930 days 23 hours 12 minutes 37 seconds. Or (using a possibly simpler timeframe) 2.5 years plus about 2.5 weeks. That’s how long it will have been since the Brighton Rockers A-team left track against Team Dragon at Haywards Heath Dolphin on 7th March 2020 until their next appearance in front of a crowd on the warning tape bordered oval of doom that is a roller derby track. Oh how we’ve missed them!
This return to track, a long Covid gap (which saw a huge boom in outdoor roller skating) in the making, is taking place tomorrow, Saturday 24th September, at London’s Tottenham Green Leisure Centre. The mighty Brighton Rockers stars will be skating out at 4.30pm (doors at 4pm) to face the B-team Brawl Saints of derby legends London Roller Derby.
The Rockers and Brawl Saints have quite the history. Indeed it was at the feet of the Londoners that Brighton recorded the first official loss of their existence. As one of those rare closed door events to go on the record books (with both teams’ agreement) this 180-177 London victory in October 2012 may have ended the Rockers’ run of nine inaugural wins but was in itself something of a shock. The Saints were at the time rated the sixth strongest team in Europe and for Brighton to push them so close (to the final jam, in fact) surprised much of the UK derby scene.
The teams would meet again the following May at the Rockers’ first tournament appearance. Taking place at Alexandra Palace’s London Tattoo Festival, Brighton matched the Londoners well for the first half before the Brawl Saints’ athleticism saw them stretch out to a 223-101 win. Whilst the Rockers have met London’s third team Batter C Power since then, this reunion with LRD’s B-team should prove an interesting tussle.
The event will also see London’s A-team Brawling take on continental powerhouse Lomme Roller Girls (from Lille, France) at 6.30pm. Whilst online advance tickets have been taken off sale, we expect there to be some available on the door at £18-ish a pop. Do check with LRD via social media to make sure though if you’re planning to travel up without a ticket.
Alternatively the games are being streamed live (at £7.50 for both) should a Sussex based watch party be more to your liking. See the links at the bottom of this page for more information. Meanwhile, here are some travel tips, predictions and wise words from five Rockers stars in the lead-up to the event…
HOW TO GET THERE
As the home venue for both of Greater London’s WFTDA leagues, Tottenham Green Leisure Centre is in many ways the Wembley/Twickenham/Whatever of UK derby. This iconic status doesn’t distract from the fact that it’s about as far away from the Sussex coast as you can get in the capital. Usually we’d recommend public transport types to travel via Victoria but helpfully no trains are going there this weekend.
The best option therefore is taking a Cambridge facing Thameslink (12 or 42 past from Brighton) and changing at Finsbury Park for a single stop tube journey to Seven Sisters. From there it’s a ten minute walk straight up the A10 (or jump one of the many passing buses) to the venue. The journey should take a smidgeon under two hours each way from Brighton and one day travelcards are pretty cheap at the weekend. Also don’t forget the first class bit at the BACK of all Thameslink trains isn’t first class at all, so try and get a seat there if you fancy a plug socket and non-ironing board seat.
Petrolheads should point their vehicles at N15 4JA. There’s a fair bit of parking (paid hourly but not extortionate) at the leisure centre itself. Despite being a busy commercial area with a Tesco and plenty of cafes/takeaways, pubs are surprisingly thin on the ground here. The one we found on previous visits is a good ‘un though. Located three or four minutes north of the leisure centre, the High Cross is a converted public toilets so it’s fairly small but has a nice range of craft beers, vegan balti pies and more.
As you’d expect from a derby league that had images of its players on several cans of craft ale last year (now sadly sold out) LRD will be running a bar counter at this event. Popcorn is also a thing here apparently. Enough with the logistics, on to the predictions (or not)…
PREDICTIONS AND THAT
Usually we’d tell you what the Flattrackstats website expects to happen in the games. Whilst FTS does offer a prediction for the Rockers match, the lack of games in recent years makes it difficult to put too much faith in it. Brighton last played in March 2020 and Brawl Saints have only played once since 2019, so we’re going to swerve FTS predictions until the Rockers have two post-pandemic games under their belt. Let’s just say the website sees the Londoners as pretty strong favourites here.
The London Brawling vs Lomme match is a different matter with the teams having already played four and six games respectively in 2022. Here London are given 97% chance of victory with an expected points differential of 49:18 working out at something like a 196-72 home win. Enough with the maths, let’s hear from the Rockers re their thoughts ahead of the event. (NB We did approach Brawl Saints with questions too, but sadly didn’t give them enough notice as they are busy preparing for the event.)
VARIOUS BRIGHTON ROCKERS PREVIEW THE GAME
How does it feel for the Rockers to finally have a game after a 2.5+ year gap? Slaughter Melon: It’s great being back on track! It’s exciting, exhilarating but sometimes nerve wracking. We’ve been training hard so it will be great to get out there as a team working together
How did the players deal with that big pause in derby and how have you prepared for this Brawl Saints game? Go Go Gozer: It was a long break! But then lots of derby teams have previously taken a whole season/year off, so I’m not sure we haven’t come back stronger because of it. We started back as soon as restrictions allowed, first off skates and gradually working back up to full contact. I remember the first session back on skates. Hearing the sound of wheels stamping on the sports hall floor made me cry with joy! A lot of the team were in contact throughout the pandemic. A fair few got into park skating, so hopefully we kept our skate skills fresh.
Has the Brighton A-team changed much since your last outing in March 2020? Hairy Fairy: We have been incredibly lucky in that from our original A-team most of our skaters have returned to skating. There will be lots of familiar faces and names, but we’ve also had a few name changes and some newer skaters who were in the B-team are now solid members of the A-team. Apex Twin, G-force and Skates Of Wrath are all making their A-team debuts. We also have our last game with Dixon who was actually too young to play with us before Covid! She’s leaving for Uni but we have so enjoyed skating with her for the last year.
What are your expectations against the London Brawl Saints? Care to predict the score? Slap Dash: We’re really excited to play the Brawl Saints. We know LRD are an amazing league so we’re excited to see how they’ll play. Our bench crew have watched their recent games which has been really helpful when it comes to planning our approach and thinking about tactics. (There’s also a certain Hippy skater on their roster who we know quite well.) We know it will be challenging but we’re hoping to learn a lot and try out our new tactics. As for score predictions, I’m not that brave. I’ll be happy if we’ve played our best and tried out the things we’ve been working on… oh, and not fouling out would be nice!
Finally, what are the Rockers plans going forward? Any messages for your opponents, fans or potential new members? Block Horror: We’ve been training hard since our return to skating and are definitely keen to get out there and play more games. We’re looking to host a home game early next year and have a few more away games in the pipeline so keep your eyes peeled for announcements! Opponents: look forward to seeing you on track. Fans: thanks so much for supporting us, seeing our supporters at games is always a massive boost. Potential new members: if you’re thinking of giving derby a go, do it, you won’t regret it – and even if contact isn’t for you, we’re always looking for refs and NSOs.
BRIGHTON ROCKERS: https://www.brightonrockers.com/
LONDON ROLLER DERBY: https://www.londonrollerderby.com/
LOMME ROLLER GIRLS: https://www.lommerollergirls.com/
[Photographs by John Hesse]