Rhys proved to have a significant talent for the sport, and was soon among the top ranks of local competitors, winning the NZ under-21 solo championship in 1992 and 1993
growing up. Along with other bike events we regularly used to go along to were the Saturday night speedway meetings at Ruapuna. Bike training courses run by former world champion Ronnie Moore were advertised there, and as a late teenager I gave it a go.”
Rhys proved to have a significant talent for the sport, and was soon among the top ranks of local competitors, winning the NZ under-21 solo championship in 1992 and 1993. This fired him up enough to consider a career as a professional rider in the booming British speedway league, so in 1993 he took off overseas to have a look at the scene. In between his own riding stints he supplemented his income by working as a mechanic on the bikes of Neil Evitts, a British rider who he’d befriended when Neil was riding in NZ the previous summer.
The mechanic work wasn’t fulltime, so he also worked for Evitts’ father….who ran a small transport company. It was a challenging but fulfilling job, he recalls: “I drove a two-tonner Mercedes-Benz dropside, delivering steel pressings from an engineering company in Birmingham to the various car manufacturers who were still operating in the city at that time – Rover, Land Rover, Jaguar and the like. It was things like chassis crossmembers and suspension components, topping up the stocks of the assembly operations.
“There was a lot of time pressure because the components were always needed in a hurry, and it was quite a challenge finding a way around the city and in and out of the various factories, but I loved it.”
Rhys had two summer seasons in Britain before deciding that maybe he wasn’t about to make it as a fulltime speedway rider. Instead, the two years of part-time driving left him with the belief that this might not be a bad career path.
Back home, he joined a small city courier firm, Pedal Express, driving a petrol-engined Ford Econoline van. It was hardly ideal for the job, he recalls, especially since it needed a fuel top-up every day.
He then shifted to running his own two-tonner for a local courier company, handling the metro delivery work for McDowall’s Freight. It was tough, he recalls: “I was getting less than what our drivers are making these days and, out of that, carrying the cost of running my own vehicle.”