The rivalry began in 2009, when the Assassins won the two championships after the Bombshell Brigade won in 2008. The two teams faced off in the 2010 championship with the Assassins holding onto their league title. In 2011, the Assassins and Bombshells were tied at the end of the season, but because of their superior margin of victory, the Assassins edged out the Bombshells to advance to the championship bout against the Deadly Kennedys. This year, the Bombshells’ only loss was to the undefeated Assassins.
“I have no doubt that the Bombshell Brigade will put up a fight,” said Dara O’Bannan, a.k.a. “Pyro Maim Ya,” a Casa Linda resident and Assassins team member who chose her name to reflect her fiery personality and naturally red hair. “They’ve been a formidable opponent for the past three years and they̓re a very strong team. We’re stronger.”
Dara O’Bannan and her husband Micah O’Bannan, aka “Magnum Eats Pie,” the team’s coach, said the Assassins’ strategic playing, teamwork and jammers – the players who score points – will help them overcome the Bombshells’ veteran players and size.
Micah O’Bannan, 28, said the Assassins have eight to 10 players capable of being effective jammers, while most teams have two or three. This allows each jammer more time to rest, and he believes the Bombshells will have to play strong defense to keep them from scoring. He said that although the Bombshell players are larger, the Assassins are well-coordinated and can hold their own through teamwork. However, both said the Assassins’ weakness is injury and fatigue because many players also play for travel teams.
Dara O’Bannan, 34, said they will face a strong, consistent team with a lot of veteran players and thinks the Bombshells’ greatest weakness is underestimating their opponents.
“That’s really it,” she said. “They think they’ve got this in the bag. So do we. We’re underestimating each other, but I feel really confident that we’ll take home the victory.”
Quentin Campbell, a Lakewood veterinarian technician, is a roller derby fan and said he will cheer for the Assassins during the championship bout. He has a photo of the team as the background of his computer at work and said the tight-knit community atmosphere is what keeps him coming back. Dara O'Bannan said the fans are diverse – she sees 20-year-old hipsters sitting next to 70-year-old grandmothers in the crowd.
“I would en-liken my team to Little Forest Hills. It’s quirky, a little off-beat,” she said. For those whose only exposure to roller derby is the movie “Whip It,” the competition is fierce, but do not expect to see brawls and flying elbows. Dara O’Bannan said she loved the movie (she has a poster on her wall) and the awareness it brought to roller derby, but said the league plays smart and safe.
“We’re all moms with kids so we can't afford to be broken, but we really want to play,” she said.
Dara O’Bannan joined the Assassins when her daughter was four months old. She is now six years old, has grown up around the sport and recently joined the junior league, which Dara O’Bannan likes because she said derby provides good, strong, athletic female role models for girls.
She met her husband, who plays in the men’s league, through roller derby – he began coaching her team and she was recovering from an injury. During a previous practice, another player performed an illegal move that broke her fibula and tibia in 11 places. She needed two plates and 17 screws to repair the damage, then physical therapy to learn to walk and then skate again. She said that kind of injury is rare and that becoming “bionic” was good because she realized how much stronger she could be.
After recovering, her husband proposed during her first bout on her home team in the 2009 season opener. Just before the match began, a referee cited her for missing equipment and Micah O’Bannan came out to give it to her – an engagement ring. They went on to win every game that season and their first championship since 2006. Dara O’Bannan said the team calls her ring their good luck charm.
“That was the best game of my life, but I’m still on cloud nine because it’s great to be in love with your best friend, who not only understands derby but who shares my obsession,” she said.