Many things but never dull

Published on 6th May 2022
Author George Dodds

Rumour has it that there was an electronic group message from Courtney Central to all Bandits and Bullets, with the Academy riders cc-ed in for good measure, pre-season.

You know the sort of thing, a modern-day memo setting out the hopes, desires and requirements from each and every one due to don Berwick colours in 2022, their team manager and promoter.

While some would have got carried away on oceans of adjectives, swamped by similes, over-run by verbs, stretching towards infinity with a florid turn of phrase, stunted by pronouns, I have a sneaky suspicion that our message contained nothing more than: “Don’t be dull.”

Mission accomplished so far.

Even by Bandits v Newcastle standards that was a lively weekend, mostly for the best of reasons. That Saturday started on time in perfect – if slightly dry – conditions despite an afternoon of persistent drizzle was testament to forward-planning by the track staff who prepared a surface designed to survive forecast heavy rain and be raceable within 20 minutes of it stopping.

The meeting was never in doubt anywhere except on the messageboards, a healthier than anticipated turnout was proof of the growing recognition that unless it is actually tipping it down at start time then the meeting is almost certain to go ahead at Shielfield. In fact we could have done with a bit more rain to soak the surface as what fell left it a little drier than ideal.

While the racing wasn’t quite the previous week’s hyperbole-fest it was still more than memorable with, as wiser heads had warned, Newcastle’s clutch of Shielfield-loving riders making the boys in black and gold work extra hard for their rewards.

Bomber was imperious – and he brought his five-ride engines too – Jye looked set to become the first Bandit to score back-to-back maximums since a young Methuselah tempted Dick Barrie out of his first retirement, only to be foiled at the final hurdle.

Ty was a man possessed as he prepared to take over what is becoming the Golden Number. Want good fortune and forward momentum? Then rub the Bandits’ number six three times and make a wish.

Flint, Andersen, Etheridge have all revelled in the joy of six over the past two seasons, now it was about to be Ty’s turn, after a maiden heat 15 nomination still with number two on his back.

But it didn’t all quite go according to plan. Indeed this week’s memo demands that future post-race celebrations feature nothing more elaborate than a hearty fair thee well delivered from a distance of no less than ten feet – preferably stationary and on opposite sides of the stadium.

Along with most of the crowd I was filling in my programme at the end of heat nine only to be rudely interrupted by a large ooo and then several shorter (four letters to be precise) words as we looked up to see Leon and Theo on the deck.

Suffice to say Leon’s evening was over, his shoulder ending up where it has never been before and the joys of a Saturday night at Cramlington A&E beckoning.

There was still time for Newcastle boss Steve Pate to tie himself in knots attempting to get Lee Complin into heat 15. I wouldn’t mind but we helpfully supply a synopsis of eligibility at the foot of the racecard that, presumably, the Diamonds’ manager fills in.

Now I was told that Newcastle had got their hands on a load of shale and had thrown it onto Brough Park in readiness for the following day’s return match.

Which turned out to be a pretty apt description because it certainly lived up to its Rough Park nickname.

Having failed to find a guest able to travel north at such short notice we had to go with rider-replacement for Leon and could ill afford to be a second man down.

Ty’s crash was horrible to watch, George Congreve’s spear on Kyle in the re-run no less so. That only one was unable to continue was a small blessing.

Again we found ourselves at a track where paramedic and ambulance cover was at the “minimum” end of the requirement scale rather than reasonable. Another long delay, at least Newcastle has a slightly less impoverished ambulance service than Birmingham, and we got back underway after an hour give or take.

It was one of those afternoons when you knew you wanted to win – if only to silence the gobby Geordies – but feared that every race was just a rut, bump or irregular bit of grip away from disaster, even for some of Britain’s most experienced riders.

In the end a point was heroic and hard-earned.

The result should have been closer, not least because Paul Starke’s silencer was defective and therefore illegal. But, because no-one could prove when it became defective and illegal our complaint has apparently been added to the referees’ association’s burgeoning NFA (no further action) file.

Apparently there is still some paperwork pending over what became quite involved pits’ activity surrounding heat 15.

Fortunately the rest of May is fairly spartan Bandits’ fixture wise meaning Ty and Leon potentially miss only a few meetings as they recover.

Which means the Bullets are back front and centre, smarting from Wednesday night’s visit to Oxford where their 100 per cent 2021 record ended.

Again Jordan Jenkins was the thorn in our Bullets’ side, a 15-point maximum and showing that he knows the fastest way around the revamped Cowley circuit.

If anyone wants to know it’s about a foot inside the white line on the second bend, an area of track which has the apparent benefit  of being in a blind spot from the referee’s box. Another entry for the NFA file.

Despite the disappointment on the night there was still another fine performance from the Bullets’ reserves and especially Ace Pijper.

Not surprisingly the 15-year-old began to tire as the night wore on but still ended with Paid 12 from six rides. Those extra rides are physically challenging for a body still developing.

But Ace has solved the problem. He won’t be reserve now that the team has raced four meetings to get new averages so he’ll only have four programmed rides. Maybe a fifth in 15.

Mason Watson also moves into the team proper, the changes coming into effect when Kent visit two weeks on Saturday, and it is fair to say that, but for Ace’s explosive introduction to the team, we would be singing the praises of Highfield’s finest from the rooftops.

They will both need to be at the races tomorrow (Saturday) when Belle Vue visit for what threatens to be the toughest test on home shale this season.

Many have already given the Colts the title. It’s not that clear cut but with Jack Smith, Harry and Sam McGurk, Nathan Ablitt and Jack Parkinson-Blackburn they certainly look a heavy-hitting outfit – although they were hammered at Plymouth.

As with all standalone NDL fixtures it’s a tenner for adults. Everyone buying tickets in advance would make life simpler at the turnstiles and save some poor sod from having to find a bank open on Monday morning … but cash is still an option.

Tapes-up 7pm.

It’s unlikely to be dull.

 

George Dodds
George Dodds

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