PIRATES chief Matt Ford unveiled Brady Kurtz as his first signing for 2018 before admitting the Australian star would be pushed hard for the number one berth.

Kurtz was Pirates' top performer in the score charts last season, piling more than 1.5 points on his average to finish on 8.08.

The 21-year-old club asset rode the final 10 meetings of the season in the spearhead role, seven of which yielded paid double-figure scores. In a brief stint at number one in June, he banked 10 paid 12 at home to Belle Vue.

The former Australian champion ended seventh in the SGB Premiership averages, an impressive feat considering he had been hampered by a broken rib midway through the campaign.

With that in mind, Ford had no hesitation in bringing back Kurtz. But he warned the New South Wales charger there would be fierce competition for number one billing next year.

Ford told the Daily Echo: "It was never in doubt. Brady was always the first name on the teamsheet for 2018.

"Only one rider is allowed to be over 8.00 and at this moment in time, perhaps we haven't got the best of them but the truth is he is improving quickly.

"He put a point and a half on his average from 2016 to 2017 and I see him continuing that progress next season.

"There are other riders who I hope to confirm in the line-up in the near future who will really push Brady for the number one role.

"There is a chance at least two of them will overtake him. But that type of competition is what you want.

"You don't want anyone sitting comfortably in any role so I'm really hopeful we will have a good campaign and Brady can be a massive part of that.

"He is a lovely lad and really easy to get on with. His team-mates love him. I see him being pivotal in our team for the next 10 years and he is certainly a very loyal person.

"Money doesn't come into it. We effectively had something in place before he even left the country and I'm really pleased how quickly it was done.

"It was a matter of one text message to each other to confirm what was going on."

Tipped by many as a Grand Prix racer of the future, Kurtz is due to ride his first full season in Poland's top flight with Leszno next year. In addition, he is set to make his debut in the Swedish top tier with Vetlanda.

Kurtz has had two full seasons in Pirates colours since joining on a full transfer from Somerset.

He started his inaugural British top-flight season on a 5.24 average, meaning he has beefed up his rating by nearly three points.

The youngster was a bargain option for 2017 as he was able to use his Premier League average of 7.65, with Ford preferring him to the likes of Kacper Gomolski and Troy Batchelor.