IN a surprise move Berwick have swooped to sign former Premier League Riders’ Champion Ricky Ashworth.
The former Sheffield rider, who won the title whilst representing the Tigers in 2009, has been brought in as a direct replacement for the injured Kozza Smith after he broke his thigh competing in the Australian Championships in Brisbane last month.
Ashworth spent several years with the Yorkshire club, but at the end of last season announced that he was leaving Owlerton to pursue a full-time career in the Elite League.
Surprisingly, there were no offers for his services and only last week it was revealed he was joining Premier League rivals Plymouth.
But in a dramatic u-turn Ashworth decided against a switch to the Devils and has teamed up with the Bandits instead.
Ashworth comes in on an 8.39 average and will take over the number one race jacket for the start of the new season, with Sebastian Alden dropping down the order to ride at number five.
Earlier in the week Berwick had been rocked by a second injury scare to one of their riders.
Just weeks after Smith was ruled out for a large part of the year with a broken thigh, new Bandit Brenton Barnfield was involved in a horror pile-up in the Australian U21 Championships on Saturday.
The 18 year-old, of whom much is hoped for in 2012 by the Berwick promotion, was competing in the event at Kurri-Kurri in New South Wales when the accident happened. A press release issued by the club immediately afterwards said Barnfield, who was preparing for his first full season in the UK, had been injured, ‘possibly seriously.’
Barnfield, from Mildura in Victoria, crashed in his second race, tangling with rival Sean McLellan on the third bend of the first lap in heat seven.
Ironically, Smith was at the meeting, watching the action on crutches, and he reported the accident as being ‘massive.’
McLellan suffered shoulder injuries but Barnfield was rendered unconscious and was immediately rushed to hospital.
He was placed in intensive care, and to ease his situation medical staff initially induced a coma.
His mum Vicki, who was in attendance for all her son’s mini-matches for Berwick’s junior league side, The Borderers, last summer, advised Bandits’ officials late on Saturday (UK time) that hospital authorities are assuring her “all reports are positive” as she waited at his bedside.
“He responded to us this morning (Australian time) which is great,” she confirmed. “He opened his eyes and is now breathing on his own. No broken bones, a set of badly-bruised lungs and we are now awaiting a radiology report after a CT scan.”
The news has absolutely overwhelmed the border club’s management.
Co-owner John Anderson stated that each and every rider, official and supporter wished Barnfield every blessing, and sent collective best wishes for a full recovery.
And team manager Ian Rae said: “It is so hard to take in.
“Obviously, when we heard about Kozza breaking his thigh just three weeks ago, we were devastated – but a broken leg is something that can be quantified, and we know he’s well enough in himself.
“But this news about Brenton being in such a bad way after another crash has just flattened us.
“Right now, so soon after the accident, no-one really knows how things are, especially 12,000 miles away. We’re waiting for news from Vicki, and any major changes will be reported in due course.”
On Wednesday morning, in their latest press release, Berwick said doctors had assurred Barnfield’s mother of his improving condition.
“He is out of intensive care, and has even been able to have a shower,” she reported. “He is slowly ‘waking up’ from the coma. He can talk to us a bit and knows everybody – but has absolutely no memory at all of the 48 hours prior to the meeting.”
Due to the ongoing situation Berwick can not confirm any plans with regards to his team position at this stage.