So there we are. Our teams complete and their fixtures locked in.
We can sit down, savour the fixture-lists and think on how our teams are going to perform in 2023.
Well, we’ve made more changes than usual to our squads, so we face a few interesting, maybe intriguing, possibilities….
The FTS Bandits have retained Leon, Jonas and Jye. All three are capable of improving their scoring, but what we desperately need is an injury-free season for Jye, who has been struck down in both the past two seasons – and not through any fault of his own – but if he can stay upright, and return to the form we saw in the pre-injury meetings early last season, then he’ll be good for a 7+ average, easily.
So I’m looking for one, maybe even two points of improvement from all three returnees.
Thomas Jorgensen we know, his Shielfield form can be startling and he’ll hold down a heat-leader role without difficulty.
At reserve, Connor and Nathan look weaker than some other clubs’ 6 & 7 – but that’s on paper. Nathan, especially, can win races around Berwick, and his enthusiasm is infectious. Unlike some others, he’ll never give up a chase if he’s at the back. Our kind of guy!
But Roo-Boy is the one on whom we’ll stand or fall.
If we’re getting the Rory Schlein we’ve seen winning the Bordernapolis, the 2020 British Championship, FOUR Scottish Open titles, a two-time Elite League Riders Champion, we’ve won a watch. A Rolex!
Signing Roo-Boy after his year out of speedway is a gamble. But if he hits the ground running – and the track racing – the gamble will be worth it. In spades.
But we’ll need it to pay off — especially since our first two matches on the season are KO Cup-ties against the strongly-fancied, and seemingly-always-lucky against us, Redcar Bears!
As for the GHT Bullets, it’s all change. Only Greg (Skippy) Blair and Mason Watson are coming back – I suspect Flintie might have been deservedly lynched if he hadn’t kept these local heroes – so we’ll have some newcomers to get to know.
Obviously, Connor Coles should a strong scorer, not least through getting all the track-time he’ll enjoy as a Bandit. Alongside him, Danny Phillips is coming ‘home’ to his parent club, despite having spent the past two seasons up the road, on loan at Armadale. Again, he’s ridden Shielfield well in the past – he held our NDL track record at one point – and I think Connor and Danny will comfortably replace the departing Kyle Bickley and Luke Crang.
The other new faces are all north-easterners. Archie Freeman and Josh Embleton were cast adrift when Newcastle folded, but will be comforted to be riding fairly close to home. Indeed, there might be a few extra spectators coming up the A1 on Bullets’ nights, getting a wee speedway ‘fix’ to see them racing.
The last man in is Jamie Halder, who I haven’t seen much of. Although from North Yorkshire, he had to travel to Kent for his racing last year – and I recall he was all set to go at Leicester the previous season, but hurt himself in an off-track domestic accident and couldn’t race!
Again, as a semi-local, he’ll hopefully now enjoy the team-spirit that the Bullets so clearly relish, and push on with his promising career. Welcome, Jamie!
I’m writing this on Saturday night (a Saturday my husband has – yet again – profited from the 5-1 Draw by lifting £100) and in eight more Saturdays we’ll have a chance to look at our old and new riders riders in action at Press’n’Practice, and see how they are going.
Finally, I’ll welcome (through gritted teeth) Workington back to the sport. Now firstly, I’m truly delighted that a new venue has been located, and a new team is joining the NDL. Absolutely.
But I’m one that doesn’t forget things.
My last visit to Workington was in 2010. The hostility, and utter contempt displayed by a considerable number of their ‘fans’ that day to Lee Complin when he was injured is something that has stuck.
I have nothing but praise and congratulations for Andrew Bain, Steve Lawson and the many people who have worked so hard, put in their time and energy, and created this very welcome revival.
The Comets – Comics – have a new track, a new team and new owners.
I just hope they get some new fans as well.
There’s a lot of hot air being blown off by folk, up and down the land, about how weak our teams are going to be. Words are being written that actually make me laugh – don’t these people know that races and matches aren’t won on paper, they’re decided on the track?
Where I feel we could be more than OK.
Disagree with Sarah? Contact her on: firstname.lastname@example.org – if you feel brave enough!