Rollers v Rats - Canberra gives Seattle a workout

The last time I saw the Rat City Rollers, their representative team was wiping the floor with two top Queensland derby leagues. While the Australians lost the day, it was incredibly exciting to see fast-paced, intelligent and aggressive play from Seattle’s finest.

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of seeing one of the Rat City Roller Girls home teams – Grave Danger, take on Canberra’s Vice City Rollers. Grave Danger played the Sydney Assassins as well a mash up team made up of more Assassins and VCRs at a double header bout on Saturday night. They made quick work of smashing the Sydney and mash up teams before taking a trip south to face off against the VCRs on Sunday morning. A small number of fans received the opportunity to buy tickets to what was essentially a closed bout, organised to give the VCRs an opportunity to play an international team. As apprentice members of the Womens Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), Canberra Roller Derby League took this opportunity to test their skills against some of the top players in the world.

I must admit I was prepared to see the Canberra team fight hard but potentially be dominated by a far more experienced team. It was a thrilling surprise to see the VCRs in the lead for much of the bout and Canberra skaters putting top Jammers like Carmen Getsome and K Beezy through a serious work out.

Scores were neck and neck for the first half with Canberra going into half time 2 points in the lead. In a sport where scores can blow out to gaps of more than 100 points if one team is significantly stronger, the closeness of the game kept everyone on edge. Some sin bin time for jammers on both teams gave point scoring opportunities in the first half. One strategic mistake saw a Canberra jammer call off the jam, not realising the Grave Danger Jammer had been sent off for a penalty. Canberra Jammer ShortStop, pulled off a beautiful move forcing the opposition Jammer Unshine off the track and making her run to the back of the pack to be caught by the Canberra blockers and enabling Shorty to race through the pack and gain lead jammer status.

Over all the Seattle team appeared to have a more solid blocking pack and took less penalties. On a number of occasions the Canberra jammers had to face a full pack of Grave Danger skaters with only one or two of their own blockers on the track, while the rest were in the sin bin. It was a testament to the skill of all the Canberra jammers that they managed to claim lead jammer status on several occasions despite the numbers weighted against them. This also showcased the very effective blocking of the one or two blockers left on the track, playing both offense and defence. Standouts were the combinations of Rainbow Spite and Anne Thrax, Bohemeth Rhapsody and Aunty Aggro; and a fantastic full team recycling around the jammer that included some lovely controlled blocking by Ova Bearing.

About half way through the second half the Canberra jammer Bambi von Smash’er was sent to the sinbin and the points scored by the Grave Danger Jammer tipped the lead in their favour. From this point it was the strategic strength of the Seattle team that ensured they held the lead and eventually won the bout. Jammer Carmen Getsome forced Canberra Jammer ShortStop off the track, and playing on the rule that requires out of bounds skaters to enter behind the skater that knocked them out, forced Shorty to run back the entire length of the track and back through the pack. She then had to skate through the pack a second time with no opportunity to score points.

As the bout wound down the skaters’ tiredness became more evident as jammers on both teams received high blocks and hits to the face from wayward blocks.

The final score saw Grave Danger take out the bout with 175 points to the Vice City Rollers 142. Grave Danger won the day in the last 10 minutes giving the exclusive audience at Phillip Southern Cross Stadium a close and compelling bout. As a Canberra local and one of the founders of the Canberra Roller Derby League I was beside myself with excitement to see our league play their first international bout a team from a league that is currently ranked 13 in the world – from a pool of over 180 WFTDA member leagues.

The Vice City Rollers played a disciplined and strategic game – they make the visitors work hard for their victory and I’m looking forward to seeing them represent Canberra later in the year at the Great Southern Slam in Adelaide. The visitors played a disciplined and skilful bout, their experience and strategic smarts clearly evident in the final minutes as the controlled the lead and rattled the rollers.

Words by Bullseye Bettie; Photos courtesy of Steven Craddock