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George Dodds's picture

Well that was a bit of a bummer wasn’t it?
After the Super Saturday double high we were brought back down to earth at Perry Bar and, not surprisingly, mown down by the revengeful Tigers at Ashfield.
Then at Somerset Jye failed to read Eric Riss’s back straight racing lines and ended his season with a spectacular pearler, leaving Thomas to fly the flag solo – not an ideal situation in a pairs event.
What with the Supporters Club coach having to pay £10 for the privilege of parking at Swindon it was a tough trip via Cardiff for the plucky boys and girls in Black and Gold.
Now that the dust has finally settled it’s time to take stock and prepare for the end of season knees-up at the Black and Gold on October 5 – more details to follow on the main news pages.
So for a second successive year, having been tipped for the bottom we end up the best of the rest – one place out of the playoff places.
So – as we suspected but hoped against hope – for the majority of us the double header night to remember was our last view of the 2019 Bandits, apart from at the end of season party of course.
Not a bad way to say goodbye – or adieu – with the now customary Monarch humping and Tiger taming.
It’s been quite a journey since Jamie’s surprise announcement last November that the Bandits – who lest we forget were up for sale at the time – would not only race in 2019 but the brothers would be running it for another season.
A few weeks later a packed Black and Gold heard the team news – basically the boys of 2018 with the exciting additions of Leon Flint and Coty Garcia.
Bottom of the league those “in the know” yelled, “lucky to win a match at home” weighed in the misery top trumpers, “a bunch of club assets put together on a tight budget” added those who meant it as a stinging criticism but for the first time in many of their lives actually almost knew what they were talking about – even if they didn’t realise.
Sheffield, Scunthorpe, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Eastbourne, and Birmingham. That’s the clubs that finished below us. There’s some big budgets, huge catchment areas, big name signings and heavy-hitting top ends among them.
Above us were previous season’s top leaguers Somerset and Leicester and the less than frugal Tigers of Glasgow along with the rather more surprising name of Redcar Bears.
The four who made it have a familiar look to them – expensive top fours and three daughters to the slaughter - although Redcar’s hopes may have gone cartwheeling down the back straight at Brough Park as Michael Palm Toft suffered season-ending injuries in what sounds like a pretty horrific crash.
With Leicester’s Richie Worrall also sidelined once again the playoffs will once again revolve around who makes the right choice of guests.
Them’s the rules.
Fortunately for Glasgow they don’t have to replace their number one.
I’m sure we all knew that he was going to get away with it again but, hands-up, can anyone honestly say that they had predicted a guilty verdict with a ban transmuted into a fine?
Top marks to the SCB for an innovative solution to a tricky problem. But you have to feel for Scotty Nicholls. If only his back had been capable of nutting a pits’ marshal or banjoing a clerk of the course he’d have got away with a diddy fine – covered with interest by a supporters’ collection – rather than be sidelined for seven days.
Them’s the rules.
Riders came, riders went around the league as clubs (over-)reacted to defeats on a match-by-match basis as we got on with the business of qualifying for the Championship Shield semi-final – enjoying a memorable Sunday evening in Byker along the way.
Robert Lambert lit up Shielfield with a flawless retention of his British under-21 crown, we almost won at Sheffield.
It would be fair to say that we were pretty damn good at home, less effective on the road in the opening weeks of the league campaign – not exactly a new criticism to throw at a Bandits’ side over the past 52 years.
We also suffered our share of injuries – often at crucial times.
While Jye Etheridge made a pretty impressive bid to win his third successive rider of the year award - voting via the webste soon - especially towards the end of the season it is easy to forget that he rode most of the campaign with a pinned collarbone after the first of his two trips into the Ashfield funbags.
Kev Doolan doesn’t hit the deck too often but a spectacular off with Lewis Kerr at Eastbourne sidelined him with concussion and a broken chain against Scunthorpe meant that he had leg and shoulder injuries in the run-in – not that his points’ scoring reflected it.
Aaron Summers suffered two huge facefuls of the first bend foam – nursing a badly injured back from the first and a season-ending broken foot in the second.
And then Nicolaj Busk Jacobsen and Jye went sailing across the football pitch against Eastbourne, the Dane finishing decidedly second hand and once again nursing a damaged shoulder.
Coty Garcia was another in the wars, another who heavily tested the Shielfield safety surround while the one home blip – against Redcar – will also be remembered for turning Leon’s impressive season on its head with a spectacular flip over the handlebars, again caused by a chain failure.
Indeed the only Bandit to really escape racing injury was the Crown Prince of Austria. Dany Gappmaier who claimed some huge scalps around Shielfield and, Sheffield aside, didn’t on the road.
Highlights? Well that Shield night at Brough, NBJ and Dany producing a 5-1 over Cookie, Zane Kennedy walking away unscathed after demolishing the back straight fence, Jye importing the exciting new sport of first bend skittles featuring Josh Bates and Ryan Douglas which had extensive trials over two Leicester meetings, heats 1 to 15 of Glasgow’s league visit , Leon Flint's season in general but especially bringing the crowd to its feet when he held of Lasse Bjerre, news that the Berwick Bandits Supporters Club had put its considerable selling power behind the club’s new 5-1 Draw.
But most of all perhaps the fact that the season happened at all. Only Scott, Jamie and a handful of close friends will really know how close the shutters came to being pulled down last winter and how much of a financial gamble it was to go again.
The fact that the noises about 2020 are pretty positive gives hope for the future even if a hard winter of promotion, advertising and sponsorship selling awaits the small band of volunteers who back the brothers financial input.