YESTERDAY was Edinburgh Monarchs’ annual Press and Practice Day at Armadale Stadium, the first time any new Monarchs’ team gets a hurl around their home track prior to the league campaign.
This year, amongst the returning riders from last season are some familiar faces and a couple of new ones.
The 2019 Staggs Bar Monarchs (Nigel Finlay of Musselburgh’s CAMRA award-winning hostelry returning for a second year as team sponsor) line up with 23-year-old Australian Cameron Heeps donning the Blue and Gold for the first time alongside new reserve signing 21-year-old Luke Ruddick, from Melrose.
Heeps has the potential to have a very competitive season this year, while Ruddick should be able to hold his own against the less experienced reserves he’ll face. Of course, should he manage more than that, his contribution could prove pivotal.
Another new member of the squad in 2019 is no new face however. 27-year-old Australian Justin Sedgmen returns to the team after a break of three years.
Sedgmen first rode for Monarchs in 2014, returning in 2015.
Edinburgh topped the Premier League both years, so here’s hoping he proves a lucky talisman.
All four remaining 2019 Monarchs return from last year’s campaign.
Top scorer last year, Kiwi born American Ricky Wells returns for his third season with the club.
Having donned the No 1 race jacket for all but the last match in 2018, it’s odds on that he will lead the team with his trademark professionalism once again.
Another Australian, and one of the most exciting riders in the league to watch, also returns.
22-year-old Josh Pickering lines up for his third season as a Monarch a definite fans’ favourite having received the most entries in the club’s Race of the Season vote.
Back in the other reserve spot this year is the veteran of the team, 32-year-old Scot, William Lawson.
Lawson retired from speedway in 2010 having ridden for five seasons in Edinburgh’s colours, and was a member of the 2008 league winning team.
He returned last year after a break nearly eight years and showed flashes of the brilliance that once made a top rider.
A lot of this year’s success will rest on him dominating the reserve races.
Finally, completing the 2019 Staggs Bar Monarchs is 22-year-old former Swedish Under-21 Champion Joel Andersson, who returns for his second season at Armadale.
Andersson demonstrated he has great potential last year in a season that was curtailed by a crash that left him with a nasty foot injury.
Fully recovered, he could well prove the rider that makes the most difference to this year’s league campaign.
With this 1 to 7, Monarchs’ fans should be in for some exciting racing this coming season, which starts next Friday, 12 April, with an inter-league challenge against Wolverhampton Wolves.
Get ready for tapes up.