WITCHES TEAM MANAGER
Saturday 23rd September 2017
‘Tru7.com’ Witches Team Manager Ritchie Hawkins lauded Rory Schlein after the Australian’s heat 15 win sealed the Witches’ spot in the Championship Play-Off final after a 91-88 aggregate win over Edinburgh.
The semi-final second leg went all the way to a last heat decider at Armadale with Schlein coming out on top for the Suffolk side and Hawkins says he is delighted to see his side make the final.
“It has been a really tough two nights and it was two close meetings as we knew it was going to be,” said Hawkins. “It swayed both ways and we have managed to stick in there and grind it out and come out on top.
“Rory Schlein was superb tonight and dragged us through. We are delighted to be in the final but we will have to improve on these two meetings but we have got the determination right and the will to win but our performance will have to be a bit better if we are going to win the final.”
The meeting continued to go back and forth but the boss was just pleased to come out on top after a tense evening.
“They got a 5-1 straight away but we managed to get one back straight away and that nullified it with our reserves stepping up. It swayed both ways, they got their noses in front and then we got back with the 5-0 and then heat 13 went their way, so it was going both ways all night. In the end we came out on top and that is all that matters.”
It was a night of high drama as two Edinburgh riders were excluded in heat eight leaving the Witches to pick up a 5-0 but then the Witches suffered two exclusions in heat 13, with Hawkins feeling the decisions evened themselves out over the two legs.
“It was all part of the drama but it was harsh on Rory in heat 13. You win some, you lose some and it probably evened itself out over the two legs. We were far from perfect but we still managed to get a result and that was very pleasing.”
Hawkins paid tribute to guest Mason Campton’s role over the two meetings and says he wouldn’t hesitate to use him in the final should Cameron Heeps not be fit to take his place in the team.
“Mason has been awesome in the important meeting before the Play-Offs and over these two meetings. If Cam is not fit I would not hesitate to ask him to ride for us again.”
The former captain is hoping to see a big crowd at Foxhall for the final and says it is a big opportunity to deliver a trophy to the club and its fans.
“We have waited a long time to bring a team trophy back and it is our first final of the year and we have the opportunity to do it. Hopefully we get a massive crowd there next Saturday and everyone will come out and support us and back the town as we are doing our best.”
It looks like the Witches will face Sheffield in the final after Simon Stead’s outfit thrashed Glasgow in the first leg of the semi-final and Hawkins knows his side will have to raise their performance levels further in the final.
“You would expect it to be Sheffield and we have them in the cup semi-final too, we finished as the top two in the league so it is no surprise. It is going to be tough but we put in a good performance there last week but it is a final so we need to up our game in the final to win the Championship.”
Words: Henry ChardMore News
Edinburgh ‘Parsons Peebles’ Monarchs 48 (88)
Ricky Wells 10
Josh Pickering 3+2
Sam Masters (c) 11
Mark Riss 7+2
Erik Riss 12+2
Max Clegg 5
Mitchell Davey 0
Ipswich ‘Tru7.com’ Witches 41 (91)
Danny King (c) 4
Mason Campton (g) 5+1
Kyle Newman 8
Rory Schlein 13
Nathan Greaves 5+2
Connor Mountain 6+2
Championship Play-Off Fixtures:
Edinburgh 88-91 Ipswich
Glasgow (31) vs Sheffield (59)
Ipswich vs TBC
Next Meeting: Championship Play-Off Final 30th Sep vs TBC (home)
WITCHES TEAM MANAGER
It has been a positive month results wise but the injuries we have ended the month with are a bit of a downer really. Cam (Heeps) has been so great for us this season and we are going to miss him and it is a real disappointment to end a good month. The defeat to Edinburgh and the events following it were the hardest days I have had in speedway management I guess. It was four or five bad races at home and it can happen. Maybe it spurred everyone on and I can’t definitely say it made a difference or not but we have been on a great winning run since that defeat.
In the second half of the season we have picked up points on a regular basis away from home and I think a lot of that is down to the reserves. They have seen the tracks once and they have gone back there with that experience. They have been in great form as well so that has helped. We started the season with many seeing us as a top heavy side but now we are winning matches because of the reserves and that is a real positive to take from this season.
The team change episode affected Sedgy (Justin Sedgmen) pretty bad whereas Connor (Mountain) it hasn’t as much. Sedgy has been carrying an injury and was in bad form anyway, so it was the worst thing for him to happen. It was a big learning curve for me and a big mistake and I will use it to improve and make sure I do not make a mistake like that again. Mistakes are not necessarily a bad thing as long as you learn from them, it is when you do not learn from them that they become a problem.
The trip to Workington and the night together was really good for team spirit. We had a great weekend and hopefully we can carry that on for the rest of the year as it does gain you more points in the track.
Cam has matured this year and he is still a young man. A lot is expected of him because of the talent that he has and maybe now he has got his focus right. He has been brilliant for us and has been in great form for Somerset too and he will come back next year well prepared to ride in two leagues and kick on even more. I don’t think he is anywhere near as good as he can be and he can keep progressing.
The Fours was a disappointment, you want to win those meetings and the opportunity was there for us. We looked brilliant to start with but it is a tough meeting to keep your form for the whole meeting. It is not unheard of that a team look brilliant in the semi-final and then not so in the final but it was disappointing how we didn’t reproduce that semi-final form. The league and the cup are our focus now.
With Nathan (Greaves), I didn’t know him at all before we signed him. Obviously, I had seen him ride and knew a bit about him and I went to see him ride at the British U21 semi-final in which he did very well in. He has come in and done more than we could have asked for and doubled his average. He has good pedigree in junior speedway and I am sure he is getting to reach his potential now. The last month has been how we thought Connor was always going to be. The pair of them impress me every week with their attitude and Connor’s professionalism and preparation for meetings is second to none and probably well above his years. That will help him a lot against other young boys out on the track.
We have always had a cut-off for transfers but it was brought forward this year, too early in my opinion. It needed to be brought forward but it is too early now. The fact is that now when you have a season ending injury, you cannot replace them and that is a terrible idea and I don’t know who has come up with that. It does not work and needs to be changed. Everyone seemed to know it wasn’t going to work so I am not sure whose idea that was. With this new cut-off date, not being able to replace an injured rider halfway through the season is crazy. You are stuck using r/r and guests and they are a big problem for the fans and everybody wants to get rid of them. With this though, you are being forced to use them more, it leaves me speechless to be honest.
We still need to confirm our play-off spot even though we are looking very strong. We need to keep in this good form as we want everyone still in form and to go into the play-offs happy and in that form we have been in after having back to back away wins. It is important to keep winning at this time of year.
See you all soon,
At the time, the home defeat to Edinburgh seemed like a bad thing, which of course it would. We have been raving about how strong we are at home this season so to lose to Edinburgh was a shock and a blow. I always thought that it would be Edinburgh, not as one of the toughest teams in the league but as one of the toughest teams we could face. They have got people that like Ipswich so much and you can now add Erik Riss to that list, they are quite tough to beat. It wasn’t a shock to me at all as I felt if we were going to lose it would be to them. I don’t think we would lose again and looking back with hindsight it was a timely kick up the backside for everybody. It has done us the world of good as it made us realise we are not unbeatable at home and there are some good sides out there and we can’t afford to be complacent against anyone.
It put us under a little bit of pressure too. We went away after that defeat and suddenly realised that the play-offs were not a given and we needed some other results. That is the effect it had and it can only be seen now as a positive thing. Yes, we still can’t afford to slip up at home and if we win both our remaining home meetings we will be safe in the play-offs. Although if we hadn’t lost to Edinburgh we probably wouldn’t even need that much right now! That added pressure made us lift our game though.
The Fours was a day of two halves and it was so strange to watch. We looked and felt confident after the semi-final having outscored everyone in both semis. None of the riders had any complaints about their performance, their equipment or the track and everyone was settled and confident. I thought we went into the final with the upper hand having come from the second semi-final, knowing track conditions a little better. We flopped dreadfully in the final and I can’t put my finger on why and it was very disappointing.
I don’t think the team change episode has had any effect on Connor (Mountain). He had no reason to be losing his team place prior to that other than we were looking to make an overall improvement to the team, predominantly down to Justin’s (Sedgmen) problems and lack of performance. I don’t think anything has changed for Connor. He has always been that professional before and has remained the same since and has continued to go in that direction with his confidence and riding and that has been Connor’s season. I don’t think that episode has made any difference to him.
There is no real update on Justin’s injury, he was due to have treatment today (Tuesday) and when I speak to him we will know more about the prognosis and how much rest he needs. It is down to treatment, physio and rest. Rest meaning not racing as I am sure he has exercises to do but racing is too brutal on his shoulder and he runs the risk of falling on it again which he has been told he cannot afford to do.
It is not ideal going into the play-offs with these injuries and Cam (Heeps) has been having his best season, so it is not good for him or the team. Coupled with the fact we were already using r/r for Justin, availability of riders especially in the latter part of the season is very tough. It won’t be as bad in the play-offs. We didn’t want to go into the business end of the season using guests. It has all been about team ethic in the latter part of this season and some of that team spirit goes away when you’re not a full team. Cam will still be around, he will still be at the meetings and supporting the lads. It will an effect and it won’t be a positive one but I don’t think the lads will let it derail their season.
The decision to have a cut-off for team changes was made to stop the likes of Matt Ford and Chris van Straaten making the Greg Hancock and Tai Woffinden type moves ahead of the play-offs, which I applaud and agree with. It shouldn’t be done and you should go into the play-offs with the team that got you there. However, why there is no place to allow for a long-term injury that could be decided by a SCB and BSPA panel I don’t know. I don’t think it is good for teams or fans to go into the most important meetings of the year with guests. They are the rules and that is my opinion but we will play by the rules and get on with it.
Ten points between the top five in the Grand Prix is fantastic going into the last few rounds. It is nice to see Tai back on top as he has been very subdued this year but not so subdued that he hasn’t left himself without a chance! It has really opened the championship up and the likes of (Patryk) Dudek won’t give up on it easily as I am sure if he was honest he probably didn’t expect to be in with a chance of winning it as this stage of the year. Jason Doyle is still my favourite as he hasn’t won a championship yet and he won’t let it go. You have seen how he has ridden in GP’s straight after injuries. The guys who are serious about winning it, what they need to do is stop Tai having another good one. If Tai has another good one on the bounce I feel he will become unstoppable.
Craig Cook looks like he will be in next year’s Grand Prix series and Robert Lambert recently won the European Under-21 Championship. For the first time in a few years we are showing we have lads good enough at the various levels capable of winning, not just being there, as we have been doing the last few years. I wish both well for the immediate future and we need more riders riding speedway bikes if we want to be a dominant nation again but at least on an individual basis we are beginning to compete again. Even down at 250cc level we have Jack Parkinson-Blackburn representing Team GB in the World 250cc Championship at Marketa Stadium in Prague on Tuesday. At every level, we have individuals that are winning. We don’t have enough to build a successful team yet but it all helps.
To have to go to Sheffield, Glasgow and Edinburgh to finish your league programme off, if you need points you couldn’t ask for a tougher finish in any way. That is where the relevance of winning on Saturday against Redcar and against Berwick comes into it because if Redcar do decide to go on a good run which could include beating us at Foxhall then all of a sudden, we are in a race and need points and they will not be the easiest tracks to get points.
Thank you for your continued support,
The Edinburgh defeat was a bit of a blip, what more can you say, we shouldn’t have lost that night but that is the way it goes. We had some bad luck on the night as well but we had to move on from it and learn from it. It gave us a kick up the backside and we have shown how strong we are since that. It kept us on our toes and showed that we can’t relax and settle for things because these things can happen. It wasn’t detrimental to our position in the play-offs as we were still in a good position and it didn’t cost anything but it is never good to lose at home but we learnt from it and that is the main thing.
We have been picking up points away from home a lot more frequently in the second half of the season and it has been exactly like I said it would be at the start of the season. We needed to try and do well the first time around at tracks but the second time everyone has been there and found the set-up especially the youngsters who probably haven’t been to some of the tracks, so at least when they go back they know what to expect. So far that has been the case, we have been picking up points and getting some big wins on the road.
The team changes episode was difficult for everyone but we had a team meeting the following week and cleared the air. We are a team and you can’t be bringing this sort of stuff up later in the year. Everything that needed to be said was said and we have moved on as a team.
My form is better now after a shaky start where I had some problems behind the scenes with the bikes and stuff. It is a lot better now though and I have shown that in both leagues, my average is good and the season is going in the right direction. I don’t really set targets at the start of the season, my attitude in the sport is to go out and do my best and that is all I can do, I can’t do any more than that. I go out and give 100% and that is all I know, sometimes it is good enough, other times it is not but hopefully the majority of the time it is.
We know most riders in this small community and we all know each other so having guests to cover injuries is not so bad. The problem I have with r/r is that especially at this time of year, if there is another injury during the meeting, you are screwed! I don’t really know what you do, I suppose you could have a number eight in that scenario but it is not ideal. I am not a lover of r/r but unfortunately when you run out of options that is all you can do. When I am a guest I just go out and give 100%, as I said earlier that is all you can do.
It would be nice for the Leicester fans to get off of the bottom of the table, I think they have finished bottom twice in the last three years. Obviously, we are not going to make the play-offs and it has been another terrible year for the fans but there have been a lot of positives. The Bates’ have come in and are doing everything they can to succeed and considering they were left with the lack of riders at the end after coming in so late, they built the team quite well and we have been hounded by injury and all sorts all year. We have never really had a one to seven but of late we have had more consistency and six of the riders back and we have been getting points and that proves when we are together the team is not that bad. It is too little too late now but we are going out now and showing what we are capable of. We can’t win anything but it would be nice to get off the bottom of the table.
I thought I was the one letting the boys down in the first half of the Fours at Peterborough but I got my stuff together in the final but the boys struggled and I don’t know why, it was a really strange meeting and I don’t know what more to say about it!
There has been a lot of talk about track preparation here in England recently and the thing is we use different material here to what they use on the continent. Our tracks are very clay based and the problem with clay is that when it gets wet it gets slippery. We struggle when it comes to rain whereas on the continent they have sand based tracks which absorbs more of the wet and you can get meetings on. Track preparation has always been the same, you get quite a mixture, tracks that have dirt on it and some that haven’t. I wouldn’t say we go to many tracks that are dangerous or unrideable, if they are then it is normally down to the weather. I don’t think there are tracks that are dangerous through preparation if that makes sense, it is dangerous due to conditions.
Craig Cook looks like he has qualified for the Grand Prix and I still have GP ambitions myself. It is so tough to get there but I would love to do it and have a go, it has just never worked out for me. It is a shame because I feel I can mix it at that level but it is a tough format to qualify from and I always seem to have a bit of bad luck at those events. That is life and good luck to him. Robert Lambert was crowned European U21 champion and I am sure he will want to be in the Grand Prix one day and I am sure he will be, it is good for British speedway to see them doing well.
I took part in the World Games event in Poland too and it was a great event to be a part of. I didn’t get many rides which is a shame as I would have liked more but for speedway to be involved in an event like that, I don’t think it will happen for a very long time again. It was nice to be part of it and the atmosphere was unreal not just at the speedway but at the whole games. We were all in dorms in our different countries with their flags, all from different sports in the complex and it was good fun. We didn’t really have time to mix much as we were not there long as we flew in the night before and then left but there was a good atmosphere everywhere.
The end of the season will be great practice of the play-offs! It is difficult now with the current team situation as I am not sure what the outcome of that will be. I am not sure if Justin (Sedgmen) will be riding anymore and the same with Cam (Heeps), so it really depends on where we go from that. Obviously, we cannot replace them and it will depend on what guests we can use etc. If the team is fit we can go anywhere and win but it is tricky at the moment with the injuries. The next few weeks are going to be vital, especially with Cammo, if it means missing him for a month and he can come back for the play-offs then that would be wise to rest him.
All the best,
Foxhall Rd, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP4 5TL 01473 623640