It could be a case of speedway ‘brothers in arms’ for Edinburgh Monarchs as they aim to climb up the league in pursuit of a third championship title.
The signing of Mark Riss on Monday to join forces with younger sibling Erik has sparked belief that the main body of the squad has been strengthened following the not unexpected departure of Australian Jye Etheridge who simply proved to be uncompetitive in his role as a second-string performer.
And though Monarchs explored the possibility of making a change at reserve, Max Clegg and Dan Bewley remain in situ.
Monarchs felt compelled to beef up their middle order after scraping home 46-44 against Newcastle Diamonds at home recently and with some serious title contenders still to visit Armadale the fear of losing and jeopardising their play-off aspirations was not a risk they were prepared to take.
Yet Riss the elder could be deemed just as big a gamble as Etheridge was.
The German may be an all-round motorcyclist but his focus has not been entirely trained on speedway and life in the Premier League is going to present him with some telling obstacles, some he will surmount, others he will not.
Riss makes his Lothian Arena debut tonight against Ipswich Witches and Monarchs co-boss John Campbell acknowledges miracles will not be achieved overnight.
He said: “When we first approached the Riss boys we were told Mark was initially the better rider. That’s not the case now as Erik has completed 50 meetings in the UK to date.
“But Mark will have the help of Erik who has learned so much about racing in Britain over the past year, however Erik and Kevin Wolbert, our other German, were keen to have Mark with us.”
Riss has been anxious to join his younger brother in trying to conquer the Premier League which can be a very unforgiving division where the pace and regularity of meetings can exact a high toll on some riders, especially newcomers.
He said: “I feel this is the right time for me to try my luck in the UK. I have been thinking about it for a while now. The season back in Germany has started well for me and I’ve had some quite good meetings so far; I’ve done six or seven this year.”
Riss will be expected to get to grips with Armadale pretty quickly but time is not on his side.
He said: “I actually practised at Armadale once and it was quite difficult the first time. But I think I’m more confident now to try and deal with it.”
Given the paucity of Etheridge’s scores, Riss may feel he has some wriggle room until he settles in.
“Erik has made some pretty good progress so far,” said Riss. “He made a big step up during the winter. I feel I have the same attitude and want to get to the top of speedway as he does.”
Riss rides for Landshut and Herheim in Germany and he added: “Erik has told me everything about Monarchs as a club and I’m really looking to my first meeting tonight.”
Campbell admits he has been impressed by the level of preparation both Riss brothers have shown towards their UK speedway education.
Said Campbell: “The Riss family has built a 150 metre track in their back garden to allow the boys to practise on a circuit more akin to what they will encounter here, particularly Armadale. And as happened with Erik last year I expect Mark to grow in confidence and start scoring points as the season progresses, but initially the challenges will be difficult.”
Campbell added he regrets releasing Etheridge and promised: “I will do everything I can to find him a track which may better suit his style, but the new rules this season mean he is still lumbered with a five-point average and that could be difficult for him.”
Like Monarchs, Ipswich have made changes to their side to get them back on track and Ben Barker rejoined the Suffolk men this week following his departure from Glasgow Tigers.
Monarchs also hit the road this weekend with trips to Berwick Bandits tomorrow and struggling Scunthorpe Scorpions on Sunday. Monarchs have picked up two away points so far and will be keen to add that total to help ease the pressure on them at home.