Now that the dust has settled on the first installment of my annual season preview, I figured you would all be ready for more...and if you aren't...well it's here anyway!
Last time out I looked at how I viewed the potential fortunes of Birmingham, Eastbourne, Edinburgh and Glasgow and now we delve further into the 2019 Championship movers and shakers and I cast my beady eye over the team sheets and deliver more bold predictions.
On to the Leicester Lions now, who drop down to Championship level after a few years in the Premiership. They have set their stall out early in signing Scott Nicholls, who despite his advancing years and dodgy shirts is still a class act at this level. He will ably baked up by Richie Worrall who comes in after a spell with Edinburgh towards the end of last season. Jack Thomas enjoyed a very good first season in the Championship with Glasgow last season but a move to Leicester will see him ply his trade a little closer to home in 2019. He will be joined in the reserve position by Connor Mountain, who could well prove to be one of the big improvers in 2019. One man who may well have something to say about that is Ellis Perks, who will be keen to make up for lost time having endured a stop start 2018 season. Completing the line up are Ryan Douglas and Josh Bates, both of whom are returning after a year or so out the sport. Australian Douglas returns to these shores after a year away due to visa issues and he will be keen to make sure his average doesn't fall short of the aforementioned visa requirements. Josh Bates returns after a freak injury put him out of action for the entire 2018 season, and the plucky Yorkshireman will be aiming to his the ground running and if he does, the Lions could have a potent side on their hands.
Key Man - Josh Bates
A toss up between Douglas and Bates here but Josh Bates gets the nod given the length of time he has been out the saddle. Returning won't hold any fears for him and if he can get back to the form he was in pre-injury, then that could be the difference between glory or despair for the Lions.
Mythman's Prediction - A solid looking lineup with plenty of room for potential improvement. Sure there are a couple of question marks over returning riders but I can easily see the Lions in the playoffs at the end of the season.
Brough Park is our next destination and the Newcastle Diamonds have gone down a route that has served them so very well in the past, a Danish spearhead. Thomas Jørgensen and Lasse Bjerre are more than capable of scoring big points almost anywhere and both have enough experience to know what is expected of them. Talking of experience, they don't come much more experienced than Matty Wethers, the man has seen and done it all in speedway and has been a stalwart at this level over the years. Still a highly capable performer, Wethers in the type of rider every side needs and he will continue to go about his business quietly and convincingly as he always does. Victor Palovaara makes the switch to the Diamonds having been a Monarch and a Tiger on the other side of the border in the past and he is a rider who I believe hasn't reached his full potential. The Diamonds will be looking for him to have a big season and really stamp his authority on the third heat leader spot at the very least. Finnish rider Nike Lunna was a bit of a surprise signing for the Diamonds and much like Palovaara, he hasn't quite hit the dizzy heights he is capable of as of yet and he will be keen to put that right. Completing the side are the British duo of Max Clegg and Danny Phillips who will both slot into the reserve berths. It is fair to say that neither Clegg or Phillips have always scored the points that perhaps their efforts deserve, but both have had their moments from time to time. I believe that the Diamonds promotion will be looking for both riders to improve on the starting averages and they will need to achieve that if the Diamonds are to have a say at the business end of the season.
Key Man - Nike Lunna
The Finnish man isn't renowned as a small / tight track rider but if he can get to grips and find comfort within the confides of Brough Park as well as steering clear of injury, then the Diamonds may ruffle a few feathers.
Mythman's Prediction - Should do well at home, but away from home will be the big teller. I think the Diamonds will be resident spoilers and end up somewhere around mid table.
Off to the Media Prima Arena now and the Redcar Bears have put together a side with a healthy blend of youth and experience. Ben Barker returns in what will be his Testimonial season and the Bears fans can expect the usual all action, swashbuckling style they have come to expect from the Cornishman. He will be pushing Michael Palm Toft and Charles Wright all the way for that number one race jacket. Palm Toft makes the switch from Peterborough and has proved to be a popular rider wherever he has been as well as being a rider more than capable of beating anyone on his day. The same can be said of Charles Wright, who has developed into a solid performer at Championship level in recent season and he will relish the challenge of being back at Redcar having been with the club previously in 2017. The solid heat leader trio will require back up and that comes in the form of Tom Bacon and Jordan Stewart. Both of these guys have proven themselves to be very solid reserve riders in the past but will now be required to chip in consistently in the main body of the side. The reserve pairing aiming to step up to take these spots away from them are Nathan Greaves and Jack Smith. Greaves will be coming back from the nasty injury he sustained in a spectacular looking crash at Glasgow last season and he may take some time to settle. He is due a consistent run in a Championship side and will benefit from starting the season at reserve. Jack Smith has found the going tough at Championship level in the past, but he will have the benefit of experience over some of his counterparts in other sides and he will need to use that to his advantage and Redcar will reap the benefits.
Key man – Jordan Stewart
The Redcar promotion has shown a lot of faith in the young Australian and he has steadily begun to repay them with some decent performances. If he can add to his starting average and provide solid and consistent back up to the heat leader then the Bears could be on to something.
Mythman’s Prediction – I really can’t make up my mind about the Redcar side, but if one or two of the middle and lower order of the side really step up, they could well be dark horses this season.
A certain air of familiarity surrounds the Scunthorpe side for 2019, but that could well stand them in good stead. The Scorpions will once again have Jason Garrity leading the charge and he has shown himself to be a vastly capable and committed performer over the years and I can’t see that changing in 2019. Josh Auty has become part of the furniture at Scunthorpe over the last few seasons and it is almost impossible to imagine a Scorpions line up without him. If Stefan Neilsen can steer clear of injuries and enjoy a settled run in the side, he is capable of pushing for a heat leader spot. Another man who will be keen to make a heat leader spot his own is young Australian Jake Allan, who really took a shine to the Eddie Wright Raceway last season. He has improved year on year since coming to Britain and there is more to come from the Queensland native. He will be joined by fellow Queenslander Jedd List, who will be making his debut on these shores. Not much is known about the 17 year old but a 250cc Australian title in 2017 would suggest he is one to watch. Fellow young guns Josh Bailey and Ryan Kinsley will slot in at reserve to complete the side, surely making it one of the more youthful line-ups in the league. For Bailey it will be his second crack at Championship level and he will be keen to use his previous experience to his advantage. On the other hand Kinsley will be making his first laps at this level but he does have a few years of National League experience with the likes of Buxton and Mildenhall.
Key Man – Jake Allan
Big season ahead for the talented Aussie and a push for the number one jacket should be on his agenda for 2019, however if the Scorpions are to be a major threat, one of the young guns will need to step up in a big way
Mythman’s Prediction – Potential playoff contenders, but much will depend on how their youngsters settle in.
That just about wraps it up for part two, on the third and final installment of this season preview I take a look at Sheffield, Somerset and the small matter of the Berwick Bandits, last but not least, saving the best 'til last and so on and so forth.
Looking forward to it already!
Of course if you wish to agree, or disagree with the Mythman, have an idea for a feature, or you simply want to chew the fat over all things speedway, you can email me Mythman666@hotmail.com. If your compliments, or indeed gripes can be contained to limited characters. You can send me a tweet @Mythman666.
Until next time...and there will be a next time.
Right I’ll hae’tae gan