New Zealand and the World Team Cup 1974
In 1973, Ivan Mauger was not just dumped as Captain of the Great Britain side for the World Team Cup Final, he was dumped from the team altogether! The use of Colonial riders for GB had served its purpose. The World Team Cup Final was held for the first time in 1960 and from 1968, when GB won for the first time, here is the score;
1968. Wembley. UK.
1969. Rybnik. Poland.
1970. Wembley. UK.
1971. Wroclaw. Poland.
1972. Olching.West Germany.
So from the first time GB won the Gold Medals, Kiwis were taken for granted. Ronnie Moore had been selected for the Finals of 1969 & 1970 but was injured and unable to ride. Briggo was selected for 1972 but injury meant he missed out. So a very Commonwealth thread, no more so than 1971 when only one Pom, Ray Wilson was selected. And yes, he stole the show with a maximum but without the Kiwis and Australia's Jim Airey, it would not have been a Golden effort.
The 1973 GB team picked itself. World Finalists IVAN MAUGER, Ray Wilson, Peter Collins and Australian John Boulger. The reserve could be anyone; Malcolm Simmons, Terry Betts, Dave Jessup or Martin Ashby.
HOWEVER, the selectors had other ideas. England had won the 7 nation Daily Mirror World League competition. The Final at Wembley saw England V Sweden and after a draw, Peter Collins won the run-off from Anders Michanek. The Swede dubiously being excluded for putting his opponent in the fence.
Australia and New Zealand had made the Semi Finals. After that, it was decided that an all England team would represent Great Britain in the World Team Cup Final at Wembley. Mauger and Boulger were gutted. Ivan later said he could not have ridden anyway because of injury. That was rubbish ! Had he been selected, he would have been there with bells on his steel shoe. The result;
1973. Wembley. UK.
So, in 1974, the Commonwealth teams would go head to head in a qualifying round with the winner going direct to the Final. The date for this event was set for Thursday, August 8th, the venue being Ipswich, UK. The Kiwi side was to be IVAN MAUGER, BARRY BRIGGS, RONNIE MOORE, GRAEME STAPLETON, res BRUCE CRIBB. Remember that GARY PETERSON was not in the UK that season. FREDDIE TIMMO's career was over. After 10 matches for his beloved Oxford, injury hit and he was out. ROGER WRIGHT, who really enjoyed riding at Ipswich got no call and it was interesting that FRANK SHUTER was not in the team. Anyone know why ? Ronnie had flown over especially for the event. The big day came but so did the rain.
Nearing kick off, most of the teams were there and thousands waiting to get in. Some riders were late because of heavy traffic but were in time for the start. The rain did stop and frantic efforts were made to get the track in a race worthy condition. The meeting could have gone ahead but the referee said no. Ipswich promoter John Berry said he was "shocked" by that decision. The re-staging was Sunday, August 11. Two riders had a big problem with this. Ivan Mauger and Barry Briggs had Continental bookings that they would not cancel. Mauger later wrote,
"Briggo and I had contracts to race in Europe. Contracts we could not and would not break. We pointed out that Ipswich's alternative race day was a Tuesday and the re-staging should be held then. All the other riders were available. But no, Sunday it was and Briggo and I missed out."
Barry Briggs also wrote,
"Several prominent British promoters condemned us for missing the hastily arranged Sunday meeting but we always insisted we had the [ tacit ] permission of the Control Board representative at Ipswich that night to go abroad as we usually did on the Sabbath to cash in on our reputations. It wasn't a question of the money, it was all about honouring my commitment to appear. You must honour your word or you'll be out of bookings."
This for both riders was a 'Catch 22'. But whatever side you take, it was a disaster for New Zealand when they pulled out. Team manager Trevor Redmond had to work quick and he did. Again, no sign of FRANK SHUTER. DAVE GIFFORD and ROBIN ADLINGTON were brought in to complete the line up. Then Redmond himself was unable to make the meeting and the Kiwi manager for the day was the well respected, former England international rider, Howdy Byford. In this amazing character, the Kiwis were in safe hands. Thankfully the rain stayed away and a huge crowd thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon's entertainment. Here's how it went;
Heat 1. Collins, Valentine, CRIBB, Harkins.
NEW ZEALAND 6
It was a brilliant meeting with all the ingredients to make it so. Drama, thrills and spills. None bigger than poor Jim McMillan who went head first into the fence in his first race. The Kiwis did their best. This was from day one, always going to be a competition as to who would be 3rd or last. England and Australia were at full strength. They would fight for the Final place. It was New Zealand and Scotland to see who could avoid the wooden spoon. And without MAUGER and BRIGGS, the dye was cast. Mauger was a sure bet for 11 or even 12 points. Even on a bad day, 8 or 9 points would be his. Briggo was up for 7 or 8 points. Without these two, the Kiwis were flightless indeed.
Ipswich promoter John Berry was scathing at the time. Decades later, he would write,
"Both Ivan and Barry through the years had caused a great deal of angst among the British promoters through their independent and often belligerent stances on a number of issues. My own attitude was simple. I had no personal animosity towards them, but Ivan and Barry were in the opposite corner from me. I was a promoter, they were riders. We saw things from different perspectives. Their argument justifying missing the restaged meeting was that they had accepted a contract to ride abroad on the Sunday whereas they had been unaware of the Ipswich restage date. Now, many years later, I can see their dilemma and have discussed the situation with them. While accepting they were bound to have to disappoint somebody, I reasoned then, as I reason now, that they owed quite a lot to British speedway. It had provided them with the training and the bread and butter income over many years, which in turn had enabled them to enjoy the jam of their individual exploits on the Continent. In this one instance, I felt they should have given their loyalty to their country and to the World Team Cup event. Even after all these years, both men maintain their stance as witnessed by mentions in their recent books. Perhaps I feel less strongly about it after all these years, but I am sure it will surprise nobody when I say, when asked, my thoughts may well have mellowed but not changed."
So, the debate continues to this day. While Mauger and Briggs got their jam, the rest slaughtered the Kiwi lamb.
For the record, here is the result for the Final. Terry Betts was out with injury and replaced by Malcolm Simmons.
1974. Katowice. Poland.
This article was first published on 11th December 2016
"Interesting to read John Berry's views on Ivan and Briggo missing the Sunday meeting because of an earlier contract agreement. If the boot had been on the other foot, and their commitment had been to race in one of Berry's promotions, would he have been as keen on them breaking their contract with him to race elsewhere? I seriously doubt it!"
"Enjoyed reading the article Tracy. Frank Shuter was injured in a league match at Ipswich on 25 July. He didn't return to league racing until 16 August so this is probably the reason why he wasn't in the NZ team."
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