RetRollSpective – Green Ducks

Hello and welcome to another RetRollSpective, where we reflect on the history of marble sports teams that have appeared in the tournaments of Jelle’s Marble Runs. This time, we’re taking flight to zero in on the Green Ducks, a team new to the 2019 Marble League. Read on to see how this team has attacked the competition!

The official logo for the Green Ducks, designed by Tim Ritz.

The Green Ducks hail from a pair of islands off the coast of Europe, the Brace Isles, and have been following marble sports since a very young age. The team’s future captain, Mallard, won tickets to see the Tour de Vellis in 2014 and was lucky enough to witness the Speeders win the tournament for the first time.

“It was insane. The Speeders had so many fans rooting for them, and I bet that deep down, even they were flattered. I wanted to feel that excitement again.”

Mallard returned to Bermenghank, their hometown, already thinking about booking tickets to other marble sports events, but tragedy struck. Mallard returned home to find one of their parents in the infirmarblery, and two days later, they were gone. Mallard’s other parent had not been working at the time, and they used most of the family’s savings to pay for a funeral. They struggled to find a job for years.

Mallard found a job at a farm to help the family, which included their remaining parent and their sibling, Billy. Billy also began working at the farm and befriended Quacky, Ducky, and Goose, three of the farmhands. They worked there while completing their primary education and continued afterward.

“We became pretty close in such a short amount of time,” recalled Ducky. “Mallard and Billy became a part of our family, so much so that we felt and grew through their loss with them.”

The rolling hills and plains of Bermenghank, depicted by Jack Ironhide.

“I remember when Mallard first heard about the Marble League,” said Goose. “It was one of the few things that got them excited. Not that taking care of ducks didn’t get them excited.”

“It didn’t get me excited,” Mallard replied. “But the Marble League did.”

“We all bonded over the Marble League in a time where we all needed something to enjoy. Working on the farm wasn’t easy, either,” Quacky said.

“It inspired us to become a closer team and family than we ever imagined,” Billy added. “And we all began to wonder what life could be like outside the farm.”

As the 2017 Marble League approached, Mallard secretly entered into a bid to get tickets for the tournament. Mallard surprised their friends with the tickets, and the five traveled to Knikkegen that summer. They can be seen in some of the events in the Jungle Jumpers fan section.

“We didn’t anticipate that the Jumpers would do as poorly as they did,” Mallard said, chuckling. “We liked their uniforms, though. The green reminded us of the grass from the farm.”

“To be fair, they did get a few medals,” Ducky retorted. “I still have a soft spot for them. And I can’t blame them for oversleeping, especially now that I know how exhausting being a marble athlete is.”

The five friends returned home at the end of the season and had all pretty much agreed on what they wanted to do: train to become marble sports athletes. They traveled into the city and consulted with Bombay, Mallard’s parent. It didn’t take long to get them to quit their miserable job in tourism and get them to coach the five under the team name of the Green Ducks.

The Brace Isles were not well known for marble sports at the time, but the Ducks were able to compete in minor leagues. They became known as the most prominent team in the region within time and soon began receiving sponsorships, which meant that the members of the team were finally becoming financially stable. The Green Ducks moved to Draklin sometime in 2018 and became the host team of Joshdon Stadium.

In late 2018, rumors began to spread that Team Plasma was retiring from the Marble League due to not training enough and that there might be an opening in the 2019 Qualifiers. The Ducks had applied to the waiting list long ago and only hoped that their request had been processed by then, and had a chance to be approved.

On 1 January 2019, the Green Ducks were accepted into the 2019 Marble League Qualifiers and appeared in the tournament later that month. Despite being so new to the tournament, fans were already flocking to the stands for the Ducks. Their numbers would only grow.

Mallard, Billy, Quacky, Ducky, and Goose pose for an official photoshoot in early 2019.

Mallard placed fifth in the first event, Funnel Spinning, setting the stage for what would be the team’s knock-out performance in Block Pushing. The team earned an unprecedented 117.0 centimeters in their initial heat, placing first in the event and rising to the top of the standings, just ahead of the Limers. The Ducks placed fifth again in the Relay Race and secured their qualifying spot after only the third event. They conserved their energy for the final event, the Underwater Race, by putting Ducky in to compete. Ducky placed dead last, earning just one point, and the Green Ducks qualified for the 2019 Marble League in an astounding fourth place.

The team amassed more fans in the preseason, many of them Limers fans, for the Limers had failed to qualify. Fans were no doubt impressed by the Ducks’ showing in Qualifiers, but many wondered if their momentum would last. After all, they were a rookie team.

Quacky was quick to attack any doubts about the team in the first event of the 2019 Marble League, the Underwater Race. It was an event that Ducky had bombed in during Qualifiers, but one that Quacky masterfully excelled in. Ducky was bested only by the Savage Speeders, a team that, in its prime, was the most successful rookie team in the Marble League. Ducky’s silver medal in the event was hard-earned and set the bar high for the rest of the Green Ducks’ season.

After Mallard placed seventh in Funnel Spinning, the team placed fourth three times in a row, missing the podium but earning double-digits in points each time. This momentum built up to the Relay Run, in which all four of the team’s main members competed. In the final leg of the event, Billy lurched forward, getting just ahead of Tangerin from the O’rangers to win the team’s first gold medal of the season. The Green Ducks rose to the top of the standings, proving their spot in the Marble League once and for all.

The team’s first gold medal of the Marble League.

However, with ten events of the season remaining, a challenge began to mount from just beneath the Ducks’ lead. This challenge came from the Raspberry Racers, a team that seemed to have a history with lime-green teams, as well as a thirst to win the 2019 Marble League. During the next four events, from Block Pushing to the Hubelino Maze, the Green Ducks earned an average of seven points per event. Although this was enough to keep the team in the top three, Quacky’s fourteenth-place finish during the Summer Biathlon stinted the team against the Raspberry Racers—who rose to the top of the standings after that event and remained there for the next four events.

“I think we were past the honeymoon phase,” Goose acknowledged. “We were still flying pretty high, but we weren’t doing as good as we could have. The Raspberry Racers were medaling so much…our consistent fourth-place finishes early on did us wonders, but they weren’t going to get us in the lead.”

“The one thing we did have, in contrast to the Racers, was gold medals,” Bombay stated. “They had so many close calls where they could have earned gold, but they settled elsewhere on the podium. We went all-in when we could.”

The Green Ducks refocused during the Dirt Race, where Ducky boosted ahead of Swifty from the Savage Speeders in the final leg of the race to earn a silver medal. Rozzy from the Raspberry Racers passed ahead of Swifty at the finish line, earning a bronze medal by five milliseconds and keeping watch on the Ducks. It would not be the last time that they and the Racers would share the podium, but the next event, Rafting, was exactly what the Ducks needed to strike back. The team set a Marble League record with 33.74 seconds and earned its second gold medal of the season, reclaiming the top of the standings with an eleven-point lead over their new rivals.

Their “raspberry rivals” rose to the contest in the thirteenth event, the Elimination Race, and ultimately proved Bombay wrong. Rezzy advanced to the final round of the race in a close save by Diego of the Indigo Stars, who accidentally nudged the “framboise flash” ahead of them and was eliminated in the penultimate race. The final race pit Rezzy and Quacky against Red Eye from the Crazy Cat’s Eyes, but all eyes were on the former two competitors. As Red Eye got stuck further up the course, the race became a nail-biter until the very end, when Quacky stopped suddenly on the final grey hexagon and Rezzy crossed the finish line.

An event that foreshadowed the end of the season.

The Green Ducks remained in first, but their podium finishes were over. The Raspberry Racers rose to the top of the standings with an important fourth-place finish in Surfing, and the Green Ducks fell to second with a twelfth-place finish. The Raspberry Racers made sure to remain at least one step ahead of the team to the end of the season, finishing fifth in Collision to the Ducks’ sixth, and earning one more bronze medal in the Sand Rally to Mallard’s tenth place finish, mired back in the pack. The Ducks were sitting to the right of the Racers in the closing ceremony, with 204 points, five medals, and a second-place finish overall in the 2019 Marble League.

“Fans are saying that we’re the most successful rookie team in the history of the tournament, and we didn’t even win,” Mallard paused, gazing at the sky. “I guess that’s something.”

“It’s more than something,” I assured them. “Your team never left the top four spots in the standings. You medaled five times. You’re one of two teams to get over two hundred points in the Marble League.”

“We didn’t win.”The Green Ducks, already qualified for the next Marble League, were training for their next appearance in the Friendly Round when Bombay received an official letter from the JMRC. The letter extended an invitation for the team to compete in the first season of Marbula One, an honor, especially for a rookie team. The Ducks accepted the invitation and chose to be represented by Mallard and Billy during the tournament.

The promotional poster for the Green Ducks in Marbula One Season 1, designed by Jack Ironhide.

Soaring High

an addendum by Roilan

They took that mindset back to their home. The dejection of falling just short only motivated them more. Despite being headquartered in Draklin, the team enjoyed spending the offseason on the farm in Bermenghank. I was lucky enough to visit the team. It was a lovely farm; not incredibly expansive, but there was a lot of land for crops and ducks. A small farmhouse stood not 100 yards off the road next to a group of what looked like pear trees. I just made out a small, eight-turn dirt track with three picnic tables on the far side of the farm near the tree line.

“The media’s great and all, but it’s nice to get away from the spotlight a bit,” Ducky explained, “This is where it all started for us; we still like to help out around the farm. It’s humbling to remember how we got our break.” 

I soon learned that the dirt track was one that the team had mowed out in the early stages of training. Despite it no longer being optimal for their high level of performance, they used it for low-intensity work in the early offseason. As with most training sessions on the farm, local fans, often young marbles, would come by and watch them train. It was fascinating to see how the five athletes interacted with their fans. They would talk between sets, often by name, and towards the end, gave a lesson to the younger fans. 

Not long after I left town, the team went to their main training facility in Draklin to gear up for the inaugural Marbula One season. Those practices are far more isolated. Limited, if any media and no fans are allowed to watch. While they do not nearly match the Hazers in secrecy, Bombay keeps most of the training routines out of the spotlight. 

In early February, Mallard, Billy, and Bombay headed to the first Grand Prix, the Savage Speedway. Mallard started the season with tenth place in qualifying but improved that position to eighth in the race. The next week at the O’raceway, Billy made their debut. After qualifying in fifth, Billy was itching to get in the race with a favorable position. Despite falling to seventh early, they navigated the sand beautifully and were in second place at the end of lap one. Two laps later, Billy took a great line in the sand and got right behind Smoggy. Using an inside move off turn seven, Billy took the lead. They dominated the rest of the race, stretching the lead to as large as 3.54 seconds. From there, the lead hovered at around two seconds, and Billy claimed the first medal for their team with a gold.

Billy crossing the finish line for gold.

Mallard looked to back it up at the Momotorway. The starts continued to be a strength for the Green Ducks as Mallard went from their eighth spot on the grid to second position by the end of lap one. They managed to cut the tangent through turns four, five, and six, taking the lead in lap two, but lost it back to Clutter later in the lap. Coming off the belt in lap three, Mallard got it back before Clutter regained the top spot with a move along the pit straight. The battle continued for the next three laps before Mallard struggled to get onto the belt entering lap seven and fell to seventh place. They fought back over the final six laps including a pass on the final lap but finished just off the podium in fourth.

The worst finish of the season for the team came in the next race with a thirteenth at the Hivedrive for Billy. After a pair of ninth-place finishes, including one at their home race at Greenstone, and an eleventh, the Green Ducks found themselves seventh in the overall standings with one race left. Mallard qualified in a season-high fourth at Midnight Bay but had found themselves in seventh by the end of the opening lap. They quickly worked their way back up the order, getting up to fifth by the end of lap three and third by the end of lap four. In lap eleven, Mallard found a gap on the inside of turn ten to get by Prim for P2 and ended the season with a silver medal. The Green Ducks ended in sixth overall, but both members took home a medal and finished in the top fifteen individually; Mallard in eighth and Billy in fourteenth. 

A strong end to the season.

In the time between Marbula One and the Marble League, the Green Ducks made headlines in marble sports by starting a youth league in the local area: the Golden Egg.

“Marble Sports have never been that big of a deal around here,” Mallard stated, “Most marble athletes from around here go to the Accellaise/Vellis region for competition. We want to boost the involvement all across the area.” 

The grand opening of the Golden Egg was held in Bermenghank and was split into two divisions: a youth division for marbles just getting into Marble Sports, and the more prominent junior division for more competitive and experienced young athletes. The latter was a tour around the Isles used to prepare the top youth teams for a future in competitive Marble Sports. The preliminary season consisted of twelve teams. Among the first teams that announced their participation were the Shadow Squires, the youth team partnered with Marble Rally competitor Black Knight, from Onyxburgh, and the Green Geese, a team from Bermenghank who modeled after the Green Ducks and briefly competed in Marble Sports Games before leaving to come back home. Long-time fans of smaller marble tournaments were avidly waiting for the remaining teams that would compete.

After the initial announcement, more teams were revealed. These included the Mountain Climbers, an Inharness based team from the Quadrilla Marble League, and the Berry Blasters, a team from Bushnor who initially wanted to compete in the Fruit Circuit, but instead went to The Bourne Network. Following this were the Skeletal Strikers, from Bonebridge, who were one of many teams that went to Accellaise to compete before finding a spot in Angus’ Epic Extravaganza, and of course, the Green Ducks’ youth team: the Silver Swans. The rest of the competition was filled by teams from around the Isles who were getting their break in marble sports.

After the opening stop in Bermenghank, the Green Ducks left the tournament in the hands of Honk, an old friend of Bombay’s, and went back to Draklin to train for the Marble League. The team auto-qualified for the 2020 tournament due to their second-place finish in 2019, but got a spot in the Friendly Round to prepare. The team was one of the last to arrive at the Andromedome, but still had ample time to practice in the actual stadium in between Qualifiers and the Friendly Round. Even with the practice, the Friendly Round was not kind to the Green Ducks. They didn’t place first in any event. A second place, two third places, and a fourth place in the four events landed the Ducks at the bottom of the table. While typically not the best gauge of how teams will do in the main league, the Green Ducks continued this mediocrity into the 2020 Marble League

The Ducks finished the Marble League without a medal in their second season. They came close a couple of times. Ducky almost made it onto the podium in Funnel Endurance, but after losing a collision battle with Kinnowin of the O’rangers, they settled for fourth. Billy and Quacky replicated that fourth later in the Black Hole Funnel. Despite winning the second run of their heat, they were still almost five seconds behind the Crazy Cat’s Eyes for the final podium spot. Many near-misses killed their momentum, and thus, the Green Ducks could never find any consistently good results. They peaked at seventh after Funnel Endurance, and bottomed out at dead last after the Sand Mogul Race, but spent most of the Marble League in twelfth where they finished. While their outing was significantly better than the other medal-less team, it was disappointing after a remarkable debut season.

A near miss in Funnel Endurance.

Stynth was able to get some insight on their performance in the offseason:

Mallard finally spoke up. “It’s just…I’ve been trying to process it over the past few weeks, and it’s been difficult for us. The whole season was a blur and when it came down to it, we ultimately weren’t prepared for the competition. We thought for certain that we were going to win.”

            “It’s not like we didn’t train,” added Ducky. “I was pretty close on Funnel Endurance. I think we underestimated our competition. We underestimated the Speeders.”

~”Offseason Moments – ML2020 Part 1″, by Stynth

As some of the fiercest competitors in Marble Sports, the disappointment ate up the team. They experienced it more jarringly than anyone else in the city. However, that didn’t stop them from making appearances all over the region. Throughout their careers, they gained a reputation for their outreach in the Draklin area. From organizing a clean-up of the Larkey National Park along the river to visiting young marbles in the infirmarblery, the team often spent off days helping out the community. The Peartree Fund, named after Peartree Farm, the farm the team worked on, was set up by Bombay and the assistance of the other members to raise money for families in the process of looking for work.

“Not everyone is as fortunate as we were,” Mallard commented, “We know what it’s like to struggle and try to help mitigate some of that hardship when we can.” 

Their invitation to Marbula One Season 2 was no surprise, and Mallard and Billy once again represented the team. Even without submitting a host bid for Greenstone, the Ducks were excited to go back into competition. Their season got off to a hot start at Minty Mania when Mallard qualified third and finished third to score a medal in the opening race. The opening half of the season for the Green Ducks was headlined by their incredible qualifying performances. In each of the first six races, they made it to Q3 and started in the top four. Despite often struggling to hold that top-four position, they were consistently gathering large amounts of points. The only blemish in the first half came at the Honeydome when Mallard fell from third on the grid to fourteenth at the finish.

Mallard starting in P3 at the Honeydome GP.

Right before the winter break, the Green Ducks recorded their best qualifying position in a historic qualifying stretch. Billy had given their team an extra point by recording the team’s first pole position. They conceded the lead at turn seven on the first lap and went all the way down to fifth on lap five. After making their way through the field, Billy regained their lead through turn seven on lap nine; they passed Ruzzy on the same turn where they left space for an overtake nine laps earlier. Billy would hold on to the lead the rest of the race beating Clementin by almost two and a half seconds. At the halfway point, each member had a medal and the team sat second overall. In addition to that, Billy sat third and Mallard sat tenth in the individual standings. 

There was barely enough time to settle home in the break before the invitation to the Marble League Winter Special came and the team, this time with all five members, traveled east again. After a quick stop at Isle Hyu to raise awareness for the Indigo Stars’ conservation project, they arrived for their first taste of winter competition. They fared better in the special than they did in the 2020 Marble League, but were still medal-less in the five events. Quacky and Mallard both got to the semifinals in the Ice Dash and Snowboard Cross respectively but were stopped there and ended in seventh. Ducky, alongside gold medalist Thunder, got fourth in Speed Skating. Once again, they missed the podium, this time by five hundredths of a second. 

So close, yet so far.

The team also just missed the podium in Bobsled by ending three hundredths behind the Oceanics and settling for fourth. They weren’t as close in Ice Hockey as they lost to the eventual silver medalist Savage Speeders in the round of sixteen. Overall, they finished in eighth in the special, an improvement from the main event the past summer, but still not as good as they had demonstrated in the past.

“The talent is there,” Bombay attested, “we know we can get back to where we were two years ago, we just need to get over the hump and back onto the podium in the Marble League.”

After their break turned back into a competition, Mallard, Billy, and Bombay headed off to Lewara to resume the Marbula One season. For the first time, the Green Ducks did not make it to Q3 and started on the third row instead. Billy couldn’t keep up with the pace shown by Red Eye or Speedy and rather disappointingly fell out of the points. Compared to their first half, the second half was a disaster and the Raceforest GP was a snapshot of how the rest of the season would go. The low point of the season was when Billy failed to qualify at Palette Park marking the only missed race for the team in the season. Misty Mountain was a bright spot in the second half as Mallard managed to stay calm and focused through all the chaos of DNFs and the restart and gathered a silver medal. The team’s third podium finish moved them back up to second overall, but with finishes of tenth and sixth at Savage Speedway and Midnight Bay respectively, they ended third in the championship. In addition, both finished in the top ten of the individual standings with Mallard in seventh and Billy in tenth.

A second career overall podium.

Following a successful Marbula One season, the Ducks went back home just in time for the start of the second season of the Golden Egg. Before leaving for the trip around the Isles, the Green Ducks announced that Honk would be brought on into a management role in the organization. They would still be the commissioner of the Golden Egg and would be headquartered in Draklin and handle management roles from there. Unlike most team managers, Honk did not travel with the team to Felynia for the practice race where Mallard placed nineteenth in a foretaste of the upcoming Marble League.

In RetRollSpective, the Green Ducks have had one of the most successful seasons in Marble League history. The fact that they were rookies only accents their achievement. With a prequalification for the 2020 Marble League, the Ducks struggled during their sophomore season, but coming off a stellar Marbula One season, there is hope that they will come back stronger this year. Best of luck to the Green Ducks in the near future, keep on rolling!

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