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Dick Barrie's picture

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Getting colder, getting wetter……..

As a retired old coffin-dodger, I feel such wearisome weather chilling my very bones.

Fortunately, the government send me a Winter Fuel Allowance every November, presumably expecting me to buy coal and kindling with it.

I prefer however, to put this very welcome allowance to a different type of winter warmth – yes, I’m off to Australia again! Thank you Boris. Three words I never expected to be writing. Ever.

Now being Down Under won’t stop me checking on any Shielfield shenanigans of course – modern science is wonderful – and I’ll still be blogging away (as will Doddering George, Scintillating Sarah and the Mighty Mythman) every few weeks, never fear. Plus, if it’s happening in Australia, you’ll hear about it here!

Something I’ll miss will be the next Open Day at former Bandit Ian Paterson’s marvellous “Cinder To Shale” speedway museum at Edgefield Road in Loanhead, which will be on Sunday, November 17th between 10am and 4pm. Rightly (in my ‘umble opinion) described as “the best collection of speedway bikes and memorabilia on the entire planet”, I would urge anyone and everyone who can get there to visit on Sunday 17th. It’s that good. Put EH20 9DX into the SatNav and go…….

Before embarking on my odyssey Down Under, the last local action I caught was the NJL Championship up at Armadale, and for those of us with black-and-gold blood pumping around our bodies there was much to be happy about.

Wee Luke Harrison, who has represented our tiddler-team since he was eight years old, added the 125cc NJL title to his British 125cc triumph at Redcar the previous evening – Luke’s all of twelve now, and I look forward to watching his continuing progress in years to come.

However, it was Mason Watson who really caught my attention at Armadale.. Compared to his rivals, the Highfields young ‘un has had remarkably little speedway experience, but his progress through the meeting showed me that this is one for the future. Our future.

He improved with each heat (third, second, second and a win) before coming through to take third in the final after making a pretty awful start.

It is a rule of thumb that, however impressive a young rider may appear in this sort of competition, there are usually no more than a couple of contestants in any junior-level meeting who have the ability to progress to a professional league career.

On October 12th – and remember he only began riding a speedway bike less than a year ago at Duns – I saw enough in Mason Watson to tell me he was one who can make the jump. And he’s ours!

Another young man (ours too) has already made the jump from amateur riding to professional racing, is of course Leon Flint.

Our youngest Bandit has had a truly impressive start to his career, and a trip to Australia – he’s heading Down Under with Drew Kemp, another talented teen, to race in and around the Perth area, where they’ll be able to draw upon no less a personage than Tai Woffinden for helpful advice and guidance – will be a marvellous learning curve.

It isn’t just racing in a strange land that’ll have given Leon, Drew or any other travelling teenage prospect a running start over stay-at-home British riders when the 2020 campaign gets going – the lifestyle changes they’ll experience will benefit them as well.

These are boys, only in their mid-teens, who will – very quickly -- have to learn to fettle their own machinery by themselves, look after things like doing laundry and sundry mundane household requirements which may not have encumbered them at home. Away from the tracks they will, in short, have to grow up quickly.

Grumpy old people sometimes criticise today’s youth, and say that “National Service wasn’t all bad – made a man of you” – and while I was young enough to escape two years of conscription myself, I know what they mean.

A couple of months of racing and living in Perth will teach Leon (and Drew Kemp) to look after themselves in ways they might not have been so far required to do at home.

All in all, I’d expect them to come back better riders, while the stay-at-home youngsters might just have been been marking time over our winter months.
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Want to disagree with Dick (as so many do?). He is always happy to hear from interesting people at dick@crystalfm.co.uk