In Search of the Greatest WFTDA Team of All Time

3 Teams Stand Out — 2012 Gotham, 2017 VRDL, 2019 Rose City

VRDL Celebrates At 2017 Championships in Philly. Photo: Marko Niemelä

The Rose City Wheels of Justice were dominant in 2019, they rattled off 10 straight wins on their way to going back to back with the Hydra. No one came within 60 points all year. Wow.

Their season was impressive and it raised a legitimate question — was this the greatest WFTDA team of all time?

Since then I’ve been trying to chart other impressive seasons to at least add some context to the mix. With the airing of “The Last Dance” documentary tonight about the 1997–98 Chicago Bulls, arguably the greatest professional sports team of all time, I felt motivated to share some of that.

“Great” teams are typically judged in relation to the peers they played against. This is true for all sports, but derby adapts and changes at such a fast rate that there is not a lot of room for comparison between the beginning and end of the last decade of derby. We can track how dominant those teams were against their peers though and we can start with Championship teams who went unbeaten.

Starting from the 2007 season, 8 Hydra winners have had unbeaten seasons (Gotham ’08, Oly ’09, Gotham ’11, Gotham ’12, Gotham ’13, Gotham ’14, VRDL ’17 and Rose ’17).

Gotham’s record of 5 unbeaten Championship seasons, including 4 in a row, points to their unparalleled and sustained dominance. Some of those seasons were razor thin though. They played to a 5 point win over Philly in 2008, the legendary 5 point Hydra win over Rose in 2014 and the relatively close 26 point Hydra game against Texas in 2013. Gotham was extremely dominant over a long stretch of time, however, that unbeaten streak was tested many times before it was finally broken and Gotham’s main skill was finding ways to win close games.

Their 2011 win, just their 2nd Hydra win and the beginnings of their reign, saw a solid 43 point win over Oly in the Hydra game to close out a 13–0 season.

The high point comes in 2012 though with a 16–0 season being capped off with a 233–130 win in the Championship game versus Oly. The closest anyone came to 2012 Gotham was Rose City, 221–152 (69). That team is the first to really stand out in the history of the WFTDA.

Oly was the 3rd team to win the WFTDA Championship and the 2nd to do it off the strength of an unbeaten season. They closed that Championship game with a big 78 point win over Texas, however, they barely survived tight early season wins over Rose (6 points) and Denver (2 points). They picked up steam as the season went on, but they were not world beaters in their 11–0 season.

VRDL’s 2017 season marked just the 3rd time a team won the Championship with an unbeaten season. Melbourne’s own went 10–0, won the Hydra bout by 79 and their smallest margin of victory was 64. That team stands out as the 2nd great team, before any mention of the extreme expense and significant disadvantage Australian teams face.

Rose’s 2019 season was their 4th Hydra win, but their first unbeaten. It’s not just recency bias, it is clear that team also stands out.

2012 Gotham All Stars 🐝

With a jammer rotation of Bonnie Thunders, Suzy Hotrod, Claire D. Way and Brazilian Nut this 2012 Gotham team could score. Their Playoffs and Champs wins were impressive — a range of 101 points to 426. Their opening 434–8 win over Carolina at Sugarbush Showdown was a sign of things to come. The blocking rotation was also fierce — Mick Swagger, Slaydie, Fisti Cuffs, OMG WTF, Donna Matrix, Ana Bollocks, Sweet Sherry Pie, Hyper Lynx, Davey Blockit and Hela Skelter. Damn!

This team started the Championship game on a 51–0 run.

It was fast derby with minors/majors and knee starts, but anyone can clearly see how dominant this team was.

2017 VRDL All Stars ⚡️

VRDL had been knocking on the door since 2015 and in 2017 they finally broke through. They overtook Gotham in the rankings in March of 2017, the first team to take that position from them, and they never looked back.

Christy Demons was back from injury, Lady Trample (Pirate City) and Sarah Love (Sydney) had transferred in and Shaina Serelson was reshaping an already hard working and innovative program. The closest game they played all year was their first one, a 187–123 win over Rose City at Big O. They were so good they won a Champs semi-final by 222 points over Denver!

They played the final with 12 skaters, 4 jammers and two blocking lines

LINE 1 — Lauren Foote, Shaina Serelson, Lorrae Evans and Jaana Nuku

LINE 2 — Dani Darko, Bianca Sciarretta, Bicepsual and Boneshaker

2019 Wheels of Justice 😈

The 2019 Wheels of Justice team had great continuity and it allowed them to build off of their 2018 Championship while also becoming a more versatile and adaptable team. If you kept the game close in the first half, they merely went into the locker room ready to make adjustments and came back out and slammed the door shut.

Arch Rival were the closest, losing by a margin of 60 in the Champs semi-final. Arch went into half trailing by just 12.

Bonnie Thunders and Loren Mutch did a lot of the heavy lifting, but Rose also had great depth and extremely reliable relief in Brute, Beyond Thunderdame, Eve Anne Hellical, Lurz Lemon, Zip Drive and more.

The blocking lines also had no weaknesses

LINE 1 — Oona Roll, Tenacity, Elicia Nesbit-Smith, Tarantula and Mia Palau

LINE 2 — Gal of Fray, OMG WTF, Simonis, Morgan Levy and Stan

This team was excruciatingly hard to score on and although they could match a physical style, they played with experience and discipline that did not allow for penalty spirals or any kind of chaos to capitalize on.

The Greatest of All Time?

I still can’t decide. I know it’s one of these teams, but there is a solid case to be made for all of them. 2020 Rose City Wheels of Justice might have been it, or may still be it, who knows! Either way, the process of trying to answer these questions is what is most fun. These were all amazing teams full of exceptional skill, hard work and innovation.

Who do you think is the greatest WFTDA team of all time?!

Like what we do? Consider chipping in a few bucks.

The Derby Apex is creating Women's Flat Track Roller Derby Media | Patreon


In Search of the Greatest WFTDA Team of All Time was originally published in The Apex on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

In Search of the Greatest WFTDA Team of All Time