THE irony of Darcy Ward’s relationship with speedway is as heart-warming as it is cruel.

By his own admission, the imperious shows put on by the 23-year-old following his return in June were “probably the best I had ever ridden”.

But on August 23, that paper-thin line between stomach-churning crash and life-changing tragedy was crossed.

The Aussie ace, world speedway’s brightest prospect and in reality its biggest asset, had his thrill-seeking life turned upside-down in a heartbeat.

Three months after suffering substantial spinal injuries, Ward accepts he may never walk again, let alone straddle the saddle that saw him get thousands out of their seats with his customary daredevil manoeuvres.

The danger that draws in the punters ended the career of a man who lived on a bike with no brakes – nobody could have blamed Ward for washing his hands of the sport.

But along with dedicated girlfriend Lizzie Turner, speedway has helped Ward through his darkest hours to reach the point where he can now accept his fate.

Opening his heart exclusively to the the Daily Echo, Ward revealed: “It has probably taken two months. I can say I accept it now but some days aren’t very good.

“In the long run, there is nothing I can do and that’s the hardest thing. I cannot change it no matter how much money I get or how good the doctors are.

Bournemouth Echo:

  • The Pledgie account for contributions to Darcy Ward's fighting fund can be found HERE

“The first month and a half was nothing really. The speedway season was still going so there was always a chance to watch the play-offs, the Grand Prix and there was always something about me which was nice.

“Once the speedway season was over, Lizzie finished work and has been with me every night since. She is the main reason I have been able to accept things and that I am still cheery in a way.

“My parents and brother have had to return home because of work so if Lizzie wasn’t there, I probably wouldn’t get up or go to physio for four hours a day. She’s a cheery face.”

The aftermath of that fateful night in Zielona Gora remains “a blur” to Ward, such was the amount of medication required to manage the pain.

But the crash itself remains etched in his mind, perhaps with the benefit of footage that he decided to watch back.

Bournemouth Echo:

“I remember the crash but I don’t remember the night,” he added. “I wanted to move to the outside but my team-mate (Patryk) Dudek was there so I didn’t.

“I don’t really remember hitting a hole or making a mistake, I just remember clipping (Artem) Laguta’s back wheel and tumbling.

“You don’t really notice anything when you fall, there’s too much going on. I came to a stop and people ran up asking if I was alright.

“I couldn’t feel anything but I could tell I had broken my arm. That was sore but I couldn’t feel anything else.

“I remember going to the hospital and that’s it, I can’t remember anything else until I woke up.

Ward continued: “Early morning I came round, say 2am. I remember Joe Parsons from Monster being there with Chris (Holder) and my mechanics.

“It was pretty much a blur until the Monday night. From then I was pretty conscious but I didn’t really think about things, I was pretty drugged up and just trying to get through the day I guess.

“I didn’t think the crash was that nasty (at the time) but it was. You can see why I am injured the way I am.

“I don’t think I could have done anything different. It was just something so little that happened.

“I have thought about everything. I probably shouldn’t have signed for Zielona Gora, I made a lot of enemies among my Torun fans but wanted to be a big name at a big club and go for the play-offs, that was part of my decision.

“What would have happened if I hadn’t signed there? I had so many other options but it seemed like the best one at the time.

“I look back at a lot of things. What if some things in my life, other decisions I have made would have changed a little bit, would I have made that mistake that day? But I can’t dwell on that.”

Bournemouth Echo:

Mentally, day-to-day life remains a lottery but Ward’s flurry of offers to remain in speedway give him a focal point for his painstaking rehabilitation.

“I think the bad days start with the mornings,” said Ward. “They suck for me, not being able to get up when you wake. I have to wait for Lizzie to get me ready.

“It’s hard waking up and being in bed for maybe half an hour if we’re quick but realistically, it’s an hour to have breakfast, get dressed.

“That’s the hardest part, not being able to get up and think ‘right, the day has started’, that doesn’t happen anymore.”

With the winter weather biting and property prices drastically lower back home, Ward’s immediate plan is to settle back in Australia for now.

But look out Neil Middleditch, your protégé is out for your job! Ward has revealed taking the pen and programme when the Poole Pirates team manager calls time is top of his wish list.

“The weather is stinging me. Everyone’s sat in the lounge feeling really hot but I’m not because I can’t tell. I’m not sure if I’m numb or cold,” he added.

“I think we’re going to buy a house back home, live up on the Gold Coast and just try to start a new life but the plan is to come back every year and be a part of the sport as best we can.

“I know Matt (Ford, Poole promoter) plans to keep my meeting going and I want to get involved in that, to get the best riders and put up some good prizes to make it fun.

“In maybe three or four years when things have really settled down for me, we might sell up and move back.

“Before the cold weather hit, I had planned to buy a place here and help Matt with team selection.

“I go to his house and he asks what I think. Matt keeps me a part of it and wants to know my opinion, which means a lot to me. I can’t thank him enough. He is a top, top bloke.

“Middlo’s going to have to step down eventually. I have spoken to Matt about being team manager when Middlo says it’s over, which will probably never happen.

“Matt couldn’t believe it. That’s what he wants and for sure, I do as well.

“Building a life back home in the sun near the water seems too good but then there’s not being so close to the speedway world and we have to consider Liz’s family too.

“There are so many unanswered questions in my life at the moment. Either way, I still plan to come back each summer.”

Meanwhile, Ward was keen to thank his army of supporters across the globe and in particular, those who have helped to start rebuild his life.

Bournemouth Echo:

“I want to give mega thanks to Middlo, Suzi (Middleditch) and Matt, and of course Lizzie for being absolutely amazing,” he said.

“My parents for coming over, and my brother, I couldn’t imagine what might have been without them.

“For the first month, my mechanics were by my bed every day. My financial adviser, Steve Hall, deals with the biggest superstars in the world but still has time for me. It’s pretty amazing.

“Mark Lemon (Australia’s national team manager) has done so much behind the scenes and Chris (Holder) has been a real inspiration. There are so many people just doing so much for me.

“I don’t know how to take it all on board to be honest. It’s the same in Australia – family, friends, sponsors, all sorts of people that helped me get to where I am doing it all over again.

“Maybe it shows what an impact I had on the sport.”

With hope and determination in his heart, here’s to that impact continuing...

  • The Pledgie account for contributions to Darcy Ward's fighting fund can be found HERE