Two months ago the Brighton Rockers took to the track for the first time in 2.5 years. That was in London’s Tottenham Green Leisure Centre (the Wembley of roller derby) and Brighton absolutely smashed it. Yeah, they lost… yeah, they lost by 68 points… but this is roller derby and (facing London’s B-team Brawl Saints, one of Europe’s leading sides) with an expected loss margin of 250-300 points they skated home like total giants crushing everything from Seven Sisters to Pimlico in their wake.
Most predictions/stats are not worth a toffee Santa these days as teams have still played so few games post-Covid. If the Rockers (after just one game back) had any sense they’d sit back in their Hove mansions [I assume they all have Hove mansions and if not can someone please buy them some?] to bask in that ‘victorious defeat’ and the high ranking derby life status that it surely bequeaths them…
…but no, these feisty Brighton skating legends don’t play that way, so instead they’re now putting that ranking on the line with *TWO* away games A WEEK APART against teams they last rubbed shoulders and skates with a lifetime (8-10 derby years, 100+ human years) ago. Like everything Rockers related it’s so bolshie it’s beautiful. On December 3rd there will be a trip to Royal Windsor, but right now it’s off to Herne Bay to battle the mighty Kent Roller Derby…
TRAVEL INFO AND PREDICTIONS
Brighton face Kent at Herne Bay’s Bay Sports Arena on Saturday 26th November with a 12.30pm start. You can pay on the door and it’s a decently cheap (for derby) £7 entry fee. Travel wise, the train strike doesn’t affect Southern services but the closest you can realistically get from Sussex is Ashford International (which isn’t as close in bus or walking terms as it might look on a map). Car types can point their Sat Navs towards CT6 7NS. Herne Bay is one of the few derby venues in the South East that BRATS have never been to, so we asked our mate in Canterbury for pub advice and he just said “go to the pub”. Initially this seemed rude but ‘The Pub’ is the name of Herne Bay’s best pub, apparently.
In a world where no one has really played each other properly (teams vs teams vs teams) for more than two years, proper stats go out of the window prediction-wise. Flattrackstats is our go-to and all we can say is they expect it to be close (within a jam’s worth of points) but anything can realistically happen. A 200-60 win for either side genuinely wouldn’t surprise us as that is the magic of post-pandemic (rather than the maybe more predictable pre-pandemic) roller derby. The best way to know the score of course is to be at the game. Here are some words from both teams about all of that and more…
CAKE OR DEATH (SKATER) | BRIGHTON ROCKERS
The Rockers played in front of a crowd for the first time in 2.5 years against London’s Brawl Saints in Tottenham two months ago. How was that as an experience? It was so amazing to return to the track, but more than a little terrifying playing the Brawl Saints for our first game! We decided that it would be an ace opportunity to practice everything we had learnt recently. In some ways, going into that game knowing we weren’t remotely expected to win helped. We were much calmer and felt able to practice cool stuff without the pressure.
Brighton lost that game but by a super narrow margin with the Rockers doing around four times better than derby statisticians expected. What do you put that success down to? I think we did well for exactly four reasons. Firstly, there was less pressure (since we were expected to lose quite heavily anyway) so were totes chill. Secondly, we were able to practice lots of different starts, offences, defences etc (that we’d been working on in training) in a game day situation which can really screw with the opposition. Thirdly and fourthly, we had worked hard on combating our weaknesses plus being back on track we were simply having the best of times!
Derby games are on average almost two months apart, but you’re about to play two away games (against Kent and Royal Windsor) within a week. Is that intentional? These games just came in like that and after such a long gap we welcomed them. I think it’ll really help us playing one game after the other as we can really hone our skills across the week. Our squad will be mainly the same across both games.
Brighton played Kent once before in an open door game. That was 3,472 days ago at the 2013 London Tattoo Festival. Does that game provide any clues as to how this one will go? We are such different teams now. Probably only me and Hairy Fairy played for Brighton in that game. I’ve been investigating Kent’s players though and word on the street is Charlie, Chip and Annie RU OK are fast nimble jammers which from my perspective (as a blocker) means eek! We will see…
BRUTE (COACH) | KENT ROLLER DERBY
How did Kent deal with the big gap in competitive derby over the pandemic? It was tough. We did our very best to keep the league together as much as possible. Like a lot of leagues we lost some great players to retirement and finding other hobbies, but we kept a core of people on board who helped us come out of it intact. Since then, we’ve tried to keep it fun and light-hearted as the pandemic showed that there are a lot of priorities other than derby. Returning to play, we picked up some awesome new skaters who migrated out of London during those times as well as some really good new intakes, so the league is currently in a really healthy position.
How many games have you played since derby resumed? This will be our fourth competitive game back on track. We had a very close victory over Windsor in April, a narrow loss to Norfolk in September and most recently we had a great away day win down in Portsmouth.
You haven’t played Brighton (open door) since 2013. What are your expectations for this game? We’re really excited. Brighton is a team that pre-pandemic we probably wouldn’t have had the chance to play so we’re super psyched we get to now! It’s likely that there will be two KRD skaters who played in that 2013 game involved (Whizz Skid & Demi Lition) as well as a couple who have faced Brighton more recently for other teams. Otherwise we’re a great mix of newer skaters and veterans and we’re still forging our identity, so this game is going to be a great test!
Finally, for any Brighton fans heading up to watch the game, is there anything we should know about your venue and the local area? We are truly blessed regarding our venue. It’s a purpose designed roller rink and one of England Roller Hockey’s key national venues. Unlike a lot of other derby halls we have a wooden floor which we love. Herne Bay is a quiet little coastal town so if you fancy fish and chips you can find them, but you may want to try Canterbury (15 minutes away) if you require a little more nightlife!
FB EVENT PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/events/1132357870696067/
KENT ROLLER DERBY: https://www.facebook.com/KentRollerDerby/
BRIGHTON ROCKERS: https://www.brightonrockers.com/
[Photos by John Hesse and Kent Roller Derby]