It always feels extra special when we get to play at Manchester Academy. It’s a venue steeped in over 25 years of musical heritage having hosted legends such as Nirvana and The Ramones over the years. On Sunday 20th March it was time for our own legends to take the proverbial stage as Manchester Roller Derby hosted the British Champs Women’s Tier 3 Game Day 2. It was our Checkerbroads’ first game in this year’s Champs competition and we had many reasons to be even more excitable than usual.
Firstly, it was the first home outing for our new breed of Broads. The last year has seen many changes with some players retiring or moving on to pursue interests elsewhere. This provided a great opportunity for our up-and-coming stars (we’ve dropped the ‘up-and-coming’ since the game though – they’re just stars!) to come together, regroup and take the team forward. Under the wing of team coach Gazooka (who was absolutely brimming with pride at their performance) the team have emerged as real contenders for this year’s Champs.
The day kicked off with H.A.R.D. vs Preston Roller Girls. It was a close game at times but H.A.R.D. lived up to their name and took the win 203-166 in the end.
The Academy was getting pretty busy as we geared up for the second game. Checkerbroads have played Dundee’s Silvery Tayzers twice before, including the now infamous ‘let’s drive to Dundee and back in a day’ game in 2011. It’s fair to say that Dundee have been working hard on improving their gameplay and were a force to be reckoned with on the day. Dundee came out fighting and took the early lead. Checkerbroads have a host of new and intimidating jammers in their re-born line up which enabled them to mix things up with sneaky jukey types like Rusty Bullet (a menace on the inside line) and fighty, pushy jammers like Lightning Holt (check out her neat moves in this clip!). The Checkerbroads’ jammer rotation is certainly strong these days (we had Bambi, Feral Fairy, Minx, Rusty Bullet, Lightning Holt and Roxy Toxin all in rotation) and there’s some serious blocking power to back this up. No one wants to be stuck behind a wall with Faye-Tality and Price in it, that’s for sure. After a couple of penalty-heavy jams, Checkerbroads took the lead momentarily but Dundee fought back to make the half time score MRD 87:107 DRG.
Checkerbroads have Team Ireland captain Lt Damn for a bench manager and we’re pretty sure he could have been heard from over the Irish sea. It worked though and the team were calm throughout. From an observer’s point of view, it was great to see a team enjoying playing so much. We’ve all been there where the goal and the result are what matter and team spirit and enjoyment can get lost in amongst that. Not today though. Many people commented on the team work and the smiles when I spoke to them at the after party. This is a team who are definitely on the up and on the up as a team.
The second half started well for MRD and after not too long the penalties calmed down and Checkerbroads took the lead mid-way through the half which they held on to. It never for one moment looked easy out there for either team and both were fighting tenaciously. Whoever won would have deserved it for sheer effort. In the end though, the score was MRD 192:152 DRG and Feral Fairy fell to her knees, full of emotion as the last jam ended. You could tell just how much this victory meant to the team after all their hard work.
Certificates went to:
- Best Jammer (MRD)- Rusty Bullet
- Best Jammer (DRG) – Goldginger
- Best Blocker (MRD) – Faye-Tality
- Best Blocker (DRG) – Jill n Tonic
- MVP (MRD) – Feral Fairy
- MVP (DRG) – Liston
After the game, we caught up with Checkerbroads captain, Minx, to get her perspective on the game:
“I felt the game went better than we could have hoped for. We won. Which is amazing. But what sticks with me is the atmosphere from other players in our team and from members of our league in the crowd. The support from everyone was the highlight. It made the nerves easier to handle and it helped us dig deep when we needed it. I love my team and our league.”
Coach Gazooka summed it up: “We always knew our first Champs game would be difficult, up against one of the toughest in our tier, at the Academy, and with a massively changed squad after six months of re-building. But we’ve been training hard, and it paid off with a great performance, with an amazing display of team-work. We’ve put a lot of work into team plays and tactics and we’re really beginning to gel, with a great attitude, determination and spirit growing within the team! It’s a credit to the whole team for the effort they keep putting in. It was a great start to the season, now to build on it!”
I’m always proud of our league on days like this where everyone pulls together to put on an event of this size. Thanks to everyone who came and played or cheered especially those who made very long journeys! Thanks also to all the referees and NSOs, our trusty bout crew who make magic happen with their videographing, photographing, baking, raffling, rubber ducking, track repairing, setting up, packing up, tweeting, organising, announcing, DJing, fundraising, selling and helping. We couldn’t do it without you. In fact, watch our for our next blog post about just what it takes to make a bout work. Teamwork makes the dream work!