SOMERSET Speedway go into their first season in the top flight in bullish mood, vowing to prove people wrong once again as they unveiled their full 2017 line-up.
The ‘Cases’ Rebels’ seven riders, plus team manager Garry May, were interviewed in front of season ticket holders and invited guests at the club’s Press & Practice Day at the Oaktree Arena on Friday.
Captain Josh Grajczonek is one of five riders retained from the 2016 double-winning season, alongside Jake Allen, Paul Starke, Rohan Tungate and Charles Wright.
The two new signings are both Danes – Jan Graverson and Patrick Hougaard.
Team boss May, having been heavily involved in the decision to move up to the rebranded Premiership, has assembled a team which he believes can compete at that higher level.
Riders accumulate a points average based on past performances, and these averages are used to determine which riders a team can sign – up to the value of 50 points, so the equivalent of every Premier League football club having a £50 million maximum budget to assemble a team.
The Rebels have chosen not to sign a ‘big hitter’, one super points scorer, but have opted for balance through the line-up.
“We can let one go and beat the rest,” said May. “We know we have a good team.
“You can win leagues with strength in depth.
“We come here to win this league... As long as everyone does their job I think we’ll be OK.”
Captain Grajczonek echoed those thoughts, saying there was “no doubt” he’d come back, and was eager to start after the winter break.
“There’s no pressure on us this year, we want to go out and have fun like last season,” he added.
“We’re looking at the top four [playoffs] – that’d be great.”
New boy Hougaard had a tough time last season, with financial difficulties at Leicester, but he said he hopes to make a fresh start in Somerset, and already feels welcome.
He added: “Reading the press and online, not many people believe in us, they think we’ll finish bottom, but if we hit form at home, I can’t see why we can’t surprise some people.”
That was a message reflected by Starke, who hails from Hereford and has been with the Rebels since 2014.
He said: “We’re all hungry and I think we’ll prove a lot of people wrong.
“We deserve to be in the top flight and we’re looking forward to the challenge.
“People underrating us can only be a good thing, as we have great riders, management and club set-up here.”
The club hope that more derbies (against Poole and Swindon for example) and big name riders will bring greater crowds and more sponsorship, and they look to get the season off to a flying start with the Premiership Pairs.
That competition is being hosted by the Oaktree Arena on March 31, with the Rebels represented by Patrick Hougaard and Rohan Tungate.