NZ in the 1973 World League - Part 1
It was the best of tournaments, it was the wurst of tournaments. No hang on, the Krouts weren't there. And neither were the Scots! Bert Harkins was furious and pointed out that the England team should not have been wearing the Union Jack when no Scots were there. And rightly so! To make sure Ole Olsen was on show, there was a combined Norway/Denmark team. Why not Scotland/Denmark? Ole McOlsen?! Would have been as Glam as Gary Glitter!
The likes of this competition had never been seen before and has not been seen since. This from the Leicester programme, first match of the series, June 26, New Zealand V England. By Ron Beagley of the Daily Mirror:
'The world's top performers riding for the leading countries in the world. It all adds up to the Speedway Spectacular of the season, if not the decade and we at the Daily Mirror, with the speedway authorities of the world, are proud to present it to you at a time when the sport is booming not only in this country but all over the globe. When the idea of the Mirror Tournament was first raised, there were many who scored "the Poles won't come ... how are you going to get the Russians?" But the East European competitors jumped at the chance of challenging for world supremacy on the track. Just how much each country wants to win this prestigious event is shown by New Zealand and Australia. Both nations are flying star riders 12,000 miles to compete. The Kiwis are, happily, bringing over the great Ronnie Moore while Australia, desperate to hit the top of the Speedway world again, are flying in the former Sheffield favourite Jim Airey. Speedway has a reputation for being the sport the whole family can enjoy. The Daily Mirror, along with the Speedway authorities, wish you a wonderful time.'
England Team manager Len Silver was full of excitement,
"Without doubt, the Daily Mirror tournament is the finest thing to happen to speedway since the invention of the starting gate."
Doubt surrounded the appearance of Barry Briggs for the Kiwis, less than impressed by his treatment in the UK, as he was not riding in the British League, he had taken off to Germany. So in the programme, the teams were;
NZ. 1 Ivan Mauger. 2 Graeme Stapleton. 3 Ronnie Moore. 4 Bill Andrew. 5 Frank Shuter. 6 Gary Peterson. 7 Dave Gifford. Team manager: Trevor Redmond.
England. 1 Ray Wilson. 2 Terry Betts. 3 John Louis. 4 Martin Ashby. 5 Eric Boocock. 6 Malcolm Simmons. 7 Peter Collins. Team Manager: Len Silver.
This was how Bill Cooper reported events for Speedway Star;
'Great disappointment at Leicester when for the second week running, rain was the spoiler, making the England V NZ encounter a non-starter. The weather not only robbed the fans of a first-class fixture, but also the chance of seeing Barry Briggs make his return to the track. And for the benefit of the unbelievers, I can assure them; Barry was definitely there!'
[ Briggs had ridden in the Daily Express Spring Classic at Wimbledon on April 19. ]
It would be interesting to see who would have stepped down to allow Briggs to ride. Ronnie Moore said,
"The tight schedule for the World League was such that it was not possible to stage the match at a later time and it was treated as a draw. As it turned out, this was to NZ's advantage because we were slow to settle down and probably would have been beaten."
Two nights later at Wimbledon, there was a non-tournament challenge organized by Bert Harkins. Wimbledon V Scottish Select. This was a good opportunity for Ronnie to get some extra race fitness. And for Harkins, Jim McMillan and George Hunter in particular, to show the organizers what they were missing. Philip Rising reported for Speedway Star; "Anyone who thinks Scotland are not capable of fielding an International side should think again. "
Heat 1. Moore, Harkins, Trigg, B Collins.
"As a gesture, I was asked to step in and captain Wimbledon for the night. It was like old times. The Scottish boys put up a great fight before we beat them 42-36. I just missed a maximum. Jimmy McMillan broke my hitherto unbeaten run in the sixth heat but he had to record the fastest time of the night to do it. I seemed to be well on the road to top form, although I knew I would still have difficulty on some of the more demanding tracks."
The Kiwis would get their first action at Wolverhampton on June 29, taking on the Nordic Night-riders.
This article was first published on 23rd April 2019
"I remember this tournament really well Tracy despite only being 9 at the time. My main memories are of the Eastern European riders I'd never heard of before - the riding style of Zenon Plech, and the hard riding Russians (Grigori Chlynovski in particular) - and who could forget how it all ended with the run off controversy between Collins & Michanek. Great memories..."
"Re the World League and Scotland. Not only were the Scots denied a place in the tournament, guess which BL1 track was the only one not to stage a match? Yep the only Scottish one, Coatbridge. Some tracks even had two qualifying matches! Considering the Scots had McMillan, Hunter, Beaton, Harkins and Collins all in the top division, I don't think they would've been outclassed"
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