Guest writer Station from the Knights of Oldham Roller Derby gives us his take on yesterday’s Northern Sur5al tournament…
Sur5al is a roller derby tournament format devised by Royal Windsor Roller Girls to allow many teams to compete in a single day; each team of five skaters plays each other team once, in a two-minute jam with no call-offs. You get one point for getting lead jammer, five points for winning the jam, and two points for a draw. The team with the most points at the end of the day wins.
Yesterday, Rainy City Roller Girls’ Tender Hooligans hosted their first Sur5al tournament at their home, The Thunderdome in Oldham, with the aim of giving intermediate-level teams (B teams) and some established friends from across the North West the chance to compete in this new format. Ten teams, forty-five jams, one winner.
Sur5al can produce some upsets, with newer teams built around a small core of stronger skaters achieving results far exceeding expectations based on their current ranking. From this fan’s eyes, every team in this tournament exceeded expectations.
Wirral Whipiteres and Wakey Wheeled Cats – I’d not seen them play before, but they both brought a hugely aggressive game. The Norfolk Brawds – a last-minute addition to the lineup – put consistent points up to take a well-earned fourth place.
Glasgow Roller Derby (B) seemed to struggle on scoring, but showed some amazing strength in their walls. Preston Roller Girls never gave up, and fought hard short-handed to maintain the position they’d set up early on.
Evolution Rollergirls were strong tactically, and coupled with strong skating, their efforts saw them winning plenty of jams. Sheffield Steel Roller Girls were consistently strong, and were the only team to win a jam against Rainy City.
At the end of the tournament, the top-three finishers were separated by just five points, and the “deciding” jams reflected that close scoreline with some of the most intense derby I’ve ever seen.
Rainy City’s Tender Hooligans vs Manchester Roller Derby was always going to be a major event, and their jam did not disappoint. Both jammers exploded off the line, clawing for that bonus lead jammer point, but despite their skill and attacking play, the walls held them for a good 20 seconds before Faye-tal Blonde broke through. The remainder of the jam saw both teams fighting to grab a points advantage, with the Tender Hooligans scoring a pass just ahead of MRD’s Vic Tori Bee as the whistle ended the two minutes.
Think that was intense? Manchester Roller Derby vs Liverpool Roller Birds in the last jam of the tournament would decide the final standings. If Liverpool won, they would finish first; if MRD won, Rainy City would. Want to know what a sold-out Thunderdome crowd sounds like when you have three factions of fans screaming their hearts out, competing to be heard in support of their team? My ears are still ringing as I type, my voice is almost gone, and – excuse the drama – but that jam will go down in history as one of – if not the – best I’ve seen. Liverpool took lead jammer, but MRD chased and held them, Vic Tori Bee taking constant punishment, fighting to stay on the track as Liverpool did everything they could to shut her down. But MRD were both skilled and lucky, as Liverpool’s foremost blocker was spun and fell following a hit out, leaving Vic Tori Bee free to return to the track legally and avoid an imminent cut, staying ahead of Liverpool’s jammer and eventually winning the jam. With every fan standing, screaming and clapping, the noise was incredible, and MRD took their hugely deserved third place, Liverpool took their runner-up medals, and Rainy City Roller Girls Tender Hooligans took the tournament trophy.
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement following a fantastic game, but I honestly believe that everyone at Northern Sur5al was part of something special in this sport. That was Roller Derby in its purest form, and I saw even hardened cynics – disillusioned with the pace of the current game – grinning like children.
Rainy City Roller Girls Tender Hooligans – 46
Liverpool Roller Birds – 43
Manchester Roller Derby – 41
The Norfolk Brawds – 31
Sheffield Steel Roller Girls – 26
Evolution Roller Girls – 25
Preston Roller Girls – 18
Wakey Wheeled Cats – 14
Wirral Whipiteres Roller Derby – 14
Glasgow Roller Derby (B) – 8
Next event at The Thunderdome – July 6th: Rainy City Roller Girls A-Team vs Leeds Roller Dolls!