DUDLEY Heathens will be led by Ashley Morris in 2013 – having taken the agonising decision to release Tom Perry from their team plans.

Heathens will go into the new National League season with Morris taking over as No.1 and captain after club bosses concluded their chances would be better served by building a line-up with greater all-round strength.

In other team news, Dan Greenwood has been re-signed but Darryl Ritchings has been released.

A team with Perry (9.88) and Morris (8.51) would account for approaching 50 per cent of the 40-point team building limit between just two riders, and this was felt to be too big a risk.

Club chairman Nigel Pearson said: “This has been the hardest decision imaginable for myself, Chris (Van Straaten) and Gary (Patchett) to take, but we all feel that to include both Ash and Tom would leave us just too top-heavy.

“Tom is simply paying the price for having too high an average, based entirely on his success in 2012, and that’s quite clearly unfair – but speedway has always been a numbers game, and he’s a victim of the system on this occasion.

“We will now do everything we can to get him fixed up with another National League club, and also hopefully in the Premier League too, and we have absolutely no intention of selling him.

“Hopefully a year away will see him continue his rapid development as a rider and we look forward to seeing him back in our colours in the future. He’ll certainly be in our plans if we’re in a position to move into the Premier League in 2014.

“We all know how popular Tom is with the fans, and our intention is to invite him to race in the Golden Hammer and any other Open meetings that we stage.

“In the meantime, Ashley will be our No.1 and captain and we’re sure he’ll do a fine job for us. Ashley made good, steady progress again this year, his average certainly suits us better and he’s also hugely popular so we’re delighted to have the opportunity of working with him for a fourth season.”

Ritchings has also been a casualty of the team re-building and he is expected to join another club in the next few days.

Co-owner Patchett, who is also in charge of Elite League Swindon, said: "We told Darryl on Thursday he may not fit into our plans but in all honesty, with my Swindon hat on, I do believe this will be a blessing for Darryl.

"He's a great lad with a lovely family who love it at Monmore and he's got the track weighed up superbly but a move to a different track won't be a bad thing.

“We agonised over this. It's an impossible situation for us all and there are more tough choices to come."