Bandits name Kozza in team for 2013

Kozza Smith is returning to Berwick Bandits
Kozza Smith is returning to Berwick Bandits

KOZZA Smith is returning to Berwick Bandits after a year out with broken leg, while Matthew Wethers has signed on loan from Edinburgh Monarchs for the 2013 season.

Ricky Ashworth stays on as No1 rider, while the three Scandinavians Robin Aspegren, Alex Edberg and Nicky Barrett, will also be riding at Shielfield again next year.

Frenchman David Bellego, confirmed as a club asset after a season-long tug-of-war with Glasgow, completes the line-up, which was announced at a fans forum night at the Black and Gold.

But Argentine teenager Facundo Albin has been released from the pre-contract agreement he signed last summer and is free to find another club.



Ricky Ashworth

David Bellego

Robin Aspegren

Matthew Wethers

Kozza Smith

Alex Edberg

Nicky Barrett


With the club yet to secure a new major sponsor for next year yet, officials admitted financial constraints had played a big part in the decision-making process.

“This team has been assembled in accordance with our budgetary needs” said promoter Dennis McCleary.

Due to return last year, Kozza suffered a badly-broken femur in a horrific pile-up during the Australian Championships in January and missed the entire British season.

However, manager Ian Rae insisted: “He’s fit, for sure. Back in the saddle again, and in his first two events Down Under Kozza was firstly crowned as NSW long-track champion, and then last week went one better and lifted the Australian national title as well!”

When not required by Berwick, Smith will double up and race for King’s Lynn Stars in the Sky Sports Elite League.

Former Edinburgh skipper Matthew Wethers, is still only 27 despite spending a decade in the Scottish capital.

The Australian has been a regular thorn in Bandits’ side on his visits over the years, during which he has collected no less than three Premier League winners’ medals as well as lifting the Premier Trophy in 2008.

“He’s a winner, that’s for sure,” commented Berwick director George Hepburn. “Some riders go through their entire career without ever being in a title or cup-winning team. I certainly hope Matty continues to attract those medals, now he’s a Bandit!”

Returning to lead the side is Ashworth, the Manchester-based rider who made a big impact last season until damaging his shoulder in August and missing the rest of the year.

“I think the fans might have lynched me if Ricky hadn’t been top of the shopping-list,” joked Rae. “He was very much our No1 in 2012 – and will be again in 2013.”

One rider who will not be with Berwick in 2013 is Sweden’s Sebastian Alden, who decided to move into the Elite League with King’s Lynn.

“Seb’s late withdrawal from our plans has had one exceedingly-unfortunate by-blow to our team-building plans,” admitted Rae.

“It had been our stated intention to have both Seb and Argentine teenager Facundo Albin in our seven-man squad in 2013. “However, without our Swedish friend in the line-up, we could no longer afford – in terms of average points – to introduce young Facundo at this time.

“As a result, Berwick have most reluctantly released Facundo from the pre-contract agreement signed last summer, in order that he can be free to seek another club over here in the three months or so before the new season begins.

“As soon as we notified other clubs of our releasing him, he was approached, I know, by at least two Premier League outfits, and one from the Elite League, too.

“This is a decision we may come to regret, but feel it would be very unfair to the lad – who we do believe is an outstanding prospect – to hold him to the pre-contract without giving him the intended place in our side. We all truly wish him well in his future career.”