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NCDC Wrap Up

The coveted Golden Skate is the ultimate boon for the collection of rural roller derby teams dotted up the North Coast of NSW. For the last three years the trophy has resided with Lismore-based league, Northern Rivers Roller Derby (NRRD), whose formidable team Battlestars, have claimed the tournament title since North Coast Derby Coalition’s (NCDC) inception.

NCDC was originally formed in 2011 by five coastal leagues – Tweed Valley Rollers (TVR), The Bay Rollers (TBR), Clarence Valley Roller Derby (CVRD), Coffs Coast Derby (CCD) and the aforementioned NRRD, in an effort to increase bouting opportunities for the skaters through the sharing of league resources, venues, NSOs and Referees.

Now in its third year, NCDC has seen the addition of two more leagues – Port Macquarie Roller Derby League (PMRDL) and Armidale Roller Derby (ARD) – as well as the inclusion of two mixed-league men’s teams (TVR's Valley Vikings and the Southern collective the Bruise Brothers). In previous years, the annual competition between the leagues was run over a series of weekends spread throughout the year, with each league taking its turn to host in their hometown. This year, with additional teams to accommodate, the bouts have been condensed into a tournament style competition, run over two weekends in two rounds, culminating in a final for the two Division 1 winners on the last Sunday of Round 2.

The Bay Rollers’ Byron Sirens were a firm favourite to give the NCDC trophy a new home this year. Having already defeated Lismore’s new B-team – Supanovas – in Round 1 of the tournament in Port Macquarie back in April (which interestingly, was the first game that NRRD has lost in the tournament’s four year history), on the first day of Round 2, it seemed that this was finally the Byron girl’s year.  

The Bay Rollers were well placed to take out the tournament – as host league, they were playing on their home turf, the team was strong and most importantly, they were hungry for the win. The Sirens started off well, and right throughout the first half and into the second, the scores were neck and neck. It was a thrilling game for the spectators, the majority of whom were clearly on the side of the Sirens.

The reduction of penalty times from one minute to 30 seconds has certainly made Derby a more exciting spectator sport. Power jams no longer have the ‘power’ they once did. A couple of lucky power jams half way through is no longer a game changer for a team; where once a speedy jammer could potentially collect 40 points in a well-played power jam, she is now lucky to put 10 points on the board in the measly 30 seconds that her opponent is off track. It has made for both a fairer game to play and more enthralling one to watch, which the Sirens and Supanovas demonstrated perfectly in this final.

Sadly for the Byron supporters, the Sirens allowed the pressure of this close game get to them in the last 10 minutes. Despite their extraordinary team work and impressive jamming from experienced skaters such as Nitro and Pinky Bruiser, the team got flustered. Their defence crumbled in the final minutes, and the jamming skills of the super-athletic A-grade NRRD skater Nora the Explorer, pushed the Lismore girls ahead. The final score reflected the intense competitiveness and equality of these two teams – 109 to 139, but ultimately the golden skate was boomeranged back to Lismore.  

The Division 1 Final was not the only nail-biting game in the tournament. Perhaps the biggest surprise this year was the performance of long-time underdogs Tweed Valley Rollers’ Valley Vixens. The team placed third overall, winning all but one game in Round 2, and coming surprising close to winning the game they lost to NNRD in the Semi-finals (at halftime, the Vixens were leading with 75 to 55, and the final score was close with NRRD’s 175 to TVR’s 129). This year was the first to see a full roster of 14 for the Vixens, who have traditionally played with minimal numbers. Tweed’s defence was spot-on, as was their strong line-up of jammers such as the experienced Jac Nippleson and Monie Bones, and newcomers LC Hammer and Bom Zo‘Way. They completely blitzed their games against tournament virgins Armidale and Port Macquarie, in the latter game scoring 397 points to Port’s 35.

The Division 2 finals saw the Vixen’s face-off with counterparts Daughters of Mayhem from Coffs Coast. It was a fiery and aggressive game, with more than a little argy-bargy on and off-track. Although the teams played a close game in Day 1 of Round 2 (TVR 212 to CCRD 194), this game on day 2 saw the Vixens defeat Coffs in a total white-wash, which was somewhat disappointing to spectators, who were hoping for a close game like the day before.

As fun as it is to see old-foes play it out on track, it was a welcome sight to see the two brand new teams from Port Macquarie and Armidale tough it out in the Division 3 finals. Port’s Breakwall Brawlers looked collectively amazing: Their striking black and red tunics and full roster of fresh faces was an impressive sight. Though the team finished bottom of the ladder, their tenacity was admirable. Their jammers seemed overwhelmed a few times by the sheer amount of endurance required to get through a game, but having said that, they never threw in the towel. They were well-matched with Armidale’s High Rollers, who had the advantage of having a couple of experienced skaters from Queensland – Sweet Fanny Adams and D Block - on their team.

Armidale Roller Derby is a young league (coming up to two years), still being supplemented by skaters and NSOs from the Official Hot Sauce Committee (OHSC) - a travelling crew of officials and refs. The fledgling league has to be admired for their commitment to getting themselves off the ground. They regularly travel between Armidale and Ipswich (where the majority of the OHSC are based) to train and gain scrimmage experience.

One team that is clocking up serious scrimmage and bouting experience in the last few months is TVR's Valley Vikings. These guys seem to be everywhere at the moment, travelling far and wide to gain track time for their skaters. This weekend saw them face off against the Bruise Brothers, a collective of male skaters from the Coffs, Armidale and Port Macquarie leagues. This game was hairy - in more than one way. Watching a men's derby game is akin to watching formula 1. Lots of crashing and bashing and testosterone. It's not that the men are more aggressive than the women - it's just that they seem less controlled out there. Also, they fall harder and skate faster.

There's no denying the guys are talented skaters and seeing as the majority of them also referee; they know their rules. This doesn't stop them from breaking them though and the penalty box was running hot the entire game. Head referee Tipsy Moo had her work cut out for her, as barely a minute went by when she wasn't sending a player to the bin. It was a well-matched game and the Bruise Brothers had some seriously strong players. But the Vikings came through in the end, with 250 points to the Bruisey's 150.            

The only NCDC league that wasn’t represented by a team this year was Clarence Valley Roller Derby, whose members are mainly sourced from Yamba, Ballina and surrounding areas. Clarence recently lost a handful of strong players to Lismore’s Supanovas, which came at a time when the league was already struggling to fill rosters. They were unable to field a full team last year and were left with no choice but supplement their roster with skaters from other NCDC leagues. This year, with the loss of their primary jammers, Clarence decided to forfeit, and just send representatives to NSO.

It’s sad to see a league struggling for lack of numbers, but with a club in practically every corner of the country now, perhaps this the way of the future. Skaters are now spoilt for choice when it comes to leagues, and it’s unsurprising that small rural leagues like Clarence Valley have succumbed to trend. However, the remaining Clarence girls are undeterred and are confident that by the end of the year, they will have a regenerated team ready to play in the 2015 season.

Lastly, it must be said that The Bay Rollers did an outstanding job at hosting over the two days. Held at the relatively new Byron Bay Sports Complex, the league went all-out to provide a positive experience for both the skaters and the spectators. Spotted in the ref and NSOs change area for example, was a refreshments table with coffee, cakes, fresh fruit and lollies. It's the little things that make a big difference, particularly to those who are giving up so much of their time to do what is often a thankless job. The officials put in as much time as the skaters in order to pull these events off, yet they get none of the glory. Small gestures like free coffee and lollies can go a long way to making these quiet achievers feel appreciated.

Well done to all the NCDC leagues for pulling together what was another great series of roller derby games. It's refreshing to see clubs pull together and work towards a common goal, when of late we are seeing more and more clubs in heated rivalry. Here's hoping that NCDC continues to thrive and be an inspiration to all rural clubs in Australia.

For those who are interested in the final scores over both rounds of the tournament, here they are:

ROUND 2 (May 2014 - Byron Bay)

Saturday

Game 1 NRRD 93 v TBR 158
Game 2 PMRDL 88 v ARD 241
Game 3 CCDD 194 v TVR 212
Game 4 ARD 37 v TBR 338
Game 5 PMRDL 35 v TVR 397
Game 6 Bruise Brothers 150 v Vikings 250

Sunday

Game 1 PMRDL 83 v CCDD 281
Game 2 NRRD 175 v TVR 129
Game 3 ARD 239 v PMRDL 100
Game 4 CCDD 115 v TVR 247

Game 5 NRRD 138 v TBR 109

ROUND 1 (April 2014 - Port Macquarie)

Saturday

Game 1 ARD 123 v CCDD 171
Game 2 NRRD 378 v PMRDL 55
Game 3 TBR 231 v TVR 115
Game 4 NRRD 300 v CCDD 107
Game 5 ARD 83 v TVR 268

Sunday

Game 1 TBR 507 v PMRDL 41
Game 2 ARD 51 v NRRD 303
Game 3 Vikings 248 v Bruise Brothers 147
Game 4 TBR 258 v CCDD 115

 

 

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