Silence of the Jams

Silence of the Jams posterCanberra Roller Derby League's final bout for 2012 saw their representative team the Vice City Rollers bout against the Northern Brisbane Brawl Stars at the Australian Institute of Sport. The last time these two teams met was mid 2011, where the VCRs took a 101 point win.  However much has happened in Australian derby since and NBR placed third in July’s Great Southern Slam in Adelaide. Therefore it was a highly anticipated bout, as the VCRs ranked in the top six in the Slam and recently took out first place in the Eastern Region Roller Derby Tournament for the second year running.

The mini-bout preceding the main event showed off CRDL’s up and comers, as competing were the Vice City Rollers’ B-Squad (the VCBs) and CRDL’s potluck team, The Capital Brawlers.  Composed of the VCRs’ less experienced players and skaters-in-training, as well as supplementary talent plucked from the league, the VCBs had played and won against Brisbane City Rollers’ Punk Blockers in October.  Additionally, both the Brawlers and the VCBs engaged in September's Eastern Region Roller Derby Tournament’s second tier of competition, with each team performing well and learning lots from the tourney experience.  As the Brawlers and VCBs are assembled anew for bouting opportunities as they arise, the formation of each team can differ from game to game. This gives all skaters the challenge of adapting to, and working together with, unfamiliar teammates and integrating new strategies.  In this instance, the VCBs were more comfortable than the Brawlers, winning with a score-line of 145-62.

The primary bout of Silence of the Jams was always going to be tough. From the start NBR dominated the track with tight, and at times almost impenetrable, walls. The NBR lead jammer would “hit it and quit it”, collecting a few points on her first scoring pass, and calling off the jam before the CRDL jammer could reach the pack. This trend of one scoring pass per jam continued throughout the bout. As a result of this tactic the score initially remained low and tight. NBR started pulling away when CRDL jammer Shaggle Frock was strategically blocked into a major track cut. NBR made use of this power jam to take a lead of 31–4 points.

Comparatively looser pack formations by the VCRs also worked in the Brawl Stars' favour, whose jammers displayed excellent juking.  NBR jammers regularly took the high-risk, but effective, choice of skating around the outside of the track (the longest route), rather than pushing for the hotly contested inside line. The score looked increasingly dire for CRDL, who called a time-out and returned to attempt a star pass, but again NBR's walls and swarming by blockers quickly shut jammers down. With 8 to 88 points, a well coordinated assist by AnneThrax allowed Bambi von Smash’er to put some more points on the board. Towards the end of the first half the efforts of CRDL blockers were more effective and slowed down the scoring by NBR jammers. Despite this at half time the score was a convincing 20–96 lead to NBR.

NBR’s intent to dominate the second half was clear, as they lined up on the track well before halftime was over. The second half started similarly to the first, with quick but low point gains to both teams. NBR ran a very effective and fast pack, responding to, and recovering quickly from hits. CRDL jammers battled to get out and were often reabsorbed by blockers chasing out the front of the pack. Shaggle had an excellent scoring run when Aunty Aggro, Bambi, Stone Jett and Bohemeth Rhapsody formed a tight pack and prevented the NBR jammer from slipping around the outside. Throughout the second half NBR maintained their roughly 70-point lead, but were unable to regain their earlier momentum and pull away any further. Despite this, CRDL were not able to convert their power jam opportunities into the desperately needed point gains.

From a Canberra supporter’s perspective the highlight of the bout was its final jam, a heroic finish considering a CRDL win was out of reach. With 11 seconds left on the clock, the Rollers called a time out, exploiting a rule loophole which ensured a final jam would have to be held, rather than the final score being called. The CRDL pack managed to completely dominate the NBR jammer, who was unable to break free from the pack to make her initial pass.  Meanwhile Freudian Slit accrued multiple “grand slams” (lapping the other jammer in the pack) and put 20 points on the board. NBR’s victory at the final whistle was with a score of 149–96.

You can see some bout photos from D-eye and Steven Craddock.