Manchester Roller Derby v Brighton Rockers preview


It seems like only a few hours ago that we were posting up a report on the Rockers last away game (Portsmouth) and now we’re just two days away from the next one. This time it will be a mixed level Brighton team taking part, with several newer skaters lining up alongside a selection of A-team stars. The venue is somewhere called Urmston – why are Northern place names so much more evocative than Southern ones? – and the opponents are Manchester Roller Derby, one of two major leagues in the area. (Brighton edged past the other, Oldham based Rainy City, in a home match at the start of the year). The game is this Saturday November 22nd at the George H Carnall leisure centre. Doors are at 2pm, with tickets priced at £7 in advance or £9 on the door, and the day also features a men’s game. See the links at the bottom of this piece for more info.

We know Manchester fairly well, having previously worked a day or two per month there. That was a few years ago and things have certainly changed, not least in terms of travel. Several airlines used to fly between Gatwick and Manchester, with the resulting competition driving the fares down to as little as £20 each way. Sadly no-one flies that route these days, so unless you’re driving (circa 4.5 hours) the alternatives are three days by coach or a fortune by train – actually, it’s about eight hours by coach, costing around £50 return on National Express. The train comes in at £101 return. Although there are no longer direct trains from Brighton to Manchester Piccadilly, the journey from London to the Northern city is now probably the fastest domestic train line in the country, taking just over two hours. Total journey time from Brighton to Manchester comes in at around 3h45. Urmston itself is quite a way out from the centre, though. A local train takes about 20 mins (change at Oxford Road) and costs £3.20, but there’s a mile to walk at the other end. The 256 bus gets you closer (Lostock Road) but takes around 50 mins from Piccadilly Gardens, just up from the station.
    The after party is back in the City Centre at the Courtyard Bar in the über studenty Oxford Road area – they do cocktails for two quid each, squee! Hotel wise, the fact that Manchester City FC have two games over four days is probably a factor in wiping out most of the affordable hotel rooms. The majority of even middling hotels in the centre are currently after an eye-watering £200-300 for a room on Saturday night, making the Britannia Sachas in the trendy Northern Quarter a comparative bargain at £109. Our one cultural tip is the Science Museum. Our pub tips include Britons Protection (hundreds of different whiskies), Peveril of the Peak (awesome exterior), The Temple (a toilet – literally!), The Grey Horse (cheap ‘n’ crafty) and the Fab Cafe (life size Doctor Who aliens and 90s indie discos). All are located along the Deansgate to Piccadilly Gardens drag, should pub crawls be your ‘thing’.

Normally we’d give you a run down of how the predictometer at Flattrackstats expects things to go, and these are usually pretty accurate, but since Brighton are fielding a mixed level team things get complicated. Manchester’s A-team CheckerBroads place 19th in UKRDA and 34th in Europe, whilst the Rockers All-Stars are ranked 10th and 28th respectively. Depending on which of the two ranking systems you use, FTS would call this as a either 84% or 58% probability of Brighton winning. The UKRDA differential of 52:33 represents something like a 208-132 away win. Using the Euro stats a 12:11 differential equates to the Rockers sneaking it 156-143. However, using the ranking data of Brighton’s old B-team Bruisers (158th in Europe) gives Manchester a 98% win probability, with a 35:11 differential suggesting a comfortable home win in the region of 210-66. This suggests a mixed level Brighton squad should end up with anywhere between a 150-point loss and 75-point win. Hmm…
    Estimating the result of the day’s other game is even harder. Manchester’s New Wheeled Order men’s team rank 20th in the world for men’s teams (6th in the UK). Opponents Team Boy Division is a mixed league team, however, put together for the day using skaters from half a dozen or so other men’s sides. There’s no way of ranking – and therefore, no way of predicting – a team like that. Generally speaking, though, established sides tend to get the better of mixed exhibition teams, so we’d expect NWO to take the win here. In a moment we’ll be hearing from Manchester Roller Derby’s GoGo Chanel about what to expect on Saturday, but first of all here’s an exclusive first interview with the Rockers’ brand new signing, Gin Atomic…



Hi Gin. Welcome to the Rockers. For anyone who doesn’t know of you, can you tell us about your background in roller derby prior to joining Brighton a couple of weeks ago?
Hello! I’ve been skating for nearly four years now. Previously I was with Croydon Roller Derby. I had no skating experience before I joined CRD but was hooked after my first session.

You were one of the most well known Croydon players – featuring on iPhone cases, calendar covers, etc. Was it difficult leaving CRD? What were the highlights of your time there?
It was really hard making the decision to leave CRD as I absolutely love those guys. The bond you build up training and bouting together over the years is insane. I have so many highlights, I don’t think we’d have enough space for them all! I’m just really excited to watch them continue on their huge upward trajectory. They’re a very strong and hard working team and I’m expecting big things from them. And I still chat to a lot of them, especially Agent Cooper as she lives down here in Brighton too.

When and why did you decide you wanted to join the Rockers? What’s the process for transferring derby leagues – we assume it’s not quite the same as football transfers with agents, wage demands, etc?
I’ve been living in Brighton for two years now. Slowly the twice weekly commute to training started to eat away at my finances and sanity. (Anyone who dreads the term ‘Rail Replacement Service’ will back me up on that!) It’s been quite a casual transfer process as I know a lot of the Rockers lovelies already. I popped a message over to one of the league directors. I imagine it was discussed a bit then I got a message back to say I was welcome whenever and let’s discuss dates. I never thought of wage demands, dammit.

Presumably you knew a lot of the Rockers prior to transferring? Has it been an easy transition? Any people in particular who have helped you settle in?
Everyone! They’re all lovely. I’ve been with Brighton ref Noise Tank for three years now, so initially met most of Brighton Rockers Roller Derby through him. I’ve guest skated at training a few times over the last couple of years and always try to make it to BRRD games and/or after parties when I can, so I’m friends with a lot of the girls that way. I think it made my first training session a little less daunting at least, and those I didn’t know have been so welcoming. I’m very good friends with a few Rockers alumni too, like Mistress, Banger and Sham who I see outside of training.

You’ll be making your Rockers debut this Saturday. Do you know much about the Manchester Roller Derby side you’re facing?
I played against Manchester when I skated with Croydon, but that was three years ago! I know they have some solid, nippy little jammers for sure. I have no clue what the outcome will be this time. I haven’t been training with Brighton for long, so all I’m focusing on at the minute is getting to know the default tactics. We have some strong skaters, so think it’ll be good fun whatever happens.

The day also features a men’s derby game. Do you follow merby at all? How would you say it compares to the women’s game?
Noise Tank used to skate for Southern Discomfort, along with a lot of Croydon refs and CRD head coach Herbie Licious, so I’ve followed them a fair bit. Noise and I have coached Eastbourne men’s side Bomb S’Quad a few times too. I do like watching men’s derby – the rules are obviously the same, but it can be a very different game to watch compared to women’s.

Finally, what are your ambitions with the Rockers and derby in general going into 2015 and beyond?

I’m hoping to make the A-team as a jammer and a blocker. I enjoy both so have my work cut out for me in trying to get track time as both. I’m looking forward to British Champs next year as I’ll hopefully get chance to skate against some teams I haven’t played before. Looking into the future, I’d love to coach. I was co-coach for Croydon’s B team Vice Squad and I really loved doing it.



Hi there. Firstly, for anyone reading this who might not be aware of MRD, can you tell us a little about your history to date?
Manchester Roller Derby were formed in March 2010 when two skaters from Rainy City Roller Girls splintered off to try and form the world’s most inclusive roller derby club. Like all leagues we’ve been through our ups and downs, training venue changes, wins and losses – but we’ve managed to pull it off and build two men’s teams, two women’s teams, plus a co-ed team that took away the trophy at the first ever co-ed British championships.

Are there any particular MRD players or tactics that fans should keep an eye out for on Saturday?
Our big crowd pleaser is the lovely Vic Tori Bee – she not only made the Team England training roster, but is also a high profile coach who has been all over the country imparting her wisdom. She’s a double threat, so you’ll probably get to see her both jamming and blocking on the day. Tactically I wouldn’t like to give too much away, but we were glued to the WFTDA Championships and spied a few tricks that we’ll be testing out for ourselves. Whether we’ll be as good as Rose City or Gotham at them we’re yet to see!

This game will be your first meeting with the Rockers. Do you know much about the Brighton league? Care to predict the result?

I’m a little biased on this one as my partner is a Brightonian, so I’ve been down to the Dolphin Centre to cheer on the Rockers and have been itching to play them for a long time. As a jammer, I fell a little bit in love with Rose Bleed the first time I saw her and I can’t wait to go up against her. It’s difficult to predict the outcome, Brighton are ranked much higher than us but they’re fielding some newer skaters and we have the home advantage. I’m hoping it will be a tight and exciting game that challenges both sides.

The day also features MRD men’s team New Wheeled Order taking on mixed Team Boy Division. How do you expect that game to go?
The NWO game should be an interesting one – they are one of the most cohesive mens’s teams I’ve seen play and it’ll be a real challenge for a mixed team to go up against them. Boy Division do have an advantage in that some of them have trained with MRD in the past and know some of their tricks. Shrooms from Southern Discomfort (a fan favourite at the recent Men’s Champs) and Fish from Barrow Infernos are regulars at MRD’s Sunday evening scrimmage. On the Manchester side I’d keep an eye on Alien Al – he’s a relative newcomer to the squad, having transferred from The Inhuman League earlier this year, but he’s making his mark on the team and is definitely one to watch.

How does men’s derby differ from women’s, and what ways has it benefited the MRD women’s teams having associated men’s sides?
MRD have always trained co-ed and our scrimmages have always been co-ed, so many of our skaters have never really known a life without that. We’ve developed together. I think NWO have adopted some of the teamwork and caution that is present in the ladies’ game. Meanwhile, the men have taught the ladies some of our fearlessness and aggression. When we skate together we don’t really see each other as members of different teams; we’re all MRD.

Can you tell us a bit about your venue. Is there much in the way of seating and vendors, is there a bar on site, etc? What can we expect from the after party?
Our home venue is George H Carnall in Urmston on the edge of Manchester. We have great tiered seating and a multitude of vendors. Our cake stall is legendary and I’d also recommend stopping by Laurie Pink’s stall – she skates for the CheckerBroads as Pinky Fingaz and you can buy miniature canvases of her paintings, sometimes even hand decorated shoes and bags. Unfortunately we’re not lucky enough to have a bar, but we do make up for it at the after party! The Courtyard is in the student area of central Manchester and boasts student prices. You can normally find masses of sweaty, smelly roller girls and boys taking over the heated, sheltered courtyard outside.

Finally, for those making a weekend of it, are there any sights or activities in the Manchester area that you recommend?
Manchester in November is one of the best times to visit, so you’re in for a treat. We have fantastic Christmas markets (avoid the big squares and wander down the side streets for shorter glühwein queues and unusual handmade gifts). Our Northern Quarter is full of trendy independent shops, bars and restaurants. It’s a place where Buddhist vegan cafes share walls with dripping burger joints – a bit like our own little Brighton!

[Photos by John Hesse & Shirlaine Forrest]




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