He may well have prepared to the best of his ability for his UK debut season, but Edinburgh Monarchs’ young Aussie Josh Pickering has discovered over the past week that life can be a rollercoaster in the Championship league.
Feted for his performance at Peterborough, things quickly turned sour for the 21-year-old against Glasgow Tigers at Armadale last Friday, and things didn’t improve at Newcastle Diamonds 48 hours later when he tumbled off on his own and clattered the Brough Park safety fence leaving him battered and bruised.
Monarchs face the Diamonds tonight and Pickering, reflecting on a week he will want to forget, said: “The Glasgow meeting was a nightmare. I fell off twice but remounted but ended up with just two points for my efforts.
“I’m not blaming my engines but they were making the bike very hard to ride.
“At the start of the season the track surface was very grippy because it always rains during the winter. We’ve had no rain for a month until last week and the track had become very hard and very slick, which makes it difficult to pass.
“As a consequence my engines were a little too aggressive.
“I have already changed a few things and hopefully this will help. I know it’s not me. You don’t turn into a rubbish rider overnight, I know I can ride and what I’m capable of.”
Pickering hadn’t seen the Newcastle track before and was completely out of his depth on it. After coming a cropper in heat eight he withdrew from the meeting.
He explained: “Things didn’t click for me at all. It proved really difficult for me. When I got there I didn’t mind the look of it. But I suppose if you are riding at Championship level, it’s not quite what I’m used to back home.
“I’m normally riding against guys of a similar ability and it’s hard to learn a new track when you are out against guys of a higher ability, you don’t have the time really.”
Monarchs have shuffled their riding order for tonight’s match which sees Pickering swap places with Mark Riss. Pickering moves to No. 4 and it is hoped that by taking away the pressure of riding in heat one this will allow him to ease into the meeting more quickly.
The Diamonds are without Robert Lambert who is riding for Great Britain Under 21s and is replaced by Glasgow captain Aaron Summers.
Monarchs earned two points for their away draw at Newcastle helped by a sparkling performance from Max Clegg at reserve. Clegg notched up 14 points from his six starts and his spell at the tail-end can hopefully rekindle his enthusiasm again after a torrid stint in the team proper.
Monarchs led by four points with one race to go. But Newcastle rescued a point with a 5-1 from top two Steve Worrall and Robert Lambert over Monarchs captain Sam Masters and Erik Riss.
Asked why he hadn’t put experienced Ricky Wells in instead, team manager Alex Harkess said: “Erik had won his last two races and was up for it, and Ricky hadn’t won a race. I’d have taken a draw before the match, I’d have taken a draw when we were eight points down.
“Newcastle were just as unlikely to pass as we were when they missed the gate.
“Overall I was delighted to get a draw at the end of it, but when your four points up with one race to go, it is disappointing to lose the match.”
Harkess added: “I’d like to think we will get the win tonight, but Newcastle are always stuffy opposition, but it’s important not to drop any more points at home as we did last week against Glasgow.”
Monarchs are also in Championship action against Workington Comets on Sunday, a match brought forward from June 24. Said Harkess: “Workington asked us to come tomorrow but we would have been without Erik and Mark Riss so we declined.”