Josh Pickering has given Edinburgh Monarchs fans memories that will last a lifetime
It feels all too familiar to when Geri left the Spice Girls, right? Is that just me? Anyhow, I digress.
Nevertheless, it's gut-wrenching to see a rider with such explosive talent, one you have admired for the last seven seasons, seek out new ventures further up the speedway ladder. But Pickering has ambition to burn and who can deny this affable Aussie the opportunity to spread his wings.
The 26-year-old is the consummate professional who wears his heart on his sleeve, epitomised by his full-blooded, impromptu, emotional sign off he delivered to the fans following the final heat of the 2023 season last Friday.
It really was testament to the man he is and I'm pretty confident there were other tears shed dotted around the stadium. I know I awoke early on Saturday morning feeling somewhat flat. Josh, meanwhile, was already up in the air en route to Poland having driven 400 miles through the night to catch his 6am flight from Stansted, such is his willingness to reach for the stars.
I simply cannot fathom how these guys do it. Let's not forget Josh had been racing for the Monarchs at Poole on Wednesday, turned out for Sheffield against Wolves in the Premiership play-offs the following evening before venturing north of the border on Friday in what turned out to be his last appearance in blue and gold, only to pack up the van and head south again for London. Racking up the miles in both the UK and on the continent has become something of the norm for a professional speedway rider these days, yet it continues to boggle the mind.
It really didn't take too long for all those connected to Edinburgh Monarchs Speedway to warm to Picko when he landed on these shores in 2017. He was raw and inconsistent, but that was standard practice for a guy embarking on his maiden year in British speedway.
Furthermore, you can't brush aside the strain and mental exertions that moving across the globe might have on these guys and their families. Just ask wife Brooke for a first-hand account. It is a colossal commitment to undertake and one, I feel, is so often overlooked in this sport. But his talent was bursting at the seams every time he donned those iconic pink and blue kevlars.
Pickering is a showman on the shale and boy does he know how to ride one of these 500cc beasts. Josh has been the perfect role model for the club, providing so many memorable race wins, particularly from the back, while also devoting his time to those who cheer him on week in, week out. He was the ideal replacement to take on the captain's role when Sam Masters departed last season and he served us well.
I assume most will be donning the yellow and blue tonight – cheering on Josh and the Tigers (Sheffield of course!) as they look to overturn an 18-point deficit against Ipswich in the Premiership Grand Final. Wouldn't it be terrific to see him end 2023 with a gold medal?
Who knows just what the future holds. Let's all hope he goes on to fulfil his ambition and earns his spot at speedway's top table.
There is, however, one blotch on Josh's Monarchs resume in that there's no silverware to show for his endeavours. I'd call it unfinished business. This is not a goodbye Picko, more like a see you soon.