By Darren Cartwright
In greyhound racing parlance, Aleisha Turner’s social life has been ‘tightened and checked’, but her job satisfaction has soared after she gave away practising criminal law and civil litigation to be a steward.
A lawyer by profession, Aleisha is Deputy Chief Steward of Greyhound Racing with the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission (QRIC).
It was an abrupt career change for Aleisha, who went from seeking adjournments and out-of-court settlements on the Gold Coast to supervising greyhound weigh-ins and track inspections at Ipswich, Capalaba, and Albion Park.
Between turning her back on Gold Coast courts and becoming a steward, she was a member of QRIC’s legal department.
She was appointed to her current role in October 2021, having spent two years fine-tuning the craft at Gold Coast Turf Club meetings.
“I started just stewarding casually on the weekends because I felt I needed a bit more experience under my belt in respect to the racing side,” said Aliesha, pictured scanning two greyhounds.
“I also did six months on secondment as a full-time steward and getting that experience was invaluable.
“From there, I progressed to applying for the Deputy Chief role. It has been quite a journey for me throughout the Commission, and I am loving the role.”
As Deputy Chief Steward, when Aleisha is not officiating at Albion Park, Ipswich or Capalaba greyhound meetings, she is on-call every day.
Given most meetings in southeast Queensland are twilight or night engagements, she says there is an art to having a work-life balance.
“Unfortunately, between myself and the Chief, we’re basically on call all the time because there are meetings every single day of the week,” Aleisha said.
“So, I would say, my social life was not as strong as it used to be.
“But I'm really enjoying that side of it because I'm focused on this role and it’s a complete change.”
One of the few things stewarding has in common with the legal fraternity is that it is a male-dominated profession, Aleisha said.
Although that is all changing, with 15 women among the 73 stewards patrolling Queensland’s racetracks, across all three codes.
And in August an all-female panel will oversee a meeting at Albion Park greyhounds.
“I did find it to be very male-dominated, but I did not find that to be an issue in any way,” she said.
“They (the males) have always been so knowledgeable, so willing to assist, educate and share their knowledge.
“I have seen a huge transition with females coming into the industry and the number of female stewards has increased, even in the brief time I have been in the industry.
“It’s no longer as male-dominated.”
Soon after Aleisha was appointed a steward, former Tasmania jockey Sherry Barr joined the team.
Sherry spent almost two decades in the saddle as a professional jockey and track rider before becoming a steward.
Aleisha Turner (left) and Sherry Barr are two of 15 women who are Queensland racing stewards and the female numbers are rising.
As a steward, she spent more than two years covering all codes on the Apple Isle, before moving to Queensland to join QRIC’s panel where she officiates at the greyhounds.
“When I finished riding, I became a steward down there and did all three codes,” Sherry said.
“I did steward at the harness when I got here, but I like the greyhounds.”
For a typical Albion Park meeting, there are usually three stewards officiating, Aleisha said.
A day at the track for Aleisha would mean arriving three hours before the opening race, walking the track and scanning and identifying every dog.
Each greyhound is weighed and then inspected by a vet and kennelled.
“I'll scan and identify each dog who will then get on the scales to have their weight recorded,” she said.
“They then undergo a veterinary examination before being kennelled until their race.
“Another steward will scan each dog before a race, to identify them and make sure they are in the correct rugs.
“The first four runners in each race are scanned by another steward.
"So, in one night, each dog will be scanned three separate times by three different stewards.”
Every greyhound is scanned at least three times by three different stewards during a meeting.
The hectic pace of a greyhound meeting, where there can be fewer than 20 minutes between each race, makes it a challenging assignment every night, she said.
“There's just absolutely no chance to stop because you usually have 17 minutes between races,” she said.
“By the time you get back in the office to review the race and write up your report - we've got participants knocking on the door, club staff asking questions - before you know it someone says, “two minutes” to the next race.
“There is a lot more to do in a shorter time between races than the thoroughbreds.”
However, she is loving her role and hopes to see more women join the stewarding ranks, which is a fulfilling and fast-paced career.
“There are some fantastic females out there now, in what was predominantly a male industry, so it is great to see it all evolving so much. It has been fabulous,” she said.
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