LOYALTY is a trait which is not as cherished as it once was. But Edinburgh Monarchs skipper Matthew Wethers is celebrating his ten-year association with the speedway club with a star-studded Testimonial at Armadale Stadium tomorrow night.
Wethers is regarded as one of the good guys within the sport and his haul of three Premier League winning medals with Monarchs is testament to his legendary status.
The 27-year-old, who hails from Adelaide, arrived in the UK as a gangly teenager and won his Monarchs spurs in 2003 after riding for their junior team the Dale Devils. And he ended up soaked with champagne that year as Monarchs clinched the first of their title crowns, ending a wait of 50 years for glory.
Wethers has good memories of his Monarchs debut. “My first match was at Reading Racers and I scored two points. I wasn’t nervous and I don’t think I ever got nervous back then, certainly not for riding my bike, maybe for after dinner speaking!
“I also remember I had some good crashes that year. I was never one for taking things easy and I always tried, probably beyond my ability at times.
“I had no idea how big it was for Monarchs to win the league for the first time, it was a good team to be part of. But I was slung in at the deep end and not knowing where I was half the time.
“I always felt I was driving around in circles and I remember it took me three hours to get to Berwick one week. It was still a good first year for me, my dad was with me for half the season before he had to go home.”
But just two years later Wethers discovered the harsher side of speedway.
“It was only a couple of days before Christmas and I got a call from Monarchs saying I wasn’t wanted for that season. I decided to join Glasgow Tigers but I struggled at their track. I then did a guest booking for King’s Lynn and scored well and they were suddenly interested in me and I thrashed out a good deal.
“I only rode two or three meetings for King’s Lynn before they released me. But when Cameron Woodward got injured for Monarchs I got another call from Monarchs saying they wanted me again.”
Wethers was covered in stardust once more in 2008 when Monarchs clinched their second league title and he said: “That was our youngest team and a young team is always good, and I achieved my best average that particular season.”
Yet Monarchs almost came unstuck when they visited lowly Newcastle Diamonds on a Brough Park track which was akin to riding on a glass coffee table.
Wethers, however, rode the meeting of his life, securing a 21-point maximum that has now gone down in folklore, but typically he still plays down his contribution.
“I never really think of it as getting 21 points, I only remember the bad parts of the meeting. I blew my engine in the pits beforehand and had to change to a bike which was more suited to a bigger circuit. The Newcastle circuit was very poor and a lot of power was needed to get through the soft dirt, and although I never made any starts I managed to pick everybody off.
“That win at Newcastle helped us clinch the league and we went on to win our third title in 2010. I was captain by then and it was good to show people I could do the job.”
And with Monarchs vying for a fourth crown this season, Wethers added: “We are all riding so well right now and there is a real buzz in the pits.
“It’s great to have Derek (Sneddon) back with us. I have known him since I first came over here and get on with him so well.”
Monarchs co-boss John Campbell was responsible for signing Wethers and admits he wasn’t sure if he’d done the right thing or not back in the day.
“When Matthew first arrived I didn’t have any thought that he’d actually be in the team, but he proved to have something about him and to ride for Monarchs for ten years is a fantastic achievement.
“He was there at just the right time back in 2003 and it was a gamble to put him in, but it paid off and he has been a terrific servant to the club.”
Wethers is often perceived as a rider who has never chased higher rewards, despite brief spells with Elite League clubs Poole Pirates and Wolverhampton Wolves, but Campbell says: “The great thing about Matthew is no matter what problems he may have, be it a fall from the night before, he is always there. He will always do his very best.
“I have got lots of recollections about him over the years but I think his best ever race for us happened just last week at Somerset when he grabbed second place in the last heat to earn us a match point.”
Asked to compare captaincy differences between Wethers and Sneddon, who was skipper in 2008, Campbell added: “It’s impossible because their styles are so different. Derek was ‘in your face’ but Matthew is more a gentle word type of person, but both are as effective as the other.”
Wethers has dug Monarchs out of so many holes over the years, he should be wearing a donkey jacket. As his meeting publicity states: “It’s now time to give something back.”