It was an emotional rollercoaster at Berwick ‘KLS’ Bandits’ (powered by Mike Hope of Wooler) end of season event on Saturday night.
There were the traditional fun and games at the Ord House Country Park – boosted by the fine team spirit that typifies what Berwick Speedway is all about, led by the Courtney brothers, Gary Flint and Dennis McCleary.
But it was David Howe’s soliloquy that hushed the large, assembled crowd.
Taking the microphone before MC Steve Hayward conducted his interview, Howe read out a prepared statement after what has been a well-documented difficult season for him to get through. But he was full of praise for the way his club had brought ‘The Phoenix’ back to life last season.
“After my injury in 2015, I hadn’t even been to a meeting for nearly a year,” he said.
“Scott and Jamie (Courtney) gave me a chance to change that and, from the moment I joined, this club and team felt different, and that bond has become stronger over the last 18 months.
“It’s no secret that I didn’t know what the future held for me, but I do know I will always be thankful to the Bandits for giving me a second chance to do this my way. I feel that, even though I’m nowhere near the rider I was, I have regained a bit of pride and dignity.”
David declared the Bordernapolis was his final meeting as a speedway rider but he announced it “happy and content, even though it’s tinged with sadness”.
He continued: “I think, deep down, I knew before the Bordernapolis this would be where I was heading, as I was able to put more into it mentally. I just wanted to lay it all out there and to see what happened, and it was almost the perfect ending.
“Okay, so I didn’t win, but I managed two things. Not only did I beat Jye (Etheridge) in our final race but I out-gated him, and I’ll never let him forget that,” referencing the phenomenal bond the pair have developed over the last year.
“I also beat Nikolaj (Busk Jakobsen) that night and he’s since seen the funny side that he has a mechanic who can beat him! On that point I will still be heavily involved in the sport, and if I have my way Berwick too as I will be working full-time in the UK and abroad for Nikolaj and hopefully help to guide him to the big things we all know he is capable of.
“I’ve always given it my best on the day and worn the Bandits logo with immense pride.”
David then received a lengthy standing ovation from the Berwick supporters.
The Bandits’ Academy collectively received the young rider of the year award, Theo Pijper took the ‘Riders’ Bandit of the Year’ trophy, as Jye Etheridge again took the fan-voted ‘Bandit of the Season’ Trophy.
Backroom staff were also given lifetime achievement awards for decades of unrelenting service to the club.