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Country track manager crowned inaugural Cheer A Volunteer winner

8 April 2024

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By Andrew Smith

Whether it’s race goers, owners, trainers or jockeys, the experience of a race meeting at Esk Jockey Club is made all the more smoother by Graeme Lynch.

Lynch’s work as the track manager at the small Somerset Region club have been rewarded as the inaugural winner of Racing Queensland’s Cheer A Volunteer initiative.

The new awards program, sponsored by Neil Mansell Transport & Mittys, is designed specifically to recognise those behind the scenes within the industry.

Graeme was nominated for his tireless efforts maintaining a high-quality racing track and spectator area, contributing hundreds of hours through mowing, fertilising, filling holes and shifting sprinklers in preparation for meetings.

On race days, he will often be busy in the background making sure everything is up to scratch and running smoothly, including maintaining audio equipment, stables and carting alcohol for the bar.

The 73-year-old was shocked to be crowned as the first-ever recipient of the Cheer A Volunteer award.

“I’m very humbled actually - I do not expect these things and volunteers are so hard to get these days to help clubs,” Graeme said.

“I’m very thankful to Racing Queensland, what they’ve done for us and also this award.

“I think it’s great that people are known for what they do now for the clubs and I’m ecstatic.”

Graeme Lynch spends hours maintaining the Esk race track.

The Esk Jockey Club has hosted racing for over 100 years, with meetings first recorded there in the 1800s.

These days, it hosts three race meetings a year, including its big raceday in July which attracts up to 1500 patrons, swelling the town’s population for the weekend.

Graeme first became involved at the club around 25 years ago, when the father of his wife Carmel was the then-President of the small country club.

These days, Carmel has followed in her father’s footsteps to take on the role as President while also helping her husband out around the track.

Graeme is keen to see the next generation carry on caring for the racecourse.

“It’s a thing we try to keep the legacy going and keep it in the family - we were born and bred here so we have a lot of involvement with Esk and the community, and we love doing what we’re doing,” Graeme said.

“We’re a good club, people love coming here and I think it’s great - we’ve got a good committee, I’ve got a great wife and great daughter that give me a hand.

“My daughter Angela, I’m shaping her up the right way, and making sure she cuts that blade of grass properly and I think she’s doing a better job than I do!

“I think she’ll be the same and try and keep it in the family and keep it going which is good.

“Without volunteers, we just wouldn’t survive.”

The Esk Jockey Club hosts three race meetings a year.

Esk Jockey Club secretary Sharon Cowley said Graeme was a deserved winner of the award for his devoted service to the club.

“Graeme is amazing, he’s been here forever, he is so passionate about the track, and you can’t have a race meeting unless your track is up to standard,” Cowley said.

“Ours is always well above the acceptable standard, and it’s his passion.

“He’s also the calmest person that I know, and there are always things happening on a race day before and after, but Graeme is the one that will calm us all down or find a solution quickly and sanely.

“He has the ability to call on people from outside our club to help out when we need to, he’s very well-respected in all the other community groups, and they know that he’s reliable.”

It is Graeme’s efforts that have led to industry participants declaring their admiration for a day out at the Esk course.

“I’m always amazed at the number of people that will go past of an afternoon on their way home after a big day who will stop and say what a great day they’ve had,” Cowley said.

“The number of trainers who will stop and say the track was great, and even jockeys - their life depends on a safe track, they will say it as well.

“They only talk about the day of the races, and we know it’s a constant thing and that’s all up to Graeme and his little band.

“With volunteers, that’s the only way they can survive - we have a good solid band but we’re all getting older.”

Graeme Lynch with his Cheer A Volunteer award.

Graeme was keen to echo the sentiment that volunteers were the lifeblood of country racing clubs.

It’s one of the reasons the grandfather of nine isn’t keen to give up his role anytime soon.

“The best part is working with our committee, and meeting people on the day and getting satisfaction when people walk out,” Graeme said.

“When they’re happy, they walk out and say they’ve had a great day, they’ve broke the bookies and they’ll be back next time.

“I get a lot of feedback about the track which is very encouraging and I love that, so that’s what I get out of it.”

Clubs are encouraged to nominate their valued volunteers, with monthly awards including trophies, as well as a set of bibs and cloths for the nominating club on offer.

State-wide, there are more than 8,300 volunteers who make an invaluable contribution to the industry, providing their time and expertise to sustain Queensland’s three codes of racing.

Click here for more information on Cheer A Volunteer and to nominate.