Matt Ford confirmed Josh Grajczonek would return at Pirates captain for the club’s 2019 title defence, before describing criticism of the Aussie’s 2018 campaign “unjust”.

The 28-year-old led the Pirates to an incredible 70th anniversary title triumph last term, but came under fire from some supporters on social media as the club struggled early in the campaign.

Yet on the four occasions Grajczonek has appeared in the Pirates one-to-seven (2013, 2014, 2015 and 2018), the club has won the league title.

Ford, who confirmed Grajczonek’s place in his 2019 septet on a 6.70 average, said: “At the start of last season, Josh took a lot of criticism from some of the home fans and I felt that was completely unjust. Josh went on to show what he is capable of and what people don’t know, they make up.

“He achieved a decent return and was Mr Reliable in the number two position that everyone seems to hate. He’s been in my team for four separate seasons, three times from the beginning and once as a mid-season replacement for Dave Watt who was injured, and on all four occasions we have won the league.There are certain riders that you know what you are going to get from. It’s not a coincidence that we won those four titles when Josh was in the team. He’s a really great lad, very well liked by all of his team-mates and so I have to say, from my perspective, he was always a nailed on certainty as captain again in 2019.”

Townsville-born Grajczonek joins reserves Nico Covatti and Nikolaj Busk Jakobsen, as well as fellow Aussies Jack Holder and Brady Kurtz, in the 2019 Pirates septet.

Ford confirmed his remaining two riders for the new campaign would be announced before Christmas.

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