EDINBURGH Scotwaste Monarchs bosses were secretly planning to dump troublesome Aussie star Rusty Harrison - even before the 24-year-old heat leader triggered his own dismissal by refusing to take his last two rides during Monarchs' 47-42 Premier League home defeat against Rye House Rockets seven days ago.
Speaking exclusively to the Evening News, Monarchs chairman Alex Harkess revealed that, had a suitable replacement become available, Harrison would have been jettisoned at a far earlier date.
Harkess says Harrison's constant moaning about the state of certain Premier League circuits was exerting a bad influence on some of the younger members of the squad. And there is now relief that Harrison has finally departed Armadale.
Harkess, who attended a board meeting earlier this week to discuss the problematic issue of trying to fill the vacant berth that now exists, said: "To tell the truth, last Friday brought to a head a situation which had existed for some time.
"Strangely enough, there was a very happy feeling in the dressing-room at Newcastle on Monday even though we lost.
"But it was our first match without Rusty in the team. Even last Friday there was relief among everybody that the situation had been sorted out and we can now all move on.
"Twice at Redcar and twice at Newport Rusty felt the tracks were bad. He created unrest by telling everyone that.
"It was a situation we were aware of and it was always in our mind to do something about it." Even if Harrison had not been axed following his actions against the Rockets, Harkess admitted he wouldn't have survived much longer in the team anyway.
"Things were not right and hadn't been for a while and we had to do something about it. If another rider had become available and was worthwhile taking a look at, we would have gone down that road."
Harrison was the most experienced rider in the Monarchs side and walked off with all the supporters awards for his consistency last season.
However, Harkess believes the way he tried to sway some of the younger riders, created a feeling of uneasiness in the pits. Harkess said: "It is negative to the extent if someone tells you the track is bad then it's in your mind.
"We have a very young team. If Rusty had been more positive and told some of the younger members that the track is fine, go out and do your best, or the track suits us but not the opposition, that would have been different. But he would tell them the track was dangerous and they could get themselves hurt.
"This negative attitude rubbed off, although mainly on Rusty himself and inevitably he would go out and score very few points as those visits to Redcar and Newport proved. Our skipper Theo Pijper for instance was very positive that last Friday's meeting went ahead.
"Rusty was negative. And one or two of our other riders were looking in between and wondering what on earth was going on."
Plenty of insiders within speedway knew that Harrison came with baggage but Harkess pointed out: "Although he came with a bad reputation of being disruptive, we never experienced any of that, apart from one or two isolated incidents last season. Because of that we felt he had turned the corner and made us very keen to sign him again in 2006.
"He did have a couple of bad patches last year, mainly because he was riding too much.
"He would be racing six days out of seven on occasions - but he was fine towards the end of the year.
"However, he has struggled to find form this season and, as a club we've not seen as good as what we got a year ago. But every week there has been a problem with our track according to him, no matter what it was like. It wore everyone down eventually and we have no regrets about Rusty's departure and we have already moved on."
Although Monarchs have been granted the use of rider replacement for 28 days, Harkess said: "We are trying to find a new rider as quickly as we can. Unfortunately, Rusty was only the third highest averaged rider in the team, having dropped quite a bit from the rider who signed at the beginning of the season. This simply reflected his performances but we are searching for someone now."
Meanwhile, Monarchs must focus on their tussle against new boys Redcar Bears at the Lothian Arena tonight. Two months ago, the Teesiders would not have been considered as posing any great threat to Monarchs. However, Redcar are on the ascendancy having gained a draw at Mildenhall and winning at Stoke.
Harkess added: "Undoubtedly their tails are up. It's the same team we beat in the Premier Trophy at home, in fact they got off lightly.
The difference now is that Redcar are riding with confidence. In contrast our confidence is a bit low right now and we need to get it back. But, providing the weather is fine, it promises to be a good match."