BERWICK have been forced into making another late change to their starting line-up for 2012 after it was announced last week that Australian Brenton Barnfield will not now be joining the Bandits after all.
Just weeks after replacing another Australian - broken leg victim Kozza Smith - with former Sheffield rider Ricky Ashworth, the Border club were shocked to hear that Barnfield, who sustained a head knock whilst competing in his nation’s U21 Championships, had been ruled out on doctors orders.
After further scans it was revealed he had not been given the all clear to race, which meant the 18 year-old was prevented from travelling to Britain for what would have been his first full season of Premier League action.
Berwick, who had already been approached by several riders about a possible replacement, immediately turned their attention to completing their starting septet, and swooped to land 24 year-old German Michael Hertrich.
Promoter John Anderson said: “When our manager, Ian Rae, took the call from Brenton on Tuesday it took the wind out of our sails a bit. But although ultra-disappointed, Ian just keeps going into his list of contacts and coming up with the right name, and the right man for the job!”
Hertrich was one of his country’s most-promising prospects – rated above riders such as Kevin Wolbert and Martin Smolinski – between his 16th birthday and 2007, when he suffered a serious knee injury which sidelined him for the better part of two years.
“Just as he regained his fitness he was required to take time out for what we would call National Service,” said Rae. “He did race a few meetings in Germany for the Broksted club during his time in the military, however, proving his fitness by returning double-figure scores in every match.
“Now Michael has been demobbed, he’s fully-fit and raring to go! He’s got former World Long-Track champion Shawn Moran – who now lives in Germany – in his corner, helping as his coach and advisor and he also has first-class equipment at his disposal.
“He will join us on an assessed match average of 5.00 – the same figure as Brenton Barnfield would have assumed – and we are looking to him to become an integral part of our squad in 2012.”
Rae described news of Barnfield’s unavailability as ‘heart-breaking.’
He said: “Brenton has invested so much in carving out a career with the Bandits. However, he has our assurance that, once he is passed fully fit by the doctors and has been able to resume racing at the level he had reached prior to the crash, we will not forget about him, even if he has to wait until 2013.”
“We have been contacted by a number of riders in the past three weeks,” he admitted. “Some very good ones, too! However, not all were free agents and here at Berwick we are aware of a real need to be building up our asset base.
“To replace Brenton in the line-up we have decided the rider we will introduce is someone who will become a club asset. We are not interested in taking on a loanee from another club at this time.”
Hertrich, along with new signing Ashworth, will be officially introduced to fans at the club’s Talk- in at the Black & Gold in Tweedmouth on Friday, March 2.
They will be joined on the panel by BSPA Management Committee member David Hoggart and track guru Colin Meredith, but perhaps the biggest attraction will be 1991 world champion Jan O Pedersen.
Admission will be by ticket only, these being available at only £3 during the Berwick Speedway Supporters’ Club AGM and race-night at the same venue the previous Friday (Feb 24).