DANNY Ford says it is “an absolute delight” to secure the services of Ben Cook for another year, and hopes he “embraces” his new role as Poole Pirates captain.

Cook has been named as the first member of Pirates’ 2024 septet, in what will be his fourth season at the club.

Arriving as a reserve in 2021, the Aussie gradually worked his way up into the main body of the team, then heat leader last year.

And in 2024, the 26-year-old will take on the captaincy, replacing the outgoing Steve Worrall. Danny King was previously skipper during Cook’s early spell at Pirates.

Discussing Cook becoming Pirates’ first signing for next year’s SGB Championship campaign, promoter Ford told the Daily Echo: “It’s an absolute delight to welcome Ben back. It’s been truly fantastic to see his development as a rider.

“He came in in 2021 as a complete unknown. No-one would’ve heard of him within British speedway.

“We did our research, asked the people in the know over there in Australia and they said he’s definitely worth a runout. We took the chance on him.

“He came in at reserve in that first season in 2021, then 2022 was a second string, last season took on the role of a third heat leader and now club captain. It’s been incredible to see his progress. You see him grow not just as a rider, but as a person.

“That’s great and I know that the supporters have welcomed him and his riding style and he’s become a real fan favourite. I’m absolutely delighted to have him back.”

Cook totalled 315+23 from 164 races last season for Poole. His tally was significantly higher around Wimborne Road, where he racked up 178 of his points and 40 of his 60 race wins.

Asked about the Cowra-born ace’s form on the road, Ford said: “I think probably his only lapse now is consistency at two or three away tracks.

“To get up to that next level, that is probably the main thing he needs to work on this year, his consistency at those tracks for him.

“But you put him at any race track, any of the big, open tracks, at Poole, he’s incredibly dominant.

“You see probably one of the most exciting and talented racers in the league.

“If he can just iron out that inconsistency at certain tracks, I truly believe he will be one of the top riders in the league this season.”

Bournemouth Echo: Ben Cook has been confirmed as Poole Pirates' first signing ahead of the 2024 season

Quizzed on the decision to make Cook captain, Ford said: “It is a huge responsibility and a lot of pressure comes with it.

“Obviously being captain, there are those added responsibilities you’ve got to take on.

“He will be one of the more senior guys within the team. He certainly has more experience than most around Poole, so we’ll be looking for him to pass that on.

“He is really good in the pits, he does get the boys geed up and passes on what he can, but we’ll be looking for him to take that step a little bit further.

“When we spoke about it, it will be his fourth year with us, he will be the longest-standing Pirate in the team. So it made sense from our point of view.

“I do truly hope he takes on the role with open arms and embraces it.”