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For anyone who stumbled on that title and came in looking for a sombre discussion of mental health communication issues, sorry, this is about Roller Derby.  For the person who came in a couple of days ago Googling for “electronic score board jammers”, welcome back but I’m really not good enough with electronics to be able to help you.  For everyone else, bout-report time.

Way, way late, I know.  One thing and another got in the way.  One thing and many others.  I haven’t been frittering away all my time playing with chainpikes and looking at photoshopped webcomics of Keanu Reeves eating a My Little Pony, some of it, take my word for it, has been cool stuff that I look forward to telling you about.  In the meantime, those quick and impressionistic reports I promised you, so I can clear the decks for the Canberra-Brisbane bout and then maybe talk about some other stuff.

For the last two local matches we missed my preferred spot right up high in the bleachers, ending up toward the back of the suicide seating at the corners of the track.  For those of you just tuning in, the Suicide Seating is the Derby term for the stretch of floor between the bottom bleacher and the actual skating area.  It’s called that, and restricted to over-eighteens because it’s close enough to the track for the people sitting there to become inadvertant participants in the bout if the skating gets really hard and fast.  There was at least one close call in the Griffs/Belters bout, with one skater (a Griffin, from memory) going down right on the suicide line, and a spectacular example the next match when one of the Blackhearts came right off the track and ploughed a couple of metres into the crowd.

Apart from the thrill of risking death by helmeted, fishnetted human projectile, the floor seats offer plenty of excitement: down on a level with the skaters you can see the speeds they attain and the power of the blocks they throw, hear them shouting to each other as they roar past, and feel the rumble and grind of the skates coming up through the floor as they take the corners.  Every time the pack came around to that third corner I found myself surging up and forward onto my knees with a shot of vicarious adrenaline.  (At least until my legs started cramping and siezing up.  I have to take a cushion if I’m going to sit down there again.)

On the downside, it’s harder to get the sort of overview of the developing match that the high seats give.  My bout report has to be made up of snippets and glimpses.  The Brindabelters had come back meaning business, and I remember thinking a clear sign of their new focus was that so few of them were getting sin-binned.  The previous match against the Blackhearts had seen a heavy toll of ‘Belters binned for a string of offences, one of which I’m sure I remember as being “insubordination”, which I took to mean talking back to the officials or some such.  This time they were tight and focused and in control, and the binnings were next to non-existent.  Shaggle Frock was the star of the show again but shared some of the spotlight with Freudian Slit, a very talented Jammer who got the crowd going very nicely.  While there were some committed Griffins fans in the audience…

…most of the crowd seemed to be on the side of the ‘Belters, particularly the gentleman behind us who broke into loud, hoarse shouts of “send ‘er the fuck off!” every time a Griffin managed to score any points.

In the end, the night belonged to the Brindabelters, who came back from a very tough loss to the Red-Bellied Blackhearts to take this bout in 137-131.

[I’ve been looking and looking and I can’t for the life of me find bloggable copies of the bout posters that I was going to use for mastheads.  If you know where I can find some, let me know.]

Loaded in the other barrel we’ve got the Red v Blue bout: the first-ever meeting of the Red-Bellied Blackhearts and the Black’n’Blue Belles.  A difficult match to dress for for someone who owns fan garments for both teams, but a great one to watch, and one which brought on the much-anticipated duel between two of the League’s most high-profile Jammers: Bambi von Smash’er of the Blackhearts and Short Stop of the Belles.

Bambi von Smash'er flies the flag for the Blackhearts

Except that what’s cool about the CRDL now is that the talent pool is deep enough that it’s much tougher for the star players to have it all their own way.  The two big names got the biggest audience roars, but I’m also recalling at least one massive power jam by King Cam of the Belles, and a breathtaking high-speed double-scoring-pass jam from Fauna Cat of the Blackhearts, who’s always one to watch when she’s on the track.  And the packwork from these teams just gets better with every single match, making the Jammers fight for every pass and constantly working to outwit and out-hit their counterpart pack.  I remember seeing Bambi cornering past us to catch up with the pack for her scoring run, seeing the tight wall of Belles in front of her and simply call the jam off right there, presumably to try and reboot the pack to get a better position.

The night, in the end, belonged to the Belles, and the Jammer duel to Short Stop, whose agility and technique allowed her to get through the red pack time after time (and even taking the track for two consecutive jams, which I think is the first time I’ve ever seen a Jammer do that).  While a lot of the jams were hard-fought, the Belles were able to push out to an early lead that the Blackhearts were never able to close and the final score was 160-109 to the Black’n’Blue Belles.

The Belles form up before the match.

(Oh, and I have to mention the half-time entertainment, which this time was Knight Hammer, “Canberra’s premiere [sic] medieval-Viking-lyrical-themed-fusion-80’s-metal-prog-rock-parody band”.  A straight band set seems to be settling in as the preferred halftime act, and these guys certainly look the most at home at a Derby bout out of the ones I’ve seen.)

That brings us up to the weekend just gone, and the match against the Sun State Roller Girls.  More about that next post.

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