Bandits in ‘no rush’ to find Smith replacement

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BERWICK team manager Ian Rae says the club is not rushing into any rash decision making when it comes to finding a replacement for the injured Kozza Smith.

The popular Aussie broke his thigh when he was competing in the Australian Championships nearly three weeks ago and is likely to be sidelined for some time.

But Rae said: “That’s part of the problem at the moment - we just don’t really know how long Kozza is going to be out.

“Reports are suggesting anything from 12 weeks to six months, but until Kozza goes for more x-rays next week and the doctors are able to tell him more about his injury we can’t really comment.

“All we know is that Kozza will definitely be out at the start of the season, which begins in March.

“How long he is side-lined is anyone’s guess, so at the moment we can’t really give any replacement a guarantee, whether it be a month, two, three or even the season.”

Berwick have been speaking with several riders but Rae said they are in no hurry to sign a replacement.

“I have spoken with Kozza in Australia and as always he is as keen as ever to get back on a bike again.

“Everyone knows Kozza, he is so enthusiastic and would ride tomorrow if he could.

“We have promised him that his team place will be available once he is fit again, but he knows he is going to be out for some time and we will have to sign someone, but who that will be, I just don’t know at this moment in time.”

Berwick have up to 8.40 points to play with to come under the 42.5 limit for team-building purposes, so Rae says he has several options.

“Different riders want different things,” he said. “Some are asking silly money, but we have to look at the long-term picture and we are not prepared to risk our financial security for some short term gain.

“At the end of the day we will do what is best for the club.”

Meanwhile, Rae has confirmed that work on the installation of the new poly-foam safety barrier, which will be in place for the start of the season, is progressing well.

“We have carried out most of the remedial work,” he said. “There are one or two other little bits and pieces to do, but we are almost ready for the barrier itself to be installed the first weekend in March, just in time for the start of the new campaign.

“I know there have been suggestions that the barrier will reduce the width of the track in places, but I would like to reassure everyone that we will be losing no racing space at Shielfield whatsoever.

“The existing fence is being resited 700mm back, (about 28 inches) which is exactly the same width as the barrier, so there will be no reduction in the track size at all.”

The barrier, the first of it’s kind in the Premier League, is being installed at a cost of around £50,000 and speedway-minded people are being invited to ‘buy a brick’ for the fence with a £50 donation, in return for which they will receive a certificate, and have their name permanently displayed within the stadium.

“We really need to generate funding for the fence,” said the club’s commercial manager Julie Newton.

“This is a way members of the public can get on board – and a brick would make a terrific permanent memento for just about any speedway supporter!”

Dick Barrie, the club’s vastly-experienced meeting presenter, confirmed his opinion that there is an absolute need for this offer to be taken up by all and sundry.

“As I see it, the promotion have really laid themselves on the line to give speedway supporters a superb young team this year,” he emphasised.

“Plus, the promise of the poly-foam fence installation is already helping bring big-ticket meetings (such as the Grand Prix Challenge event in June) to Shielfield Park.

“What is needed now is for all the folk who have been demanding bigger events and a better team to now step up and be counted.

“Why not buy a brick and get your name up there as a real supporter of speedway at Berwick?

“I’ve already phoned Julie and booked my brick – who’s gonna be next?”

To buy a brick – for yourself or a loved one as a present – contact Julie Newton on 07840 998845 or julie@berwickbandits.co