1 – Chad Reed
At the top of the list, it wouldn’t be right to not put the series champion. Despite a lackluster performance in Sydney that netted the #22 just 5th overall, Reed rebounded in spectacular fashion in New Zealand, capturing a convincing 1-1-1 performance en route to sealing the inaugural championship by two points. The interesting thing to note is the difference in track condition between the two circuits, along with the size differentials. Reed has always been big on bike setup, so perhaps his RMZ 450 performed better in the softer conditions. Or maybe the skill of the dual world champ came more into play when there was more to lose and gain on a larger circuit. Who really knows? The fact is, even at 36 years old, Reed is looking mighty fast heading into 2019. How many more times will this guy come down to Australia and win? Until he’s 50?!
2 – Jason Anderson
Really the only reason why Anderson doesn’t top the list is because he didn’t compete in NZ. The reality is that the Husqvarna rider absolutely waxed the field in Sydney, with his intensity across all three mains being the standout factor against his competition. He might be laid back off track, but something happens when he puts that helmet on, and he becomes a whole new animal. Juxtaposed to the intensity is the consistency, which arguably earned him the 2018 World Championship. In Sydney, at no real point in time did he look out of control or riding on the ragged edge, yet he still had a handle on the field. That’s a frightening prospect for all of his competitors come 2019.
3 – Dean Wilson
The amount of love Wilson receives when he is in Australia, without hearing him talk, you might as well think he is an Aussie. The crowd goes absolutely wild for the #15, which could be put down to a few reasons. One; he really does go the extra mile with fans. He’s definitely one of the most approachable riders, and will give everyone the same amount of time of day. Two; his incredible comeback story. Everyone loves an underdog, and Wilson really is exactly that. He blasted onto the pro scene in 2008 after a successful amateur stint with Kawasaki’s Team Green program, to then transition into Pro Circuit Kawasaki. An outdoor championship followed in ’10, however after that, things really began to derail. Failed teams, injuries, injuries and more injuries led to the Scotsman being ride less. Despite the drama, Wilson carried on, and continues to do so, which garners him a lot of respect from people worldwide. Three; he’s just a good dude. Take your pick.
4 – Hayden Mellross
It has to be said, Mellross’ performance in Auckland was insane. The dude lined up on a Husqvarna 350 against some of the most established stars in the sport, and not only held his own, but put it to them! When it was all said and done, Mellross ended up runner up to none other than Chad Reed. The issue with the New South Welshman is that he’ll put in incredible performances like these, but it’ll be a little too long between drinks. If he could just do something (perhaps not AS spectacular every time) like this more consistently, it’d be hard to say that he wouldn’t have a ride in the United States.
5 – Ryan Marmont
Perhaps a bit of an unexpected pick, but this guy absolutely killed it across both rounds. In Sydney, he raced the two stroke cup and crushed the field on each and every outing – he looked like a guy who’d be right at home battling in the SX2 pro class! With that being said, that’s exactly what he did in NZ. Granted the field was more depleted in NZ then Sydney, it was still nevertheless an incredible performance, as he slotted his KTM into P2 behind stable mate, Dakota Alix. Marmont did only retire from full time competition a couple years ago, however seeing him race really looked as though he hadn’t missed a beat. Maybe he told everyone that he had retired, but continued to pound out laps waiting for this opportunity to arise so he could wax everyone…congrats, Doggy!