Stop me if you've heard this before...so I was back on skates after my latest knee injury ;) At the risk of sounding like a broken record it did happen last Friday night. My knee still wasn't 100% but I had my clearance letter from my physio. It was all off skates training initially. We worked up to doing hipchecks and can openers in pairs. When it comes to hipchecks I've been taught two different ways - the 'washing machine' way and stepping down and up. I've found the second way is more effective and allows me to keep my balance. I was partnered up with Toad which was a good test because he didn't hold back at all. I was getting the right target zones but the bloody annoying thing is that I can't replicate this form on skates.
I had to laugh when Matron (who has been off skates for a while) asked me how I handled being off skates from all the injuries I've had. I've just been driven to try and fulfil the derby goal I've held since October 2010, doesn't mean I haven't been pissed off or sworn when I was off injured :)
Even now I still haven't got full movement in my knee and I'm still having some pain when I move it a particular way, it's just frustrating that it's still impeding me. With two successive knee injuries and forced time off I've noticed the self doubt start to creep back in. I see everyone around me improve bucketloads and think I'm constantly slipping backwards, forever playing catch up. I know in the past that I've let this sort of thinking fester and get worse so I've tried to reign it in before it gets worse. I've gone back to what worked for me in the first part of the year before I had that first knee injury. It was in that time that I made my biggest improvement to date so I'm hoping it works out for me again if I take the same approach.
Roll on Saturday and it was onto the big issue that everyone was talking about: NRDL grand final day! I can't believe I'm saying this but as the day drew closer I was starting to get nervous, not too far off from how I feel whenever Liverpool plays. The night started off weird enough as I found myself cheering for the Hellcats. Yep you read that right, yeah I can't believe it either. Before you think I've completely lost my marbles it was only because they were bouting S2D2, a non-NRDL team. It was cool to be able to cheer on individual players like Kell, Tox, Missy and Beaver and not worry about the impact they were having on my team. First half saw the Hellcats in control and it reflected on the scoreline. There was one person who was missing big time, their regular commentator Mal. NRDL bouts and Mal go hand in hand. This other commentator tried but he's no Mal.
At half time they announced the winners of the Dockyard Dames jacket auction. It was one of the few times that I've wanted to hear my name said out, and it happened not once but twice as I won both Brig and Jilla's jackets. HAPPY DAYS! When I went to get the jackets I found out I was also getting smaller versions of the Brig and Jilla posters from the Line up auction. Given the fact that I won the massive Jilla poster in the last auction, I've basically got the Russian Dolls equivalent of Jilla posters to go with the signed Jilla postcard hehe. As a collector of player issue Liverpool memorabilia I love the fact that I can add derby related memorabilia to that collection, even moreso that it was from two of my favourite three skaters. Lastly the NRDL guys have helped me out a lot especially this year with skating and advice even though I'm not a member of their league so it was nice to be able to give something back to them by bidding on the jackets. Jilla the smart arse asked if I had enough jackets. I should have asked her if she wanted her jacket back ;)
To be honest the second half of the Hellcats bout was a blur because I was still on a high from the auction wins. I know S2D2 came back brilliantly and even managed to hit the lead for the first time towards the end of the bout but the Hellcats clawed back and with a few power jams finished off S2D2 in the very last jam of the bout.
I was an absolute bundle of nerves before the Smashleys bout kicked off, heaven knows how the skaters felt. The Smashos were short on numbers with the likes of Glitter and Broken both injured but considering how tight they've played throughout the year, if they managed to stay out of the penalty box as much as possible and give away free points then they'd definately be in with a shout even with the firepower that the Bogeys held in their ranks. The Bogeys opened up a slight lead but once the Smashleys got the lead they never gave it up. The Smashleys had bit of a brain fart moment in the second half where their players were starting to spend more time in the penalty box than on the track that almost allowed the Bogeys back in. I was thinking 'calm the fuck down' but that might have been as much for my benefit as it was for them.
Bias aside despite giving away a numerical advantage to the Bogeys the Smashos played the game to perfection. Quick jams when they had lead to conserve energy, mostly staying out of the penalty box, lots of low risk BUT effective blocking and they just played as a team. I thought Tootsie had her best ever performance for the Smashos. The jammers Babycakes, Dutchess and especially Hollie who was well deserved MVP more than made up the gap left by Broken's absence, hell even Jilla jammed once which always gets a big cheer from the crowd. For me the Dutchess and Hollie have had a standout rookie season for my team, they fitted in seamlessly. What else can I possibly say about Jilla that I haven't already said a million times before? Yet another awesome display by her. I wonder if she's forgotten how to skate facing the direction that most skaters face due to all her backwards blocking. Regardless, given how effective her backwards blocking is and how she conducts her side on where to be due to her great view point was once again instrumental. It amazes me that just about everyone gets drawn to her standing up tall and playing right into her hands. It's probably easer said than done given her rugby background but I'd have thought you'd have more luck shifting her out of the way by doing a can opener while facing her direction. The only tactic that I've seen work to counteract her backwards blocking is when she gets double teamed. Even then I lost count of how many times she deliberately blocked a Bogeys blocker who then took out their own jammer from the impact of Jilla's hit, such a genius tactic.
One of things I've learnt after being a lifetime Liverpool supporter is patience. Just because the Smashleys lost all the previous seasons to the Hellcats it didn't mean I would jump ship. When I pick a team, they're my team for life regardless of how well or crap they go results wise. Given the near misses in the past and the amazing foundation they built this season I was absolutely made up that my smashos finally got rewarded for all their efforts by lifting the trophy this season. I was proud as punch for them!!
I may have been in fan mode on Saturday night but I tracked down the people who filmed both bouts so I've organised to have a copy sent to me so that I can bout write up's from the footage which will be a new experience for me. We'll see how they turn out.