By Jordan Gerrans
When club president and veteran trainer Graham Harriott suddenly passed away almost a decade ago, people kept asking his wife Ann-Maree why she was still so devoted to the Marburg Pacing Association.
Back in 2012, Graham, who had a strong team of horses in work to that day, died suddenly on the couples 40th anniversary holiday.
He collapsed right in front of Ann-Maree and tragically and suddenly, her husband of 40 years was gone.
Many around the local club expected Ann-Maree would slow up on her contribution and time spent at the Marburg Showgrounds.
Now into 2021, Ann-Maree was there before anyone else on Sunday morning ahead of the club’s big TAB race day, making sure everything in the canteen was spot on for the large crowd set to descend on Marburg.
Ann-Maree says she was there around 8am on race day to prepare and didn’t head home until after 5pm.
Her daughter, Madonna, and granddaughter, Grace, reckon Ann-Maree is not being completely honest – she was there much earlier than she first proclaimed and departed the track once the sun went down.
Ann-Maree loves her horses, the Marburg Pacing Association and her community.
“Being here at the club, it keeps me going,” Ann-Maree said on Monday morning as they packed and cleaned up from Sunday’s race day.
“People kept asking me why I would want to keep doing it after he passed away, but I said I like it and it keeps me going every day.
“It was such a big shook at the time.
“The horses, I love seeing them now as we don’t have any in work any more.”
After his death in 2012, the family and club have honoured his passion and commitment to the industry each year with the Graham Harriott Memorial Trotters handicap.
To celebrate International Women’s Day, Racing Queensland is recognising the efforts of 10 hard-working ladies from around the state with Ann-Maree selected for her tireless work keeping the Marburg Pacing Association canteen going strong for the last 15 years.
“A friend of mine roped me in and I have been here ever since, which is nearly 30 years,” she said.
“I just like being involved; volunteers are always great to be able to help the club out.
“It is good, it keeps me going and it is a social thing as well.”
As well as her on-going contribution to the racing industry, the long-time Marburg volunteer pointed to the rise in numbers of female jockeys, trainers and drivers across the state.
Ann-Maree was recently nominated for International Women’s Day honours by club president Denis Smith.
“It is nice to be recognised,” she said.
“I am sure they all do their bit, the same as me, all the other women from around Queensland who have been nominated.
“It is good women are getting recognised for doing things these days.
“I enjoy it for the comradery of being at the club together and I think our committee appreciate the work we do.”
Ann-Maree first got involved in the harness game through late husband Graham, who trained for over 30 years and had a few different stints as president at Marburg.
She started off by going to the trials and has been there every step of the way as Marburg has grown from a non-TAB club to racing on Sky Racing often.
Graham and Ann-Marie passed the racing bug on to their children and grandchildren, who are still involved to this day.
As Ann-Marie explains, there is stacks of work and hours that goes into everything behind the scenes at a smaller racing club in the Sunshine State to deliver the polished product on Sky Racing, which she is proud to be able to play a role in.
“Mostly we are all volunteers, the canteen and bar,” she said.
“It is fun, we enjoy ourselves on race day.”
Ann-Marie says she has always had an affinity with trotters.
Emma Price (Muttuburra Race Club), Jane Bignall (Noorama Picnic Race Club), Rhonda Essery (Townsville Greyhound Racing Club), Sherrill Mehonoshen (Laura Amateur Turf Club), Anna Hassett (Prairie Jockey Club), Christiene Nettelfield (South Burnett Race Club), Casey Simpson (Goondiwindi Picnic Race Club), Linda Young (North Gregory Turf Club) and Edwina Devine (Thangool Race Club) will also be recognised for their tireless efforts alongside Ann-Maree Harriott.