Future Stars Set to Face Off at Fresh and Furious Once Again

The third Fresh and Furious tournament (GTA Drift), hosted by GTA Rollergirls, will take place on July 14 at Ted Reeve Arena.

At last year’s 2Fresh 2Furious, eight separate leagues were represented in the quarterfinals with the upstart Gold Miner’s Daughters just rounding into form as they knocked off  Durham Region, Royal City and then ToRD’s D-VAS in succession in the elimination round to upset the field and win the tournament. It was a shocking victory for everyone in attendance, as the team from Timmins came from out of nowhere. It was shocking enough that even Nick L Bagg, the Daughters’ coach, would refer to it as “incredible.”

But that’s exactly the kind of tournament that the Fresh and Furious showdown is: a place for new skaters, new teams, and even new leagues to test themselves—often for the first time—against outside competition; it’s a chance for fresh-faced teams to see how far they’ve come, or how far they still have to go.

One of the founders of the tournament, Splat Benetar, points out that a “freshie” tournament like this is more important now than ever, “Derby has become such a strategic, fast skating, fast thinking and hard hitting game, that having a freshie environment gives these skaters a chance to play teams that have equal experience as themselves.”

Fresh and Furious: GTA Drift is the third year that they tournament has run, providing the up-and-coming stars of eastern Canadian roller derby an opportunity to get some important tournament experience, but also just that all-valuable track time. Splat points out that despite the “fresh” nature of the skaters, the competitive level of the event has increased every year: “Many newer skaters are developing their skills and learning strategies faster each year…I think it does stem from the veteran League (members) teaching their Fresh skaters all these skills and strategies.”

The one-day double-elimination style tournament will feature fourteen teams dueling over two tracks, and while all fourteen teams will at least get two games, the top two teams will get a bye directly to the quarterfinals. There are returning leagues, but certainly some new and exciting ones as well.

TRACK ONE: TED REEVE ARENA

Border City (in blue) and South Simcoe (squaring off last year) will both be sending teams again. (Photo by Joe Mac)

ToRD’s D-VAS, South Simcoe’s Rebel Rollers, Windsor’s Border City Brawlers, and the Royal City Roller Girls are all returning from last year’s tournament with a fresh batch of skaters to introduce to the community. Joining these teams will be three leagues making their Fresh and Furious debut: the Renegade Derby Dames, London’s Violet Femmes (a  LOCO derby league), Woodstock Roller Derby’s Woodstock Warriors, and Montreal’s Smash Squad.

While it’s almost impossible to predict how these young and inexperienced teams will respond to the tournament setting, the inclusion of Montreal in this pool automatically makes things intriguing. “Montreal has amazing top-level skaters teaching their fresh skaters,” Splat points out, “so they will be hard to beat.” The freshest of skaters from Canada’s most successful league will certainly become automatic front runners and will open the tournament against Woodstock Roller Derby, not only a fresh team, but a very fresh league.  The Border City Brawlers and D-VAS matchup is intriguing as well, as Border City made an impressive league debut at last year’s tournament, and it will be interesting to see how the second wave of Windsor skaters competes. Royal City, another league that did well last year and that has been surging since, will also undoubtedly introduce an impressive new group. While the nature of this tournament means that everything is essentially up in the air, look for Montreal, D-VAS, Royal City and Renegade Derby Dames to come through this bracket.

Guelph’s Royal City will be sending a team again, as will Gold City, the unified Timmins league. (Photo by Joe Mac)

TRACK TWO: THE BUBBLE

Aside from the freshly formed Lindsay Roller Derby, the Bubblle will feature leagues with at least one year’s experience now under their belts. Durham Region had a strong showing last year, defeating the eventual champion Gold Miner’s Daughters in the first round before exiting in the quarter finals. The Gold Miner’s new league, Gold City, will also be represented in this bracket, undoubtedly hoping for the same exciting results as last year, while Capital City (Ottawa), Queen City (Buffalo), and the host GTA (sending the Derby Debutantes) round out the slightly more experienced bracket in the Bubble. While once again a tough bracket to predict, look for the always well trained Queen City team to excel. Splat also  points out that the home team Debutantes are a team to watch: “Their understanding of derby strategy and great sense of team work makes them a contender.” Of course,  Timmins (who will be merging with fresh skaters from Soonami as well) will want to show that last year’s stunning performance wasn’t just a one off, but a sign of successful things to come.

Toronto’s D-VAS and Timmins’ Gold Miner’s Daughters met in last year’s final (the Daughters won 67-24). (Photo by Joe Mac)

Beyond the obvious importance of having a showcase for the next generation of up-and-coming skating talent, this tournament is exciting in its unpredictability. With fresh faces at various levels of skating ability and experience, as with last year, there are a few factors that will determine the winner. The team that not only has the endurance to last the day, but that is able to come together and improve as the day goes on will be the team that has the most success.

But the tournament is about much more than winning. As Splat Benetar points out, it’s as much about gaining that all important derby attitude: “Let’s face it, just a few months ago (many of these skaters) were wobbling and falling, trying to learn to skate and now they are out there kicking butt.  I would say that these so called ‘Freshies’ are so impressive and with their positive attitude, they will grow our sport.”

***Fresh and Furious: GTA Drift takes place on July 14 at Ted Reeve Arena. First whistle is at 11:00 AM. Tickets are available at select retail locations and online.

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