Edinburgh Monarchs’ new Australian signing Josh Pickering has touched down in the Capital and told fans: “This is a huge leap for me but I’m up for the challenge.”
Pickering arrived in Scotland at the end of last week and, despite suffering some jet lag, was in chatty mood as he prepares for his first competitive season of racing in the UK with Monarchs in the rebranded Championship division.
He told the Evening News: “I’d say this is the biggest challenge I have faced in speedway yet. But I have the time for it and I have prepared well for it. Now we’ll just wait and see how it goes.
“It’s a huge leap for me but I’m up for the challenge and I’m happy to be riding for Edinburgh.”
Unusually for a new entrant, Pickering will go straight in the team proper bypassing the normal reserve route.
He said: “To be honest, we haven’t discussed what number I will be riding at. But the Monarchs management are placing no pressure on me. It’s pretty cruising, really. The Scottish Open [at Armadale on March 31] is my first meeting and I’m looking forward to that.”
Pickering has set himself goals for the season but stressed he hasn’t set the bar too high in case he fails to live up to expectations. But Monarchs will give the young rider every opportunity to prove himself.
He said: “For one thing, it is going to be a big learning curve for me that’s why I have been a bit cautious. But I definitely want to end the season with the five-point average which is what I’ll start the season with.”
One of the biggest tasks awaiting Pickering will be how to overcome his lack of knowledge on all of the away tracks in the Championship, but he revealed: “I’ve done a bit of research on some of the tracks I’ll be riding on. Only time will tell if I can master them.
“I’m not going to say I’m going to set the world on fire, but I will do the best job I can for Edinburgh, and I’m grateful to them for giving me this big break.”
One man who will give Pickering all the support he requires is good friend and skipper Sam Masters.
Pickering said: “I looked up to him when we were growing up. He has been such a good mate for ten years. And now to be riding alongside him in the same team is just awesome.
“When we were growing up I knew a little bit about him but he definitely knows more about me.”
And Monarchs have made Masters a fully-fledged club asset as he enters his fourth season in their colours. Team manager Alex Harkess said: “From our point of view, it means Sam is available to ride for Edinburgh when we want him to. It also means Sam won’t miss any Monarchs matches because he is now our asset.”
Asked about the prospects for the upcoming season, Masters replied: “It’s hard to say because we suffered some bad lack last season. If everybody is working and doing their jobs there is no reason why we can’t enjoy a successful season.”
Masters is going to be one of the busiest Monarchs riders in 2017. In addition to doubling up with Wolves in the Premiership Division, he also has a full schedule of fixtures in Sweden, Denmark, and Poland.
Masters added: “I’m certainly going to be kept very busy indeed, and will probably mean more sleepy nights in various airport terminals. But that’s what you become a speedway rider for to give yourself the best opportunities to improve yourself and further your career.”
Meanwhile, Max Clegg, Pickering’s second-string partner, has jettisoned the National League to concentrate solely on the Championship and the Premiership. He said: “It was time to take a step back from the National League. It’s going to be a big year for me in terms of my career and where I’m going.
“I think Edinburgh have got an awesome team this season to be honest. I think we can have a good campaign.”