Edinburgh MONARCHS will seal their place in the League Cup semi-finals if they defeat Glasgow Tigers in tonight’s qualifying group tie at Armadale and, having already crushed them 59-31 in the Spring Trophy last month, Monarchs feel the Ashfield side will be easy meat again.
With Monarchs already through to the Premier League Knockout Cup quarter-finals and leading contenders for the championship crown, it could mean a silverware bonanza for their young Aussie star Max Fricke who is making steady progress in his first season at senior level for the team.
Fricke has scored 17 points from seven matches so far and the ability he undoubtedly possesses is starting to rise to the surface.
The 17-year-old ace grabbed four points at Scunthorpe Scorpions on Monday, his 5-1 with team-mate Jozsef Tabaka late on in the match helping Monarchs claim a creditable match point after losing Claus Vissing with a shoulder injury early in the meeting.
“That was a good race,” said Fricke. “I managed to make a decent start from the gate and looked over and Jozsef was there, and we team rode all the way to the finish. Jozsef rode really well during the meeting and it’s great to have someone like that to rely on and ride so well.
“It was the first time I had been to Scunthorpe and I felt pretty pleased with my overall performance.
“I struggled a little bit in my first ride but used it to try and learn about the circuit which has some different racing lines. I watched a couple of other races from the pits and this helped me. I’m just trying to move forward and keep improving with every match I compete in.”
The one thing Fricke is desperate to achieve is his first race win for Monarchs at home, and although no-one doubts this milestone will come, when it does the slightly built rider could prove unstoppable once he gets out in front.
“Yes, it’s something I want to make happen, but I’m not placing any pressure on myself, I think with each meeting I’m growing in confidence. It’s still very early in the season and once I get more matches under my belt, I can only get better; things are very much still a learning curve for me at the moment.”
The weather hasn’t been in Fricke’s favour either and while he states that dry track conditions are better to cope with than a mudbath, he added: “It has been difficult and you can’t make a true impact if the track is greasy.
“However you cannot predict the weather and it’s the same for everyone, you just have to deal with it, I have no complaint with that.”
Fricke was recently afforded some track time at Newcastle to help hone his starting technique and said: “My first few meetings I thought my starts were pretty terrible so I have been putting in a great deal of time to improve upon them plus some other bits and pieces I need to work on.
“The start at any track is a big part of the race and though Monarchs have shifted their starting gate to the old back straight I haven’t had enough experience of the change to say which side it would have been better on.”
Fricke scored two points against the Tigers in that April Spring Trophy one-sided clash and is looking for a bigger haul this evening. “It’s a big incentive for us to win to reach the semi-finals of the League Cup, there is also a great rivalry between both teams which I’m just starting to experience.
“Glasgow are a good side and are going quite well so it will be interesting to see how we get on against them and the scores might be closer this time.”
The Tigers earned plaudits by defeating well fancied Newcastle Diamonds in the league at Ashfield on Sunday, but collapsed in the return tie at Brough Park, going down by a jaw-dropping 30 points.
A positive sign, however, was Tigers reserve Joe Jacobs recording his first race win since signing for them, but the young Englishman has come under friendly fire from some fans because his race suit is blue and yellow, the colours Monarchs race in! Said Jacobs: “I have taken some stick over this, but blue and yellow have always been my colours. As long as I’m winning for Glasgow it shouldn’t matter what colours I’m wearing.”
Vissing, meanwhile, is expected to ride tonight after X-rays revealed he had not broken anything following his crash at Scunthorpe.