The Witches' 2023 campaign was almost unbelievable. Their play-off hopes seemed to be finished by mid-season, but a late run of good form and a little fortune in the form of an incredible Peterborough performance against Leicester in September handed the Witches their opportunity.
Promoter Chris Louis and Team Manager Richie Hawkins have a close working relationship and have built an impressive side for the new campaign, with 5 riders retained from the side which finished as 2023 KO Cup winners and league runners-up.
One of the biggest stories of the 2023 season was the jaw dropping return of Emil Sayfutdinov to British Speedway. His partnership with Jason Doyle was feared by every other Sports Insure Premiership side, so Witches fans will be overjoyed by their return in 2024.
Sayfutdinov was just sensational everywhere he went - he was easily the most spectacular rider in the top league and it's fantastic news that the highly-likeable rider will race on UK shores once again. It's just a shame that he is still not allowed to compete at World Championship level through no fault of his own, as he would be a serious contender for the title.
GP star Doyle's loyalty to British Speedway has to be admired. Few riders of his calibre have committed to racing in the UK year after year, so he is a huge asset to British Speedway. Doyle is a class act - a brave, stylish rider who is feared by the opposition. Alongside Sayfutdinov, he forms the by far the strongest heat leader duo in the Sports Insure Premiership.
Also returning is club stalwart Danny King and Aussie youngster Keynan Rew. King is a reliable and gutsy performer who can beat the best on his day. He tends to thrive when given a grippy outside line, so track preparation can often determine whether the Witches get the best out of him on any given day.
Rew took a rather less traditional route into British Speedway to most of his compatriots after opting to start his professional league career in Poland. He is relatively tall for a speedway rider and his style tends to lend itself better to bigger tracks, but he can consider his maiden season in the UK at Ipswich to be a success. The 2022 Australian U21 Champion is only 20-years-old and his 4th place finish at World U21 level (SGP2) in 2023 demonstrates his huge potential.
Completing the Witches' top 5 is Brit Adam Ellis. Ellis is a very solid rider at this level and appears to be an astute signing on an average of just over five and a half points. His 2023 season with Sheffield was below-par by his standards, but he is much better than that and a return to a club he is familiar with should be a good move for both him and the Witches.
The Witches' reserve berths have been handed to Jordan Jenkins and returning Rising Star Dan Thompson.
22-year-old Brit Jenkins has progressed well over the last few seasons and really found his feet at Premiership level in 2023 with Peterborough, winning races regularly around the sadly now defunct Showground. He is a rider on the up, deserves his chance with the Witches and should be a solid reserve.
Thompson made some important contributions to the Witches' 2023 campaign, the stand out performance being a paid 13 point haul at Leicester at the end of July. He is still just 19-years-old, so it's pleasing to see the Rising Star system handing opportunities to young British riders like Dan who can progress further and be valuable to British Speedway for a long time.
The Witches have no obvious weak links in their team. They have a solid top 5 spearheaded by a fearsome top 2, with riders who can improve and capable reserves. There is every reason to believe that the Witches are capable of going one better in 2024 and they will be one of the favourites going into the new season.
WITCHES LINE UP FOR 2024:
Dan Thompson (RS)