A sweet victory for SSRD against BRDL - 'Candy Caned', 1st Dec 4 / Dec / 2012
We pulled into the car park of Springers Leisure Centre, and like a valve bursting on demand, the skies erupted with a deluge.
I must've arrived at a South Sea Roller Derby bout.
Marking the start of the festive season was 'Candy Caned' - the final event of 2012 for this friendly Victorian league, which was hosting the night's proceedings. Their visiting guests were the Ballarat Roller Derby League's Rat Pack, who'd made the trip down to battle it out against SSRD's all-star travel team, the Sirens.
This was a very special event, and despite a small crowd due to the Rollercon shenanigans up north, the vibe was outstanding - and I rarely say that anywhere that Christmas Carols are playing. SSRD know how to put on a party to mark the culmination of a huge year for both leagues.
Of course, mixed with cheerfulness was an unmistakable air of wistful melancholy, as the night marked a fond farewell for two of South Sea's star players: upon the league's hall of fame would rise the faces of Ale Mary and Inkabelle, who were moving on to, somehow, bigger and brighter things.
Nonetheless! Their northern opponents had just completed the last of the Best Western Regional tournament and were in fighting form. I had not seen the South Sea Sirens play since April at The Great Southern Slam, so was unsure how the all-star dynamic stood and whether it would match up against the confident veteran Rat Pack, who were also fielding a number of seasoned Melbourne Northside Rollers skaters in their arsenal.
The bout began with SSRD's Terror To Pieces jamming against Mabel Stark for Ballarat. The first jam was over in a flash as Terror's agility swept her sharply around the outside of the pack for lead, ending with a hustle around for a quick 4 points.
It didn't take the Rat Pack long to level the score after the third jam saw A.Nerd belt her way out first, while the famously swift Danger Agent met some resistance in the pack. A.Nerd delivered a textbook-perfect hit-and-quit-it for 4 points to add to the 2 points Ballarat had put up in the previous, and the score soon stood at 6-all, followed by 12-all.
It was no surprise that the scores were inching back and forth like a tug-of-war: both teams were being careful to avoid collecting major penalties, and this combined with the lead-jammer alternation on either side was keeping that division nice and close.
During the 7th jam of the evening, the first power jam arrived in the lap of Terror To Pieces, who had returned to jam, dodging KTNT and Crash Killmore for lead. Opposing Rat Pack jammer Jillbee Stingz was not so fortunate and visited the bin. So began the first sizeable lead by the Sirens as Terror rustled up 30 points or so, to a lead of 44 vs 14.
Danger Agent came back to push it even further despite the knocks of guest NSR skater Sin Amen Whip for Ballarat. With Danger's teammates completely containing Mabel Stark in the pack, though, the Siren jammer had little difficulty putting through several laps and took the score up to 65 for SSRD before the Rat Pack called a time out to regroup.
The diversion aside, South Sea were nonetheless unmistakably on a roll: the next three jams saw consistent lead jammer in blue and red, the last of which was a power jam after Rumbling Rogue was called for a track cut, disputed by Ballarat. This resulted in what looked like an official review, but the call was upheld.
Veteran skater Slamdora stood up to jam for the Sirens while Rogue remained in the penalty box. Though a big power jam was expected, the Rat Pack ensured it would not be easy. While the Sirens slowed the pack right off the whistle, Ballarat blockers Katie Kapow and Jillbee Stingz steeled themselves and stood their ground, slowing Slamdora's advance and refused to be pushed aside until til the 20ft rule gave little choice in the matter.
Meanwhile the Sirens let slip a series of penalties that didn't help them take advantage of the situation: Inkabelle received her third trip to the bin, and finally Slamdora herself was called for a back block and her fourth minor. Rumbling Rogue was released and swiftly encountered some brutal opposition from debutante Siren Fizgig who dealt a massive hit against the Rat Pack jammer - which was called as illegal by the referees.
11 and a half minutes remained in the first. Mabel Stark enjoyed the jammer status to herself while Slamdora continued to sit her time in the bin, but she was soon released and managed to score as well. The score was 99 to 29 for the home team.
The penalties continued to cause trouble for both sides. After being pushed out of bounds and recycled way back into the pack by Blitzkrieg Deluxe, Ballarat's jammer Sin Amen Whip was issued a track cut penalty and sent off. SSRD's jammer was released after also having done time, and despite taking a huge hit from A.Nerd, made good use of the power jam and took the Sirens over the century mark at 114 to 33.
My notes, however, indicate a huge leap forward by the Rat Pack after SSRD's Jack of Hurts also saw the penalty box for a track cut. This was delivered by Jillbee Stingz in a very successful jam - though not before some epic collisions with Siren blockers such as Assault 'N' Pepper and receiving a back block major. On her return to the track in the next jam, she passed the star to pivot Mabel Stark who took a big hit before slipping past Talibamma Slamma and Inkabelle. Ultimately, as the half-time whistle blew, the score saw Ballarat jump ahead to 61 - but in the meantime, SSRD were showing no signs of slowing down, at a confident lead of 142.
Penalties had been a big factor in the first half - and despite the score difference, this had hurt both sides. The crowd was left pondering the sizeable gap in points: and it continues to be hard to say without seeing the raw data. Ultimately the Ballarat line-ups were as good as I'd expect: but possibly the Sirens were dismantling their defense during power jams more effectively and demonstrating more confidence on their home turf. That said, SSRD's penalties had also impacted on their walls and had allowed a decent advancement by the visitors towards the end of the first half.
Who would return to the track with a revised, determined plan for taking the win? Whose struggle with the fatigue developed during the first would lead to further penalties? Whose cuisine reigns supreme?
The two battle-clad armies set skate on track for the thrilling conclusion to this match. For South Sea, the star-wielder would be Terror To Pieces, the frequently-rotated jammer clearly having an exceptional night on the track. Over in the Rat Pack stood the ever-reliable Mabel Stark, poised ready to leap on the second whistle.
It was a quick jam on both sides: Terror shot straight out of the pack for lead, but both teams appeared to take points. Teammate Danger Agent took to the line in the next jam and also got lead, while Blitzkrieg Deluxe continued to lay her characteristic punishment down on Ballarat, knocking Sin Amen Whip out of bounds again. Sin Amen Whip recovered and deftly snuck through her initial pass out on the fourth and final turn of the track, but got called for a high block penalty right at the end of the jam.
She was soon released, after Slamdora received a forearm major in the next. Fighting past Siren blockers Fizgig and Dani Darko, though, she was unable to take advantage in the remaining seconds of the power jam.
The pattern continued: blockers for the South Sea saw several 4th minors accumulated, but so it did for Ballarat jammers such as Suzz Spender. Meanwhile, the relentless Siren technique of blockers scattering the walls of the Rat Pack during power jams resulted in some annihilating lead extensions: most notably Terror To Piece's 35 point jump that took SSRD over 200, at 201 - 71 - all in the space of the first 10 minutes of the half.
Heeding the remaining time on the clock, Ballarat began to play heavier on the blocking side to hold down the Sirens from escaping much further in front. Players such as Warwick Snapher were particular effective at dismaying opposing jammers such as Mel Adjusted during power jams. Some of the momentum of the game was also slowed by official timeouts - though thankfully not too many.
Few jams stood out across the range of 17 to 13 minutes on the clock as both teams incrementally accumulated snippets of points: though it was not without outstanding defensive gameplay. Both jammers, Slamdora and Rumbling Rogue, were on the track but had accumulated minors and thus neither had lead. The defense on each side was pushed to its max - particularly by the Rat Pack's BezZombie and Suzz Spender.
The energy fueled jammer A.Nerd in the next, and the crowd was treated to some rare jammer-on-jammer chase. Although being knocked outside, she recovered and maintained the heat on Danger Agent's heels, forcing a 0-point jam.
South Sea were not about to get over-confident in their lead, and one could sense a certain urgency in their efforts to keep as far a gap as possible between themselves and Ballarat. As Ale Mary went up to jam but received her 4th minor struggling against Warwick Snapher and Katie Kapow, A.Nerd took off on a power jam that sent the crowd into a frenzy. The Siren bench was screaming at their blockers to remember to stick together and bridge to avoid penalties for breaking the pack. Meanwhile, Ballarat fans were also shouting at the Rat Pack blockers to implement the oft-seen Siren technique of obliterating those sausage line-ups to streamline A.Nerd's path to glory. Ultimately, the tension paid off for Ballarat and they hit the century mark, at a score of 109 - though a long way away from South Sea who were still in a somewhat comfortable position in the mid 200s.
South Sea's jammers Ale Mary and Assault 'N' Pepper each threw a set of very fast hit-and-quit jams in retaliation. Another track cut for Ballarat also let Slamdora enjoy yet another power jam - provoking more defensive responses by Crash Killmore and BezZombie who were stretched to their limits in pack that remained controlled in Siren waters.
In the final jam for the evening, Mabel Stark found herself alone with the star after Ale Mary had taken lead jam but was sent off to the bin. As the South Sea blockers closed the gaps in the pack, Mabel managed to perform not one but at least two leaps over the obstruction. Tallibamma Slamma and Blitzkrieg Deluxe continued to fiercely show her the meaning of the word 'hit', but she continued to juke right down to the wire. Ultimately, though, the clock ran itself down long before Ballarat could change the outcome significantly. South Sea took a very triumphant victory just shy of the 300 mark: 294 to 120.
South Sea Sirens: 294
Ballarat Rat Pack: 120
In what was probably one of the last few bouts to be performed under the current WFTDA ruleset, the result read loudly in SSRD's favour. With both teams demonstrating some truly exceptional blocking and strategy on the track, it was the stamina of jammers and the impact of penalties that decided this one.
Beeetle and I had the pleasure of briefly attending the after party and were reminded once again of the amazing friendly and welcoming atmosphere from both these leagues. Congratulations to Danger Agent and A.Nerd for picking up MVP awards as nominated by each opposing side. Most touching of all, though, were the speeches that bid local South Sea skaters Ale Mary and Inkabelle the best of luck for their future endeavours. All the best!
It was a fitting way to edge towards the end of the 2012 roller derby season in Victoria. It's not over yet, though: if you still need your derby fix, get along to Melbourne Northside Rollers' second home bout '2 Hot to Handle' on the 8th, at Puckhandlers!