 while WSDD remained stagnant at 114, but it wasn't to last. Losing three blockers, they were subdued by a WestSide Glory response led by Trippy Tarka's consistently astounding jamming abilities and complemented by Belter Skelter's. WestSide catapulted up to 174 while VRDL got 3 points over the century mark, before suffering a blow that was hard to recover from: Gold Lion Val Kyrie fouled out 10 minutes into the second half during the 5th jam. She was replaced in the jammer rotation with Terror Australis, who, though not a seasoned jammer, soon demonstrated her versatility by helping to keep pushing forward that score. The home team answered with 10 points at 113 - 174, holding the WSDD at bay for a few jams and prompting a team timeout for the visitors.

Gameplay returned with WSDD's Crotch Candy snatching several natural grand slams over a tiring Ranga Fanga who struggled to break well-placed walls by the WestSide blockers as the score grew to 120 - 187.

It was a markedly different second half, with time and fatigue playing a bigger role, but this did nothing to change the tension and urgency of the plays afoot. Indeed, even as VRDL lost 3 blockers to penalties, derby can still be good derby in a variety of situations, and none other than Gold Lion DeClaire da Pain proved this. Singlehandedly she defied the odds of being overrun by a majority pack of Dollz, instead forcing, despite the lack of advantage, the entire opposition to chase her in a sped up race around the track, holding an entire jam at a strategic 0-0 stand-still through sheer endurance.

Amidst continuing fast packs and another foul out for the Gold Lions (Slay Fever), VRDL accumulated another 15, unanswered by WSDD at 135 - 187. Finally after a long battle to escape an atrophy in their progress, WestSide's vigour was renewed with some excellent agility so late in the game by Crotch Candy, who swung her way around the outside of the 3rd and 4th turn on one leg, sweeping George Cantstandya out of action and hastily taking much sought-after points and a clean call off.

WestSide persisted with lining up the ever-reliable Trippy Tarka with the star, who burst out of a pack and took her team over the 200-point mark with 7 minutes left on the clock. VRDL responded with some much needed success by placing Electric Boogalu with the star, who notched things up to 152 for her side. This followed with a high rate of late penalties incurred by the WSDD Glory, and a penalty on jammer GoldiBlocks saw VRDL capitalise on a power jam.

GoldiBlocks returned to the track only to be quickly called for cutting it, again sitting out another 30 seconds. Ranga thrilled home crowd supporters with a significant boost in points that suddenly made the point differential look seriously depleted at 174 - 203. Nervous energy began to bubble up across the jittery suicide line - could the Lions claw away the glory from their opponent's namesake?

The anticipation only climbed higher as WestSide's Crotch Candy called off a jam with a mere 8 seconds remaining on the bout clock. Meanwhile, VRDL suffered some last minute casualties with arguably their strongest blocker FYFE, as well as Isabella Prude notching up their 7th penalty and exiting the game. The score stood at 179 - 211 - victory hanging by what could easily be measured in a power jam by roller derby's standards.

One more whistle, one last line up, and the final jam's clock began to tick down. Trippy Tarka, signing off an extraordinary evening by jamming it for her team, bulleted out of pack mayhem with VRDL's Terror Australis in undeterred pursuit. Confronting every last hit the Gold Lions could throw at her, she managed to ratchet up another 4 points before using her positional advantage to call the jam - and this astonishing battle - to a close: a well-earned victory for the WestSide Derby Dollz' WestSide Glory of 180 - 215, and one of the closest matches seen in Victorian roller derby this year.

Final Score: VRDL 180 - WSDD 215

Photos by Dave Arnold