ANDERS Rowe and Rory Schlein scooped the awards at the Somerset Rebels' 2019 end of season event, and were confirmed as 2020 starters by club owner Debbie Hancock, writes Stephen Allen.

On being announced as a returnee, Schlein – who scooped the Rider of the Year accolade and the Bob Taylor Memorial Cup as the Fastest Rider of the Year – informed the gathering of around 100 fans and sponsors that the 2020 campaign would be his last in British speedway.

He said: "You guys here tonight will be the first to learn of my decision to head off back to Australia after next season, but I am delighted that I can spend my last season here again at Somerset as I really enjoyed my time here this year.

"It's a fair track, it always has been and it is one of those places that is always going to provide that little bit of magic."

Seventeen-year-old Anders Rowe was on his feet more than anyone during the presentation ceremony, as he first scooped the inaugural Social Media Rider of the Year (sponsored by John and Nicola Doble of Stephen & Co Block Management), an award voted for by the fans through the club's social media, before then being called up again by the Somerset Riders' Fund organisers to receive their award.

Rowe said: "I am overwhelmed. Looking at some of the names on this trophy I can see that there have been some great past winners, and so I am absolutely delighted and honoured to be among them."

Rowe also won the Track Staff Rider of the Year vote, presented to him by Roy Kear, who said: "We are giving the award to the rider who was absolutely no hassle to us all season."

Rowe's final award was the Most Improved Rider of the Year, in which he received 100 per cent of the vote – no real surprise given that he converted his assessed two-point average into a 4.38 green sheet figure despite having to step into the main body of the team and ride at the tricky number two berth for much of the campaign.

The teenager added: "I said at the start of the season my goal was to build on my average and I achieved that.

"I was also given the chance to be in the main part of the side when [team manager] Garry May had to make his changes.

"He gave me that chance and I was determined to make the most of it.

"I spoke with Mum and Dad about it at the time and told them I knew it could mean scoring 0 0 0 each meeting, but I wanted to give it a go and try to prove myself.

"I had a good 2019 season. I won the National League Riders' title and also represented my country, as well as getting the number one slot at Kent, so I can be pretty pleased with it all.

"Now it is about kicking on from here in 2020 and I am delighted again to get the chance with the Rebels."

While the confirmation of the return of Rowe and Schlein was universally applauded, they weren't the first signings of the season to be announced.

That honour went to seven-year-old Oliver Bovingdon, who was confirmed as the 2020 club mascot and gave a very professional interview for one so young.

Nico Covatti was voted the Most Entertaining Rider but he was not able to attend the function and so Bev Walters received the award on his behalf.

Also present at the evening was 2019 late recruit Nathan Stoneman, who said: "Joining late in the year meant it was something of a catching up game for me but I had always wanted to make the step up to the Championship and was delighted to have been given the chance.

"Personally, I felt that I didn’t really make the strides that I had wanted but, hopefully the fans appreciated it, I went out there and gave 110 per cent every time I rode.

"It was all a bit surreal at first for there I was sat in a pit bay next to Chris Harris, the guy I had watched win a GP.

"Here I was in the same team as one of my heroes.

"I was a bit starstruck if the truth be told but I went out there and gave it my all.

"I am really hoping that I can get back into the Championship again for 2020, and if I can achieve that then once again I will be going out there and giving 110 per cent because I know no different."