DARCY Ward has warned Pirates fans he is weeks away from being at the top of his game on a speedway bike as the Aussie star prepares to make his 2014 Elite League bow tonight.
Poole’s number one endured a stop-start opening to the season following a spill in the New Zealand Grand Prix in April, which left him with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament.
While he has raced in the two other Grand Prix rounds since and sporadically on the continent, Ward’s left knee woes have meant he has only been an interested spectator at Wimborne Road so far this year.
However, that will change when Pirates take on visitors Coventry (7.30pm) and the 22-year-old Queenslander is keen to play down expectations of an explosive return to the British top flight.
Ward told the Daily Echo: “The injury is fresh and I’m still getting back into the routine of things, so it’s something that’s going to be there for a while and I can’t avoid it.
“For the next three weeks, I’m not expecting to be going as well as I was but after I get some bike time and get into the groove of things, I think I will be back to my best.
“I still want to do well but I’ve got to try and stay safe because things have changed now. I’ve got to try and do my best to nurse the knee through and take it easy.
“The left leg is key for balancing and when you come into a corner you’ve got to put it down and it can hit a couple of bumps.
“It’s uncomfortable so it’s definitely changed my style a little bit. At the moment I’m not sure how far I can go with it or how things are going to work out.”
Ward will re-assume the captaincy – a role performed by Maciej Janowski in his absence – and is the only change to a Pirates side that is tracking the same reserves in back-to-back meetings for just the second time this season.
Coventry, who have lost four of their past five meetings, include ex-Pirates duo Hans Andersen and Kyle Howarth in their line-up.
Meanwhile, Pirates have confirmed their first Elite League visit to Leicester on Bank Holiday Monday will be a 3pm start.
Pirates: Darcy Ward, Josh Grajczonek, Shamek Pawlicki, Vaclav Milik, Maciej Janowski, Ben Hopwood, Kyle Newman.
Bees: Hans Andersen, Chris Harris, Kenneth Hansen, Ryan Fisher, Kyle Howarth, Jason Garrity, James Sarjeant.