Edinburgh Monarchs today said they were disappointed at Australian Sam Masters decision not to ride for the club next season, especially after buying his contract outright from Somerset Rebels.
Masters, who spent four years at Armadale, will concentrate on his career with Wolverhampton Wolves in the Premiership and re-signed for the Midland club last week.
But Monarchs team manager and co-promoter Alex Harkess told the Evening News: “We are disappointed in Sam. We purchased his contract a year ago in the belief he would have a long-term future with us, so to that extent we are disappointed.
“By his own standards he was disappointing last season, but I think he had the capability of increasing his average if he had stayed with us. He has chosen not to race in our league and we must accept that, although the choice wasn’t ours.”
Asked if Masters decision came as a surprise, Harkess replied: “We had been pressing him about next season for a couple of months now, but he never gave us an answer.
“He did say he was riding in one league too many last season and it became too much for him. He didn’t end up as our top scorer last season so we hope others will step forward. That’s what it’s all about.”
Masters has declared he would like to return to Monarchs in the future, but Harkess added: “The way the rules are at the moment, if Sam was to realise an average of over six for Wolves in 2018 he would be unable to drop back into our league unless the rules change.”
Meanwhile, Monarchs’ team-building plans for next season are gathering pace, with Ricky Wells, Mark and Erik Riss, and Josh Pickering all signing new contracts.
Wells expressed enthusiasm about returning for a second spell in the blue and gold colours. Speaking from Arizona, he said: “Last season was good and a great one for the club. I think it was better in the beginning. We reached the play-offs and lost by a few points in the semi finals against Ipswich.
“Overall I was very happy at Monarchs. I haven’t been at a better Championship club. I didn’t really want to go anywhere else and it’s fantastic to be back.”
Wells continued: “I hadn’t realised I had added a point on to my average last season and don’t see why I can’t do the same next season.
“I struggled to find my form for a couple of months but got that sorted out and I did okay after that and ended up as Monarchs No.1. When I rode for Workington I used to love coming out in heat one but at Edinburgh I struggled with it and not just off the outside gate. It messed me up a little bit and that got me frustrated and wound me up.
“I want to ride at No.1, but whoever it is who fills the other six spots in the team they should be looking at it and set their sights on becoming No.1 too.
“My main aim for next season is to maintain or increase my average and do a true No.1’s job.”
Wells says he is organised for the new season, adding: “After the New Year is over I’ll be heading back to California to prepare fully for 2018, although I’m quite prepared already!”
Pickering revealed he was the target for some of Monarchs’ rivals, but said: “I did have a few offers from some other teams but I always wanted to come back to Edinburgh.
“Last year was a massive learning curve for me – I learnt so much about speedway and so much about myself.
“I’m aiming to get out of the gate a lot better next year and realise it’s an important part of racing because it’s not always the quickest rider who wins.”
Pickering added: “Although the chance to double-up hasn’t come my way yet, I’d grab it with both hands if it did.”
Harkess is happy with how the team is shaping up so far, saying: “I’m pleased that these four are back because we needed the basis of last year’s team. All four will probably have been disappointed with some aspects of their performances last season but they all are capable of improving next term.
“Probably Ricky has the most difficult problem to try and increase his average, the other three have the potential not only to increase their averages but to dramatically show an improvement on their figures.”
Monarchs are in advanced talks to fill the three remaining spots in their 2018 side and co-boss John Campbell said: “There has been a stampede amongst other clubs to get riders signed up. But we at Edinburgh always take our time. I can promise you if we get the final team we are aiming for then everyone will be very excited.”