August 23, 2015. The final round of the standing stage. Falubaz Zielona Góra is taken over by GKM Grudziądz. The final race, already decided in favor of the hosts, of the pear hat contest. Patryk Dudek and Darcy Ward chase the leading Artiom Łaguta. Pool at the wide, Australian at the Cretaceous. The latter has already approached the Russian, tries to overtake him, but grabs the rear wheel, falls on the track and tumbles against the wooden plank. An ambulance, hospital, broken voice of manager Jacek Frątczak in the magazine PGE Ekstraliga – these moments are remembered by almost all fans of black sports. Finally a monstrous diagnosis: spinal cord disruption. A speedway rider never returns to the sport.
Darcy Ward did not have to appear in this match. In fact, he wasn’t even going to sign a contract with Falubaz at first. Everyone thought that immediately after the end of the suspension, he would return to his beloved Toruń. He championed the colors of this team throughout his career, joining as a teenager. Ryan Sullivan, the former Unibax leader, saw his talent during a friendly in Australia. He immediately called coach Jacek Gajewski. “You have to sign a contract with that boy,” he explained over the phone.
The first training sessions in Motoarena proved that Copernicus, one of the greatest geniuses of his time, came to Toruń. He made his debut in the Angels line-up during the derby in Bydgoszcz. Toruń loved him at first sight. Between themselves. In their colors, Ward first won the individual junior world championship twice, then quickly promoted to the Grand Prix cycle. Pure snail diamond. It didn’t even require a very thorough sharpening.
Australian exotic duo – Chris Holder and Darcy Ward took over all of Toruń, not just the Motoarena. Stories of their lavish social lives appeared in the media, interspersed with news of their sporting successes. Returning from an all-night event, they burst into the stadium to race each other in civilian clothes with the lights out. Unibax authorities tried to separate them. Without success. They were like brothers to one speedway mom.
At one point, Ward went too far. A breath analysis prior to the Grand Prix tournament in Daugavpils showed that there was still alcohol in the 23-year-old’s body despite noon. The athlete later confessed to drinking the grief of his parents’ divorce the night before. This circumstance was not enough to mitigate the sentence – he was disqualified for 10 months.
He returned to the Polish league midway through the 2015 season. However, he did not supply Unibax, but Falubaz Zielona Góra. His return to Toruń would mean Chris Holder going to the bench. Ward didn’t even want to think about upsetting his friend. He chose the team’s offer, which fans have struggled with since the 2009 season, when he trampled a scarf thrown by someone from the stands after the Zielona Góra game. Fans of Falubaz have never forgiven him – they shouted vulgar cries of the snail rider even as he lay in torment during the meeting with GKM.
The 10-month break had a beneficial effect on him. The Australian commemorated his previous behavior, began to lead a more sporty lifestyle, even strictly following the advice of dieticians. High professionalism combined with great talent and hunger for racing created a really explosive mix. Ward became PGE Ekstraliga’s best player right after his return. “He is the future multiple world champion”, almost all experts agreed.
Unfortunately, we will never see his battle with Bartosz Zmarzlik for gold in the Grand Prix. It is true that Ward has not left the speedway – he is a promoter in Australia, supports the development of local juniors, but he will never race again. Today he is 30 years old. How many medals would he now have to his name if not for this unfortunate accident in an insignificant encounter with GKM?