Jocks and the Geordies go skate to skate on the roller derby track

Picture by Nicola Mitchell (Dolly Devious)
Picture by Nicola Mitchell (Dolly Devious)

Glasgow Roller Derby’s Maiden Grrders took on the Canny Belters from Newcastle Roller Girls at the weekend – and it proved another amazing sporting contest...

THERE’S an old adage that you learn more from defeat than victory.

That might be true, but adages aren’t much of a painkiller when you’re nursing strained muscles, bruised arms and an aching heart after a bout which just didn’t go your way.

Certainly it offered scant comfort to a Glasgow Roller Derby (GRD) team who poured energy, spirit and soul into a punishing encounter with Newcastle Roller Girls (NRG).

Credit where it’s due (and it’s most certainly due) – NRG’s A-team – the Canny Belters – rocked the house and their hosts – the GRD’s B-team, the Maiden Grrders.

They offered blockers seemingly hewn from the same stone as the famous Newcastle town wall and quicksilver jammers who created and flowed through spaces like liquid mercury.

Still, the Maidens can content themselves in the knowledge that this was no drubbing – they can take a great deal of heart and pride in their steadfast refusal to give in, battling to the last woman even as the seconds drained away.

Perhaps in a funny way this is exactly what the Maidens needed. They’ve been in fine fettle recently – recording triumphant wins in both Dundee and Aberdeen. But perhaps they hadn’t really been tested enough … until the Newcastle contingent came for a Rhumble.

No-one wants their rear end handed to them on a platter, but it might just prove a blessing in disguise –after all, what better to stoke the fires in training and scrims than the bitter sting of defeat?

One thing you must know about Glasgow, they never give in and they never stay down. Imagine an inner core which blends Rocky, Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor – then add skates, skill, attitude and athleticism.

A packed ARC sportscentre in Glasgow gave both teams a rousing welcome on Saturday (June 15), but it didn’t take long before the Maidens found the girls from the land of brown ale and foggy Tyne were canny in more ways than one.

Jam one saw the brilliantly-named Guinefear of Jamelot take on jammer duties for Newcastle, while Fighting Torque wore the star for Glasgow. Viper brought Jamelot to her knees, but the super skater was immediately back on her wheels and away from the pack, with Torque starting a long, strength-sapping battle with the hard-hitting, merciless Tyneside blockers. Torque eventually burst past Missy Pow Pow and set off in pursuit, but Jamelot banked four points and called off the jam.

Into the second and Submarine surfaced to take the star, while Penny Bizarre tried to coin in more points for NRG. Haberbashery and Megan Hyndman did their best to keep the Penny in their pockets, but they could not stop the Geordie jammer – superb throughout – from taking lead jammer. ‘Marine working left and right, did break through the Belters’ defence – getting Glasgow off the mark with four points - but when the jam ended it was 4-12 for NRG.

Jam three saw the first outing of the day for Jess E Ska and the 2-Tone superstar recorded the first lead jammer of the day for Glasgow when she spun round the outside, bursting past the pack to cheers from the crowd. Jess added three to the Glasgow tally, with opposite number Marie Bayonet skewering a single for Newcastle – 7-13 to the ‘Angels of the North’.

Jam four saw Torque lock horns with the Belters’ Gin & Sonic and great work saw the long-limbed Maiden race away from the pack, but Sonic went scorching after her skates and no points were scored.

The fifth brought Submarine back into the fray as jammer for Glasgow and she swiftly torpedoed through the pack, only to be outdone by Newcastle scorer Jamelot, who scored a brace despite strong blocking by Venus and Kira – 7-15 for NRG.

Jam six saw the return of the bad (for Glasgow) Penny, jousting with Ska on jammer duties. Penny sneaked through a slot in the Glasgow wall to take lead jammer, but Ska was quickly out and skating hard after her. Cue Fever, who slotted Penny with a brilliant hip-check. However, the tough Tynesider was quickly back on her skates and called off the jam – 7-19 for the Belters.

The seventh brought better fortune for Glasgow as jammer Torque proved sharper than Bayonet, who was held back well by Bev Radge, adding a welcome four for Glasgow – 11-19.

Jam eight twinned Submarine and Gin & Sonic, but it was a bitter experience for the Glasgow lass who couldn’t escape the blocking Belters, while her opposite number scored four – 11-23.

Jamelot was jet-heeled for Newcastle in jam nine, bursting through a stunned Maidens defence to take lead jammer and start scoring. Ska was quickly after her and ordinarily the Belter would have ended the jam. However, with the NRG’s Missy warming the sin bin for use of elbows, Jamelot kept the play going to burn time and get her team-mate back on track. Ska went shoulder to shoulder with Hit One Purl One, but it’s ‘knit unusual’ for the Maiden to not get past a blocker – and she did so on the outside, nabbing four points. Jamelot though secured 10 – making it 15-33 for Newcastle.

Into the 10th and Torque was looking to get change from Penny on the jammer front. No dice though, despite valiant efforts by Fever, Habs, Liz Thrilla and Jackash. The Belters repeatedly – mercilessly – kept the brakes on Torque, with Sniper Viper on target. Before the whistle, Penny dropped another 15 into the piggy bank for the Belters - 15-48.

The Maidens called a time-out before the 11th to try to work out a fresh plan of attack and Submarine took to the track with the star and a renewed determination. Sadly, Sonic was also determined and emulated the little blue hedgehog with whom she shares her name by barreling through the Maidens blockers and taking lead jammer. Marine was sent to the (Ant and) deck again and again in a gruelling series of battles with Belters Anita B Nasty and Lone Danger. As Gin & Sonic downed round after round, a punch-drunk ‘Marine passed the star to Venus, who channelled her inner Ripley to muscle through the Belters and pressurise Sonic into calling the jam. The damage was done though – 15-65.

Jam 12 saw Ska and Jamelot jousting again and it was the Belter who notched up another brace, despite strong skating by the Maiden.

The 13th dropped Penny back into action for Newcastle and she wasted no time squirting through a gap in the Grrders’ wall. Torque found herself again contained by the hard-hitting, unrelenting Belters while Penny flew round the track – getting through the pack a second time despite Venus and Gill I Am forming a vice to try to hold her back. Perhaps the Maidens’ day could be summed up when sterling work by Gill took out Penny on the inside of the track, with a great hip/butt interface, only for a racing Torque to tumble over the Georgie jammer – to a sympathetic “ooh” from the crowd. It was now 15-79 for Newcastle and the Maidens were looking at what’s known in Scotland as a “bleaching”.

Thank Crunchie then for jam 14 which saw the Maidens summon the Ronseal spirit to stop the rot – with Megan Hyndman showing that a Maiden is made of exactly what it says on the tin – Grrders! The artist formerly known as Meg 4 Mercy wasn’t in the mood for showing any – brilliantly exploiting a power jam to bank a fab four grand slams.

Until that point the Newcastle defence had looked as sturdy as the Tyne Bridge, but Hyndman tore through them at breakneck speed – courageously putting body and soul on the line for the cause. She feinted left, went right, spun back and darted forward – aided and abetted by inspired team-mates who mixed offence and defence brilliantly. It was the first glimpse of the old Maidens and the crowd responded with cheers. It was now 35-79.

Jam 15 saw normal service resumed as Gin & Sonic escaped the Glasgow blockers and scored four points, despite Jess E Ska in hot pursuit – 35-83.

Sweet 16 proved just that for a bruised and battered Torque, who took advantage when a bevvy of blockers hit the deck like skittles – scoring four points.

Jam 17 reunited Hyndman with Jamelot on star service for their teams. A determined Hyndman was dodging and weaving, trying to get past Missy, but it was Jamelot who made the breakthrough and she went in search of more points. However, a deadly combo between defiant Jackash and Gill I Am sent her crashing back to earth and she called time.

With just minutes to go until half-time, jam 18 matched Ska with Sonic and it was the Grrder who was crowned lead jammer, surviving a heavy hit from the Belters’ blockers. Viper, Jackash, Kira and Radge held Sonic back as long as they could, but she eventually escaped and scorched after Ska – 43-87 for Newcastle.

Jam 19 and the priceless Penny was back for the Canny lasses and out quickly to take LJ. Torque, jamming for the Maidens, was caught behind a rock-solid blocking wall, but finally escaped on the inside with a delightful skip over the apex - a glimpse of sunshine for the Glasgow fans. That glimpse soon blossomed into a supernova when Penny was penalised and Torque found herself with a power jam. She duly racked up 23 points and tried to call time as Penny re-entered the fray – only to realise she wasn’t lead jammer and therefore had to wait for the full two minutes to expire. Penny used head and tail to reclaim four points and it ended 66-91 for Newcastle. Still, it was a timely boost for the Maidens.

The final jam of the half pitted Meg against Jamelot and Hyndman showed strength, balance and skill to shrug off Missy – accelerating away as Viper and Gill held Jamelot back. Her trio of points took Glasgow to within 22 points of the visitors – 69-91.

After delicious cake and a browse at the marvellous merch stall (see for full details, savvy shoppers) it was back into the heat of battle, with Glasgow fans expecting fresh energy, endeavor and efforts from the Maidens.

Kira made sure Glasgow kept the fightback going in jam one, pocketing two points to make it 71-91.

Jam two and Ska and Jamelot renewed their star struggle, with the Newcastle ace bursting through the middle of the Glasgow pack to take LJ. The Toon must be the most eco-friendly place in the world as the Belters were quick to recycle at all times – constantly knocking out opponents and then racing back to take full advantage. Jess was desperately juking left and right – finally applying enough pressure to end the jam.

Into the third and Penny Bizarre was back on track – seizing lead jammer status with Glasgow down to three (two warming the naughty bench). Torque again found the Belters in imperious form – dishing out strong hits and blocking brilliantly, switching from offence to defence in the blink of a bruised eye. The score was now 71-109.

Gin & Sonic wore the star for Newcastle in jam four and pocketed a quartet of points as Maiden Kira found herself trapped on the wrong side of the wall.

Jam five saw Jackash and Hyndman combine well to smuggle the Glasgow jammer through the Geordie blockers, but Jamelot was soon after her. Cue a masterclass from Hyndman who sped away and breathtakingly swapped inside for outside - sweeping to her right and then angling wonderfully to stay on the track, hitting her hips to crown an amazing move. It was only four points, but a thing of such beauty is a joy forever, right?

The sixth saw Ska duel with Marie Bayonet on jammer duties and Jess felt the full force of Bucks Liz as she was sent crashing to the ground. Good work by the Maidens though allowed Jess to get back into the pack and helped propel her through the Belters’ defences. However, Bayonet was after her and she was forced to call off the jam – 75-114.

Jam seven and Penny was back once again, nabbing three points despite the best efforts of jammer Torque and her team-mates - 75-117.

Hyndman was sporting the star for Glasgow in the eighth and she made sure of lead jammer status, dodging around the blockers and racing away. GG Fox, Missy, Bucks Liz and Anita B Nasty then boxed the Maiden in and she called it with a valuable eight points banked – 83-117.

Round nine and Jess and Jamelot against jousted in search of points. Strong skating by Ska was matched by her opposite number and despite the Maiden getting LJ the jam ended 84-119 for Newcastle.

Torque never gives up and never stops striving for her team, so despite some hefty hits and winding falls, she returned to the fray and took up the star for Glasgow in jam 10. She was crowned LJ after spotting a gap on the inside line, seizing it in a flash as Viper took out Newcastle jammer Penny with a neat hip and shoulder combo. Torque’s four took Glasgow to 88 points – just 31 behind with 10 minutes to go.

Jam 11 and Gin & Sonic was back for the Belters, showing real grit to stay on her feet despite good work by Submarine and Zoe Wannabreakher. She racked up another eight points for Newcastle, but good pressure from Hyndman – aided and abetted by Venus and Submarine – meant she called off the jam. It was now 88-127 and time was ticking away.

Into the 12th and it was Jess vs Guinefear of Jamelot again as Glasgow tried to get a foothold. The Canny Belter was crowned LJ though, taking another four points despite lightning skating from the pursuing Ska, cornering on one foot as she tried to catch her.

Derby demands a lot of its competitors – particularly as bouts get down to the nitty gritty – so you had to applaud an exhausted Penny and Torque as they took to the track once again, still desperate to do their best for the team-mates and fans.

Wannabreakher and Thrilla did well to put the brakes on Penny, while Torque was almost stopped in her tracks by Elasta Plasta. The blocks and blows kept coming though and good recycling by Newcastle saw Glasgow become fragmented - opening up fissures for Penny to ooze through. As the whistle sounded it was 88-143 for Newcastle.

Into jam 14 and Jackash, Viper and Hyndman had a tough task holding Gin & Sonic back. It started as a power jam, with Torque in the sin bin – alongside Gill I Am, penalised earlier for a multi-player block.

The task became tougher when the sin bin was also graced by Glasgow’s Viper – who joined Newcastle’s Sniper Viper to make a veritable nest of vipers (cue drum snare noise). Sonic took full advantage – stretching her team’s tally to 88-158 – a lead of 70 points with just over five minutes to play.

It looked an impossible task, but no-one ever gives up for Glasgow – they’re made of Grrders, remember? Jam 15 started as a power jam for NRG and it looked bleak, but strong defence kept Geordie Jamelot back and Torque was set free from the shackles of the sin bin. Enter Venus – Goddess of love and finely-timed hip checks – who took Jamelot out and then recycled her back around the track. It was now 97-163.

Into the 16th and as the minutes ticked away, Wannabreakher gave Glasgow hope when she knocked back a Gin & Sonic, giving Jess the chance to score. The 2-Tone fan showed her nifty footwork when she hopped from skate to skate, proving she is definitely one of The Specials as she tenaciously battled through to take Glasgow to 101 points – 62 behind.

Jam 17 and Habs and Hyndman did brilliantly to keep Penny back, with Wannabreakher taking lead jammer for Glasgow. Zoe was desperate to score for Glasgow, but clever play from Newcastle saw her tempted into cutting track and she was sent to the sin bin. Habs, Hyndman and Thrilla tried in vain to keep Penny back, but the score spiraled away to 101-183 in favour of Newcastle with five minutes left.

The 18th dawned and Jess wasted no time in tearing through the Belters’ wall, who then upped the pace to try to keep the Maiden from catching them while Jamelot tried to close her down. The result was a single point for Glasgow – 102-183.

Jam 19 saw a richly-deserved four points for Submarine, who had to overcome an onslaught of blocks and hits throughout the match with little reward. The Maiden Grrder expertly took the inside line at courageous speed – helped by Fever, Hyndman and Habs - 106-183.

Jamelot was back on track for Newcastle in jam 20, banking three points – despite Kira muscling her way past Sniper Viper.

The penultimate jam welcomed Ska back on to the battlefield and she worked inside and outside, deftly dodging Hit One Purl One to take Glasgow to 110.

The final jam and there was just enough time for Newcastle to pocket another eight points – with Glasgow jammer Submarine showing her guts and determination to keep going despite strong hits and granite blocking.

The game ended 110-191 in favour of the Canny Belters and you know what, you canny argue that the Newcastle girls didn’t deserve their victory.

They showed discipline, strength, speed and skill to not only take the lead over a strong Glasgow B-team, but to keep that lead for the entire bout.

For the Maidens, there’s no need to hit the panic button. This is a team still bedding in fresh talent and just as one swallow doesn’t make a summer, neither does one defeat constitute a crisis.

Sure it was a sore one, but the Maidens weren’t destroyed by any manner of means. And you know what? They never gave in – not for a split second, they fought for each other right to the last. That speaks volumes for the spirit of the team – and the entire GRD.

Glasgow never give up, they never give in and they never forget they are part of something greater than one jam, one game, one win or one defeat.

That’s what being a team of is all about. That’s what being a family is all about.

“It is defeat that turns bone to flint; it is defeat that turns gristle to muscle; it is defeat that makes (wo)men invincible.”

Henry Ward Beecher


Maiden Grrders:

Best Blocker – Jackash

Best Jammer – Megan Hyndman

Most Valuable Player – Venus Velocity

Canny Belters:

Best Blocker – Brie Larceny

Best Jammer – Penny Bizarre

Most Valuable Player – Missy Pow Pow

Maidens Team: Venus Velocity (co-captain), Fighting Torque (co-captain), Kira, Haberbashery, Gill.I.Am, Megan Hyndman, Jess E Ska, Liz Thrilla, Zoe Wannabreakher, Bev Radge, Jackash, Submarine, Fever, Viper, Maulin’ Rouge (bench) and Cara Viola (line-up).

Canny Belters: Brie Larceny (captain), Gin & Sonic, Sniper Viper, Bucks Liz, Anita B Nasty, Elasta Plasta, GG Fox, Guinefear of Jamelot, Kalamity James, Levine Dead, Lone Danger, Marie Bayonet, Missy Pow Pow, Penny Bizarre, Chemic-Al (bench) and Big Smack and Fries (line-up).