European tour diary by Holly Sheet
It was 5.15pm on Friday. I was not packed, I was stuck on the motorway, and I still had a whole load of stuff to sort out before heading off for the weekend, so the start of the Dolly Rockit Roller’s Belgium tour was not a good one for me… however I finally got myself to the coach (and wasn’t the last one there!) and what a sight for sore eyes! Nearly everyone there was in a onesie or PJs, as we were travelling overnight.
On the coach, we were all settling into our seats when we got some bad news. We had been made aware earlier in the week that Gabbath Bloody Gabbath had had to pull out of the trip, and sadly now our Captain, Onya Case, could also no longer travel with us. This was a crushing blow for me in particular, I knew how much Onya wanted to go and play, and I also knew how much the team, and I, looked to her during games. However, our wonderful Vice Captain, Nitro Noush, was stepping into the big shoes of Captain for the weekend, so we were in safe hands.
Setting off, and everyone back in high spirits, excited for the journey, and for the goodie bags DRR provided to everyone (including the drivers!), the naughty kids on the back row had already cracked open the beers and good humoured chatter kept everyone occupied through to our stop on the motorway – where we picked up some charity hitchhikers, Tango and Matt, wearing neon tutus and socks and looking to get to Paris by midnight for Comic Relief! We took them as far as Dover (we couldn’t legally take them with us) and then got ourselves on the ferry. I’d like to say we stood out in our onesies, but I don’t think we did, there were quite a few school trip returns on there, and a lot of themed teeshirts and bright colours abounded! I spent the crossing dozing (Friday was a long day for me!) but many others decided to play ‘watch people walk into things when the ship lurches’!
Back on the coach, we pushed on into the early hours with most people S-N-O-O-Z-I-N-G, and eventually got to the hostel we were staying in at about 5am local time. A quick divvying up of the rooms and we were all straight off to bed! No hardcore 24hour party people when there’s bouts to be played!
The next morning, after a light breakfast, most of us took some time to explore around Antwerp. The highlights for me had to be the building with a lampshade outside (?!), the modern art of penguins wearing jetpacks, and the amount of people taking pictures of us taking pictures! We clearly stood out from the slightly smartly dressed locals, most of whom had handbag sized puppies, actually in handbags, and poor Kaz’tration had numerous people stop to take a photo of her mohawk, which was clearly an unseen fashion in Belgium in any decade!
Then in the afternoon, we were off to the venue! A fantastic sportshall with bleacher style seating, so once we had commandeered our changing room (which had goodie bags from the lovely One Love Roller Derby team) we set up camp at the top of the bleachers, and got into the B-team game, starting the mexican waves, cheering on the NSOs (as you should do!) and generally just immersing ourselves back into derby mindframes.
Not long after, it was our warm up time. The track was, erm, incredibly slippery, to the point I wished I had brought outdoor wheels with me! Poor Diss Continued only had brought her hockey wheels to the game, and quite a few of the team used the extended warm up time to test how best to skate on such a slippery surface. It was agreed that taking the outside of the track was suicide, and that we should stick like glue to the inside of the track, for our own safety as much as game strategy!
Now, if you know me, you’ll know my memory of games is shocking. I can barely remember who I’ve been on track with from my own team, let alone the opposition! But let me tell you, the OLRD girls skated hard, and skated tough. Being used to the track, they refused to be pushed to the outside line, and used agility and footwork to get around our walls. We succumbed to a couple of powerjams in the first half, and the score by half time was 112:56, but the Dollies were in high spirits. We were proud of our jammers, our blockers, our pivots, our bench personnel and everyone working together as a team. (We were also proud of our officials team too, but had to keep that quiet until the end of the game, so as not to make them appear favoured by or for one team, especially as there were WFDTA Adjudicators watching!) Our new bench manager Asking For Treble was calm, composed and yet passionate when required, and the ever dependable King Typical was unflappable, even after jumping in for the B-team game as a referee at the last minute.
After half time, we were refreshed, invigorated and ready to show them how the Dollies really played! We knew our penalties were light, and theirs were getting heavier, and we could also feel that all of the work we had been doing on fitness and skills were paying off, as we were not feeling tired or fatigued at all, even playing with only 12 skaters instead of 14. Although we incurred a couple more powerjams against us, we also secured a couple, and used our teamwork to get natural powerjams for some jammers (my memory may be awful, but as a jammer, you never forget those lovely, easy passes!) meant our score was creeping closer and closer to the OLRD lead. Sadly we never managed to overtake their lead, but managed to get one of our goals for the weekend – to get at least 3/4s of the OLRD score. The final scores were OLRD 165: DRR 120.
I’m sure the crowd thought we were insane, as we were smiling and cheering as if we had won the game! The celebratory champagne that OLRD left for us in the changing room didn’t help us to shake the feeling that we were all winners either!
On to the afterparty, which we found after a bit of a hike across the town, and after securing seating and tables for everyone, our pizza order eventually turned up and we feasted on fruit beers (I stuck to the lemon one, which was safe!) and listened to bad music (pre-St Paddy’s day Oirish tunes) before the drivers requested to head back, as we had an earlier start the next day. This meant we kept our promise to Onya to only have a 2 drink maximum at the afterparty … even if one of those drinks was ‘some’ of the champagne …!
The next morning, and again we had a quick breakfast before loading up the coach and waving ta-ta to Antwerp we carried on to Gent, to play the Gent Go-Go Dolls at a closed door game (during their normal practice time!). Some of the team had travelled down to see us play Antwerp the day before (taking notes, ha ha!) and most of the referee team was the same as the day before as well, so along with a couple of the One Love girls watching from the sidelines, it felt very comfortable seeing friendly faces from the day before again.
However, with it being during practice time, our time there was more limited than the day before, and we had to start our warm up without Nitro Noush or Asking For Treble, who were involved in the Captains’ meeting. We also felt a little rushed onto track for the first line-up, and the feeling of being in a flap carried on for a few jams, before we took a time out and got back into the more relaxed DRR speed. We weren’t scoring high, but we had points on the board, and were gently increasing them. Gent’s jammers were amazing, juking, agile and yet strong and powerful at the same time, and despite DRR still playing as an awesome team, the half time score was Gent 157: DRR 10.
We were happy with this, but it clearly wasn’t enough for Treble, who issued us with a challenge – to get to 50 points. A high amount (as we were only on 10) but the Dollies relish a challenge, and we felt determined to prove we could do this. We were showing a little bit of tiredness from playing two bouts in two days, travelling across Europe and our excitement levels being at a constant high, but again our invaluable training, mentally and physically, focussed us to our new challenge. We played tight as a team, our walls got stronger, our offence became more effective, our jammers became more agile (or in my case, a little bit sneaky) and our score crept higher, and higher, and higher, until we were in our last few minutes at 46 points … and I found the star in my hands.
Again, those of you who know me, know my love/hate relationship with the star. It’s mainly hate, to be honest, but my aim for the past few months has been to embrace the star. And all of a sudden I found out how to embrace that star. I wanted to get those points over the 50 mark. So I was determined as hell to get on track and get us over that 50 point mark … and that determination paid off! The explosion of cheering and hugs from the bench when I came off track was the best feeling in derby I have ever had (so thank you, my team and bench personnel!) – but it didn’t end there! We still had a few minutes to go, and each jammer who went on wanted to get more points to add to our score, and after the final jam (which we snuck in from our strategically placed time out!) the end result was Gent 300: DRR 74!
Not only was this score amazing for us (we beat our challenge and kept Gent to slightly less than they scored in the first half, we were still playing with only 12 skaters and we had played a full bout the day before) but the lovely Gent team stated that they were happy for the score to be published, even though it was not in their favour. The end result moved them down 2 places on the European table, but bumped DRR up from 53 to 43 in Europe!
After a merch trade-off in the cafeteria, we set off for Ostende to get some dinner (with a quick boomerang back for Miele’s lost property) and had a walk around the marina. My weekend injuries started to catch up with me, and walking became tiring, so after a light bite, I headed back with some of the team to the coach. Once full, we set off for the ferry, this time with a DVD to keep us occupied (and to drown out the stories of rugby team away tour ‘games’ – DON’T ASK), and a slightly more ‘normal’ pack of Dollies took over the bar area of the ferry, well, I say normal, we had slightly less onesies (even though there were some hardcore onesie wearers such as Killmore Girls and Major Micky Taker), and the fabulous Sweetabix entertained the whole bar with her interpretation of interpretive dance being shown on the monitors …
Back onto the coach, and the weekend was catching up with everyone, so a lot of snoozing took place (S-N-O-O-Z-I-N-G) and the coach ploughed on to get us home in the wee early hours of Monday morning. After hugging everyone quickly, and defrosting our cars, the Dollies dispersed into the night.
The love, however, did not disperse. Thousands (maybe a slight exaggeration) of messages on social networking sites of the wonderful weekend we had just had, photos and videos of what we had done, reminisces of conversations and memorable quotes (most NSFW, so I won’t recall any here!) meant that the weekend we had just finished, was not finished, and we would be reliving times from the weekend continuously. I certainly hope that we will relive the on-track presence we had – working together as a team, our positivity, our mental focus and our physical abilities.
And of course, our cheering. I love a good cheer!