Deciphering the Draft (Part 2): Versatility Trumps Position in Selection Process

Laya Beaton blocks the jammer in this bout against Tri-City's TKOs. (Photgraphy by Sean Murphy)

Two of ToRD’s latest draftees, Slaptrick Swayze and Laya Beaton of the Smoke City Betties, each had her own way of dealing with the anxiety of waiting for “The Call” on draft night. “I was at a wedding!” Laya Beaton says. “I was sitting at a wedding with my phone on my lap hidden under a napkin.” Slaptrick’s situation was a little more banal, but potentially more dangerous, “I was carrying laundry up stairs when my phone started buzzing,” she says. “I dropped the laundry.”

So who are the latest members of the Toronto Roller Derby league? As with all rollergirls, they are hard to categorize, and reflect the same diversity currently in the league. From working in retail to communications to the airline industry, they have diverse backgrounds and span demographics, unified only under the banner “rollergirl.”

Both the Death Track Dolls and the Smoke City Betties had four spaces on their rosters and were looking for fresh blood to inject some new life into the squads. The Dolls have never reached the ToRD championship, while the Betties haven’t Battled for the Boot since 2009. Both are hoping that this year’s draft will signify a turning point for the teams.

Renny Rumble gets physical with a TKO jammer.

The Betties picked Renny Rumble, General Patten, Laya Beaton and Slaptrick Swayze, four versatile players who haven’t seemed to fall into any predefined role. “We were looking for aggressive players who had a sense of the game,” explains Misery Mae. Betties co-captain titmouse confirms that: “We like people who are diverse and who want to be able to play all aspects of roller derby because when you understand what you are doing in each role then you understand exactly what’s going on on the track at all times.” Slaptrick and Patten are two skaters from the latest round of fresh meat, but in them, the team has chosen two serious and determined skaters. Patten, who has a history in figure skater, has excellent footwork and stability. Slaptrick is rawer but has steadily and consistently improved since joining fresh meat. Laya Beaton and Renny Rumble, on the other hand, were key pieces of the leadership core of the 2011 D-VAS. Laya is a physical skater who can jam and is potentially a powerful blocker, while Renny Rumble, who has also excelled in all positions with the D-VAS, seems to be the most game-ready of the skaters in the draft. “In the last couple of games Renny has played with the D-VAS, she has shown that she has a serious understanding of what’s going on and knows where she needs to be on the track,” titmouse says of Renny. “And she’s aggressive! She wants it,” Misery Mae is quick to chime in.

Ames to Kill showed the ability to play all postions in her time with the D-VAS.

In picking Ames to Kill, Scarcasm, UpHer Cut and Bellefast, the Death Track Dolls took a similar approach to team building. “We were looking for skaters who were adaptable, who showed ambition and were willing to come to practice…not specifically jammers or blockers,” explains captain Panty Hoser. “The skaters we’ve drafted, we’ve seen a lot of improvement from and a lot of potential in,” adds co-captain Sinead O’Clobber. Certainly their picks reflect that. Choosing four of the freshest faces in the draft, Panty Hoser sees specific potential in all of them: “Scracasm is one of the hardest hitters of the DVAS; Bellefast is like a little sponge: she soaks up the skills and strategies; Ames has game experience; UpHer Cut has the quick feet and track knowledge.” While Scarcasm and UpHer Cut seem to be rounding into solid pack players and the fearless Bellefast has shown huge potential as a jammer, Ames to Kill has excelled in every position on the track and has emerged as a potential triple threat.  “Overall we’ve got a well-rounded group of baby Dolls,” Hoser concludes proudly. “Any of them has the potential to step up and be awesome.”

While admitting surprise at being drafted, Scarcasm notes that there is something full circle about it. “The first (rollergirl) I met was a Doll,” she says of meeting Dolls’ vet Jubilee, “and the first game I saw was a Dolls game!” When pressed as to why she thought she was picked, she acknowledged that it may be because she tries so hard. “I’m very willing to learn, (and) recognize what I don’t do well.” A physical skater, she looks up to other physical, but effective players like Jubille, Dyna Hurtcha and Nasher the Smasher. “I knew I wanted to play derby after we started hitting in Fresh Meat,” she admits with a laugh.

The Gore-Gore Rollergirls and the Chicks Ahoy! were in different situations. They’ve dominated the league for the past two seasons trading championships and blowing away their ToRD counterparts. Arguably, due to their success, they had more freedom in making their picks.

hellbat prepares to jam against Royal City.

“We were looking for a new skater, not for someone to fill a regular rotation spot on the lineup,” says Gores co-captain Lady Gagya. “As a team, we’ve always looked toward attitude; we were looking for someone who wants to be part of our team who will listen to what we say and who is willing to try everything.” Despite that, there has been one gaping hole in the Gores’ lineup since the departure of Lunchbox: a third jammer. hellbat, the Gores’ only draft pick, has shown an affinity for jamming in her time with the farm team. Gagya does admit that that was one element in their decision making process. “Jammers on the farm team are a special breed,” she says. “The willingness to jam means you have the willingness to do basically everything.”

While hellbat relishes the opportunity to learn and play every position (“Brim Stone of the Gores give instruction so well.”) she admits that “it’s pretty likely (I was picked to jam).” While she does have personal favourite players (“Betty Bomber [of the Dolls] is an epic triple threat!”), she says that she doesn’t model her style (jamming or otherwise) on any one skater: “Jamming is so personal,” she concludes. She’s coming off a full season with the D-VAS that saw her gain a tremendous amount of game experience, and says that this year as a D-VAS made her hungry for a spot in the league. “I almost feel like I want it a bit more than some girls who were drafted right away, and I am definitely ready.” She also says that having the opportunity to jam against some of ToRD’s heavy hitters at league practice has prepared for the rigours of  ToRD’s regular season. “(In practice) I’ve jammed against Mega Bouche, Dolly Destructo and Dyna Hurtcha; sure they came out on top, but I’m ready for it now.”

The defending champion Chicks Ahoy! had three spots open on their team. Retaining the core of their championship team put them in a somewhat privileged position. “We didn’t focus on positions at all,” co-captain Tara Part says. “We went for a balance of personality and skill.” Their picks Doris Doomsday (a transfer from Central New York), Roadshide BombShel, and Biggley Smallz have all shown an ability and willingness to do anything on the track. While Doris and BombShel were more obvious picks, Biggley Smallz was the least experienced of the skaters chosen in the draft. Because of this lack of public exposure, she could prove to be a shrewd pick. Co-captain Candy Crossbones compares Biggley to former Chick Aimee-Zing (2007-2008) who was a physical player that had a lot of speed and agility and could “jam her way through a pack.”

Although experienced as a jammer, Roadside BombShel looks forward to developing at every position.

“I feel like I just won a million dollars,” is how Roadside BombShel explains her feelings on being drafted (doing so while wiping Chick-green cupcake icing off her face). “I was totally prepared to remain on the D-VAS because of the number of really good skaters (in the draft), and I would have been so happy to skate with them…I love roller derby and just want to get better.” While she was used primarily as a jammer in her game experience with the D-VAS, she has expressed a willingness to play every role. “People jam me because I’m small, but the example of Brim Stone shows that you can still be an effective blocker and be small.” Roadside says that that she would have been honoured and happy to be picked by any team, but she is awfully excited to be a Chick. She raises her hand to pull some more cupcake from her hair.“Even to get a cupcake in the face from the Chicks is an honour!”

Despite losing 12 skaters to the ToRD draft, about 30 skaters still remain on the farm team, meaning that ToRD’s draft pools will only get stronger. “The fact that there is still a full D-VAS team now after the draft means they are going to have a really competitive year,” says new Bettie, Slaptrick Swayze. This increase in talented, game-ready skaters means that the future is bright for ToRD, but also that the farm system could potentially expand. “One thing I’d really like to see is for each team have their own farm team,” says Tara Part.

Given the success of the D-VAS, this is more than a distinct possibility.

**You can catch ToRD’s latest generation of skaters when the 2012 ToRD season kicks off in the New Year (stay tuned for more details on this and upcoming D-VAS bouts).

**Missed Part 1?? Read it here.

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