BERWICK’S plans for the 2012 season were thrown into confusion at the weekend when Kozza Smith picked up an injury which is likely to rule him out for the majority of the year.
The popular Aussie, who was preparing for his second successive season with the Bandits in the Premier League, was competing in the first round of the Australian Championships in Brisbane on Saturday, when he sustained a broken thigh.
The injury came in his second race, which he was leading, when he was struck from behind by Swindon’s Troy Bachelor, with the following Jake Anderson ploughing into the carnage.
Smith was awarded the race victory, with Bachelor excluded, but Smith’s championship chase was over before it had even begun as he was rushed to the Brisbane Royal Infirmary where the injury was confirmed.
The following day (Sunday) he underwent an emergency operation, but the diagnosis is that the 24 year-old will now be ruled out of action for at least six months.
News of the injury has come as a devastating blow to the Bandits’ management, who must now look at the possibility of bringing in a suitable replacement.
Team boss Ian Rae stated that each and every rider, official and supporter of Berwick Bandits wished Smith every blessing, and sent collective best wishes for a full recovery.
“It is so hard to take in,” said Rae. “Obviously, he is badly hurt and will be sidelined for a period, but he knows – as we do – that he is such an integral part of our club there will always be a place here for him when he’s ready”.
“Don’t ask me about our immediate situation, I just don’t know.
“Speedway riders are a very special breed when it comes to recovering from big injuries and although Kozza is clearly going to be an invalid for the immediate future, until the operation is over and I’ve spoken to him myself, we don’t at this point know – or want to know – about any temporary or permanent replacement.”
Ironically, Smith had only just made a full recovery from a broken shoulder he sustained at the end of last season, his victories in the New South Wales State Championship and Longtrack Championship proving that he had made a full recovery.
“We were all so desperately looking forward to Kozza making a return to Berwick this season,” said Rae, “but now this injury has robbed us of that and obviously leaves us with a major headache.
“We won’t rush into making any decisions. We will wait to see what happens after his operation, and then we will consider all our options.”
Meanwhile, Berwick’s other Australian import, teenager Brenton Barnfield, was also in action at the weekend when he contested the qualifying round of the Aussie Championships on Friday.
Smith had been named as one of nine riders seeded straight to the three-round series, but Barnfield, who is only 18, and who is preparing for his first full season of British racing, had to go through the preliminaries.
He faced a 1,000 mile trip to Brisbane for the event, but unfortunately missed out on qualification by a single point.
He was denied his place in the series when he too was involved in a spectacular crash in heat eight, but thankfully he was able to walk away unscathed.
“It’s all part of the learning process Brenton will be going through this year,” said Berwick co-owner John Anderson. “But I’ll always be more-impressed by a lad who strives so hard to win a race that he falls off trying, rather than one who opts for sitting back for a safe second place!”