When the Canberra Roller Derby League’s Vice City Rollers (VCR) took on Sun State Roller Girls’ (SSRG) Team Fancy Pants, there was always the anticipation of some incredible displays of skill and tenacity. Although it was the first time that Canberra audiences had seen the VCRs square off against Fancy Pants, the rest of Australia had already taken notice of the SSRG representative team, who are currently ranked second in Australia behind the Victorian Roller Derby League.
From the rollout, Team Fancy Pants looked impressive, each skater appearing athletic and ready for action. The VCR rollout is usually something to talk about (think of the fabulous Lord of the Rings themed rollout against the Sydney Assassins), however nothing could prepare the crowd (or the opposition) for the style and theatrics of this VCR rollout. Employing the talents of local precision skaters, the VCR rollout was at times a demonstration of agility and humour while still overall achieving its aim – introducing the VCRs and entertaining the crowd. Included in the VCR line-up were two new skaters making their representative team debut – Freudian Slit and Speedin’ Seagal.
The first few jams of any bout are really the time for each team to settle their nerves and get an idea of what they can expect from the opposition. This bout was no different, with neither side taking much advantage of the other for the first three jams. The VCRs suffered a blow in the third jam, with their jammer, Rainbow Spite, sent to the bin. Starting the fourth jam with the VCR jammer in the bin gave Team Fancy Pants an advantage which was capitalised into points with Fancy Pants up 32 to 0 lead at the end of the fourth jam.
Throughout the first half, Team Fancy Pants used simple yet effective strategies to their advantage, holding back the VCR jammers with strong two or three blocker walls, both at the back and front of the pack. These walls, combined with effective and strong blocking managed to hold the VCR jammers back, allowing time for Team Fancy Pants jammers to gain lead in 13 of the 18 jams in the first half. VCR also displayed some brilliance, most notable in one jam with a two blocker wall by Aunty Aggro and Bambi von Smash’er providing so much resistance to Fancy Pants jammer Cookie Cutter, that she was forced to call off the jam. In her typical style of agility and endurance, the ground seemed to repel ShortStop whenever a Fancy Pants blocker tried to introduce her to it.Although the second half started with the VCRs far behind Team Fancy Pants at 18 to 107, the strong strategies effectively implemented by Team Fancy Pants were put to the test with the VCRs starting to play hardball. Pair blocking and a particularly nice jammer assist from Ova Bearing for jammer Bambi von Smash’er had the crowd going wild. The VCR supporter-heavy crowd were also chanting for Shaggle Frock as she took advantage of the Team Fancy Pants jammer cooling in the bin for a major penalty. Effective gating of excellent Team Fancy Pants skater Boezerk by Rainbow Spite, Dr Hell and AnneThrax held back the pack, giving Shaggle the advantage as she slipped past other Fancy Pants blockers for a 20 point jam. Team Fancy Pants hit back, effectively holding back successive VCR jammers. Confusion with penalties for VCR jammer Bambi von Smash’er lost some ground for the VCRs. Towards the end of the second half, the strain started to show on the VCRs; only picking up a further 5 points following this jam to Team Fancy Pants’ 65 points. Hard blocking from Amykazeee and Aunty Aggro were rewarded with trips to the sin bin, only to be joined there by their Team Fancy Pants counterparts. VCR debutantes made a good impression in the latter of the second half with some effective blocking and AnneThrax opened a can of something on any Team Fancy Pants blocker and jammer in her vicinity.
Generally, skill levels between the teams did not appear to differ greatly but the execution of effective yet simple strategies by Team Fancy Pants made the considerable difference, allowing them to take that advantage of points. The benefits of effective strategy and effective blocking quickly allowed Team Fancy Pants to score big, with 10 to 15 point jams in their favour fairly common. That said, both teams fought hard throughout the bout. The hard fight was evident in the number of penalties with over half the jams of the bout starting with one or more skaters from both teams in the sin bin.
Additionally, this bout was more aggressive than previous bouts with a great deal of jammer verses jammer blocking, a manoeuvre generally unexpected but well received by the vocal crowd in attendance. It can be a potentially disadvantageous move for a jammer who has achieved lead jammer status (by making it though the pack first) to engage in jammer verses jammer blocking outside the pack. This is because, if a block or positional manoeuvre is illegal, the lead jammer status is stripped from the skater (as well as the potential to be sent to the sin bin), resulting in that skater no longer being able to call off the jam at an advantageous moment, potentially allowing the opposing jammer to score as many or more points than the former lead jammer. That said, it may also give the either jammer the ability to prevent the other jammer from reaching the pack and scoring more points – an advantage for both jammers.
At the end of the bout, even with the VCRs taking a big loss to Team Fancy Pants 181 to 48, the experience gained for both the VCRs and the crowd in attendance will prove to be invaluable. When it comes to derby, all experience and time on skates, particularly experience with skaters that possess either superior skill or strategy (as in the case of Team Fancy Pants) feeds back into skater development. I have a distinct impression that, the next time these two teams face off, Team Fancy Pants will have to watch their skates.
By Chitty Chitty Bam Slam
Photos by Bullseye Bettie