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HERE are 42 kilometres of unbroken silky-sanded beaches that make up the Gold Coast of Australia.

TOne glance at Ryan Douglas and you’d accept him in the blistering heat casually adorning Surfers Paradise, board under arm, Oakley sunnys on, fluorescent Billabong singlet, Rip Curl shorts, thongs and sinking a tinny, chucking a shrimp on the barbie.

He is a walking, talking Home and Away soap opera stereotype. Blond hair, aqua eyes, abs and so laidback, he’s more horizontal than a limbo dancer.

In fact, just four years ago, Dougie was more than happy to return to that life and ready to quit the rigours of UK speedway.

The toils of several horror crashes, major broken bones, visa issues and bitter British weather were no match for the sun, sea, sand of Brisbane.

But he was mentored by two Aussie racing legends, returned with new verve and is now a big-hitter in the Premiership and Championship with Wolves and Scunthorpe.

Douglas, 28, is thankful for that sliding doors moment. He told me: “When I first came over to Scunthorpe I started going okay. But I kept getting injured and breaking a lot of femurs, legs and stuff like that. That kind of slowed me down and I lost confidence for a few years.

“I thought I was slowly getting better but racing in only one league I never made the progress I wanted to.

“To be honest, I was pretty over it at the time. I didn’t have my best season at the time. I was looking forward to going home and just riding for fun really.

“I had a few months where I didn’t really ride. I started speaking to Darcy (Ward) about things, I then got on a bike again. I was enjoying it.

“My parents and family are also a massive support to me. They’ve always believed in me and wanted me to keep riding, but were happy for me to do whatever I wanted.

“I had that year off, I’ve got good people around me who support me. Darcy Ward and Davey Watt helped me during that year away from the UK.

“I then started doing well in Australia and felt like I could have another good go at it.

“I worked on some things and came back and started again fresh. I came back to the UK and it was a decent season. I thought I was going to do better even though that was probably my best.

“Darcy just told me to pretend it was my first season. I did that and learned a few things, it was a bonus. I made some good progress. I

How the influence of Aussie racing legends changed the life of Ryan Douglas into a big-hitter. By PHIL LANNING

Ry was still expecting to do better.

“This year has obviously started on fire and I still feel like I’ve got more in me. I’m just trying to take it as it comes.

“I didn’t have too high expectations, just to improve myself and I managed to keep doing that.

“I’ve now got to the level that if I keep progressing, I’m going to be in a pretty good place.”

After being talked out of chilling on the beach for the rest of time by racing pal Ward, there is a clear line in the sand when Dougie returned to the UK with his influence.

He has come back with extra purpose, style and scoring power. After missing out in 2018, the first year back brought a Championship title with Leicester and a strong first top flight season at Monmore Green.

Following on from the pandemic-wrecked 2020, Douglas continued his blistering form last year, improving consistency at the same clubs. Now he has embarked on racing in the Polish second tier as he aims to progress even further on the international scene.

It shouldn’t be overlooked that he finished runner-up to Max Fricke in the Australian Under-21 Championship in 2014. He has the pedigree to get to the highest level.

He continued: “Darcy taught me a lot about preparation and things off the bike. On the bike it was about my body position and what I’m doing with my legs. Before I didn’t really have an idea, I’d probably go out and if I wasn’t doing any good I wouldn’t know why.

“I didn’t really feel like I was in heaps of control sometimes and if you feel like that, you can’t ride as fast as you want. Then I slowed it down a bit and thought about these things and I got more comfortable about the way I was trying to ride the bike. If you feel comfortable it’s much easier to go fast.

“I want to be the best I can be. I’m starting in

2 speedway star May 21, 2022

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