George Dodds's picture

Any sportsman will tell you that key to good performance is preparation. That includes warming up properly which in speedway terms is a case of ensuring that mind, body and machine are all in peak condition and working in perfect harmony.
Early arrivals at Shielfield this season will know that the Bandits’ pre-meeting ritual involves a track walk which includes a little non-speedway related exercise to sharpen the reflexes.
There has been a noticeable Antipodean flavour to it all and so far a rugby ball and Frisbee has accompanied our intrepid gladiators in their search for grippy areas, best lines and, indeed whatever riders look for in these outings.
As yet there has been no sign of a cricket ball – perhaps it’s too soon for the boys from Down Under; maybe captain Kev forgot the bring the sandpaper but, following a thought-provoking circuit and the sharing of data on gearings, sprockets, chain tension, who posed for most selfies the previous week etc it’s back to the pits for more physical preparations.
Some stretch, others run on the spot, jumping jacks are not unheard of, there’s even the occasional 20 metre sprint to the tea bar and back.
But on Saturday it was noticeable, even from my distant vantage point, that Jye Etheridge seemed a little twitchy.
First he glanced over his left shoulder, then the right, bent at the waist; stared at first one leg and then the next.
Strange I thought. But suddenly it all made sense.
He was checking his Kevlars for targets, rondels, bull’s eyes, little sitting ducks surreptitiously included in the eye-catching designs for 2018’s KLS Bandits race suits; perhaps a sneaky homage to the 1970s Romford and Barrow teams. Or maybe one of his fun-loving team-mates has sneakily sewn a powerful magnet into our hero’s undershorts.
Because there has to be a reason why so many of The Dragon’s outings this season have ended with him flat out on track in circumstances rarely of his own making.
At least at Ashfield it was under his own steam – not that it hurt any less – but then at Armadale referee Phil Griffin defied both the rules of speedway racing and one or two laws of basic physics by ruling that the boy from Newcastle, New South Wales had thrown himself over Josh Pickering’s back wheel in order to fulfil a long-held desire to bounce down Armadale’s back straight at high speed.
Those of us who obviously know far less than Mr Griffin thought that Pickering had rather recklessly taken out Jye’s front wheel. How foolish.
Stuart Wilson at least had the decency to illuminate Bradley Wilson-Dean’s exclusion light and award our man with the face of an angel a point in last Friday’s Championship Shield draw at Derwent Park.
Christina Turnbull wasn’t as obliging when – almost exactly 24 hours later – Ashley Morris picked up drive and deposited Master E into the second bend fun bags. Jye’s fault for getting in Ashley’s way apparently.
Shaken and not a little stirred our favourite 007 bounced back to play a full part in securing the second draw in as many nights against the Comets.
Returning from work on Bank Holiday Monday I turned on Speedway Updates only to be greeted by the following news from the National Speedway Stadium: “Heat 11 STOPPED: Howarth comes under Etheridge hard bend 3 lap 1 & wipes him out.”
I am unilaterally declaring a six-foot exclusion zone around The Dragon. Anyone entering it will be subjected to industrial strength tutting, extreme finger-wagging, exaggerated head shaking and accompanying Anglo-Saxon curses.
Punishment is to be administered by those bastions of fairness and impartiality who inhabit the third bend. Their decision is binding and anyone arguing will suffer an afternoon locked in a darkened room listening to a looped English commentary from Freesports’ Polish speedway coverage … or a 28 day ban.
Personally I’d take the ban.
While Friday could probably have been seen as a win which converted into a draw – we were eight points up after heat five and never behind all night – the rematch the following night saw us refuse to give up despite another refereeing howler from Mrs Turnbull – which saw NBJ excluded for the heinous crime of being where Rasmus Jensen wanted to go – and snatch a point.
David Howe produced one of his trademark third bend cutbacks to ensure that we got something for our efforts but again the star of the night was Dany Gappmaier.
Austria's number one – who it has to be said was absolute rubbish with a Frisbee – certainly knows the way to the chequered flag at the moment and rattled in back-to-back double figure scores despite moving into the main body of the team last weekend.
Surely that makes it his turn to choose the pre-match track walk accompaniment when Ipswich hit town on Saturday.
Two draws in as many days, against the same opposition is unusual to to say the least.
But typically King Kev had to go one better, taking a guest booking for Newcastle against Ipswich on Sunday, a meeting which ended 45-45 – featuring in three drawn meetings on successive nights is undoubtedly another unique addition to his glittering career CV.
Coincidentally the Witches are our visitors on Saturday and we await news on who will replace Shielfield specialist Danny King – knocked off and then run over by team-mate Michael Hartel – who thankfully escaped serious injury in a terrible looking crash but is sidelined. Rumours reaching me from Suffolk suggest that initially Jye was excluded as being the primary cause of the stoppage, only for Chris Louis to intervene and point out that he was over 300 miles away from the incident.
Hartel is also out but the Witches will be led by Rory Schlein – so let’s hope the weather’s perfect and there’s not a piece of shale out of place.
Tapes up 7pm.