Edinburgh Monarchs are having to play a less than ideal waiting game to discover who their opponents will be in the play-off Grand Final, which will decide the destiny of the 2013 Premier League speedway championship.
In all probability it will be Somerset Rebels, who need only avoid defeat by 20 points or more at Redcar Bears to qualify. Because of the uncertainty, Monarchs have placed their home leg of the final on ice until next Friday, despite having secured their spot all of three weeks ago.
And for one Monarchs rider in particular, the countdown to the biggest match of the season has already become too protracted.
Max Fricke’s eagerness to get things rolling is understandable – he could be poised to lift a winner’s medal in his debut year as a rider in the UK, which would be an outstanding achievement.
The 17-year-old Australian said: “Somerset and the other teams in their group have been racing all the time recently. But we have been off our bikes because we are hanging on to see who we face in the final.
“Ideally, you would want more competitive action than we have had of late, but I don’t think it is the end of the world. However, it is still an anxious time, going for the league is a huge occasion for everybody and to wait until next week to get underway is probably a bit unfortunate.”
Fricke insists that Monarchs’ lack of activity leading into the final should not put them at a disadvantage, saying: “Personally, I think the rest of the guys know what is coming up is a big meeting and we have got to be ready for it. If we are not, we won’t win the title. Hopefully, we will turn it on when the time comes and do our best.”
Redcar will need a miracle to stop a Somerset side who have already secured the Knockout Cup and are going for a glittering double. The Rebels have turned into something of a mechanical juggernaut of late and rivals have been unable to put the brakes on their ambitions as they seek to erase their agonising one-point defeat in last season’s Grand Final showdown against Scunthorpe Scorpions.
Yet Fricke doesn’t entirely agree that Somerset are a dream team. “I’m not sure about that,” he said. “A lot of people think they are, and they do have a strong squad with some very good individual riders in it.
“But Newcastle Diamonds have also done well this year and could yet get through if Somerset slip up. Newcastle have done an amazing job with a super team.”
With the smart money on Somerset, Fricke is mentally tuning up to take them on and underlined the enormity of the task Monarchs potentially face.
“It will be a very difficult two-legged contest, especially as Somerset are extremely strong round their own circuit. They also have a couple of guys in their side who ride Armadale very well, too, and we will have to counter that danger.”
Strangely enough, Monarchs have not been watertight at home and some of their most notable heroics have been accomplished on the road – in fact, Monarchs are one of the few sides to have actually won at Somerset.
Monarchs’ fragility at Armadale does not unduly perturb Fricke who reasons: “The Final is over two meetings, it will not be decided after one leg.” And he insists he is not thinking ahead to popping champagne and wearing gold. “You cannot do that because you just don’t know what will happen – obviously we want to win it, everybody wants to win it.
“And should it happen it would be great. I’ve really enjoyed my first year in the Premier League and think I have improved quite a lot.
“To win the league, from a personal point of view, would be awesome.
“Even if we don’t pull it off, it will still have been a great season and everybody connected with Edinburgh have really looked after me.
“My goal was to maintain my average and I have improved upon that which is really good. I just want to keep on improving and learning.”
Asked if he wants to be back at Armadale in 2014, Fricke replied: “Definitely. I would love to be back with Monarchs next year, but it all depends if they want me again.
“This has been such a good year for me and I just want to keep on building on what I have learnt for 2014 and also perhaps get some more outings in the Elite League.
“I have had some this season and it really helped me because a lot of the guys in the top flight are quicker and more on the ball in some areas.”
That can wait, for now Fricke is busy marking off the calendar to what could be a real red-letter day for him in his short career so far.