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Poole Pirates feature: Legend Craig Boyce bows out with a final flourish
THE temptation was too great for Craig Boyce.
On his last lap of the track he has called home since 1988, he couldn’t resist the opportunity for a final flourish.
With no helmet, wearing jeans and a jacket, Boyce just had to give it a bit of throttle down the back straight.
The Pirates faithful loved him for it. And when it comes to the Poole legend, that affection will never go away.
His farewell circuit of Wimborne Road was memorable and rightly so for the Dorset club’s ultimate servant.
One of many Australians brought to England by Neil Street, Boyce quickly joined Poole. And the rest is history.
Now, 25 years on, Boyce received the adulation he deserved ahead of his permanent move back Down Under.
And while Pirates supporters cheered their hero to the rafters, it soon became apparent that the warm feelings were mutual as Boyce fondly reflected on his glittering Pirates career.
He told the Daily Echo: “I guess I will always look back to when I threw my leg over a bike down there. I think it was March 13, 1988. I got offered a team spot after the press day and that is where it all started.”
Boyce went on to smash the club’s all-time point-scoring record and his mammoth tally of 4,498 – more than 900 ahead of nearest challenger Bjarne Pedersen – is unlikely to be beaten.
“Over the years, we won the league and Knockout Cup a couple of times and I won the Blue Riband once,” said Boyce. “I did a lot of seasons on and off at Poole and the points record is a great achievement and one I am pretty proud of.”
There was something fitting about Boyce waving goodbye to the Pirates crowd at last week’s Blue Riband, ahead of swapping his Chandler’s Ford base for his native Sydney in December.
A former winner of the prestigious individual event, the 46-year-old watched as Darcy Ward, Poole’s latest Australian hero, stormed to the title. Chris Holder, another Pirates wizard of Oz, was also present.
Boyce certainly blazed a trail. And during his racing retirement, it is a path to Poole which he intends to ensure young compatriots keep treading.
“Neil Street was probably the one man responsible for my career and how it took off,” said Boyce. “I am indebted to him.
“Neil took me under his wing, being an Australian, and he helped me through my career and then I also rode for him in the Australian team.
“Hopefully, I will be able to entice a few more people to come and join Poole in the future and look out for some more young guns in Australia.
“I have always done that and it was probably one of the reasons Chris went there and some of the others. It has always been that way.”
If any future Australian stars achieve half of what Boyce managed, they will have done well. The 46-year-old earned his place in Pirates’ Hall of Fame by representing the club for no fewer than 13 seasons, spanning his debut year in 1988 to his final campaign in 2007.
Boyce, who climbed to world number three during his time with Pirates in 1994, added: “The memories include learning the ropes in 1988 under the old promotion of Merv Stewkesbury and Pete Ansell and being enticed to British speedway by those guys.
“And then, of course, riding with a fistful of team-mates. I can’t even remember all the guys I rode with because there were so many in and out of the team.
“It has been really good. I can’t complain. I have had a hell of a life down there. I have a great time when I go back to Poole and always have done. I retired six years ago and probably haven’t gone there as much as I should have.
“But I went down to watch the grand final first leg and it was outstand-ing. The boys were on fire.
“It is always pleasing for me to go and watch Poole do really well.
“If I had my way, they would win everything.”
After watching his beloved Pirates regain the Elite League title, Boyce will head home a happy man.
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