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Husband and wife’s connection key for Cunnamulla racing

31 May 2024

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By Andrew Smith

Liz and David Land have a simple philosophy when it comes to working together on race day – “do anything that Liz wants.”

The husband-and-wife duo are the backbone of the Cunnamulla & District Diggers' Race Club, based around 750 kilometres west of Brisbane in the Darling Downs South West region.

Their years of efforts have seen them crowned Racing Queensland’s Cheer A Volunteer winners for the month of May.

David had already been involved in racing as a barrier attendant for many years but the duo saw the opportunity to step up around 2014.

They did some general work with the club for a few years, before Liz took on the club secretary role and David became vice-president.

“We got really into the club about ten years ago when it wasn’t progressing at all,” Liz said.

“A lot of people want to be paid…but my husband and I don’t work like that, we volunteer our time because that’s what we want to do for the community and our club.

“I have a few people who will work voluntarily for me anytime I ask, which is great and that’s humbling also, because there’s not many people out there who want to volunteer their time anymore.

“We were humbled - you don’t go out to volunteer to get accolades, so we were very humbled by the award.”

Cunnamulla Race Club hosts four race meetings a year. (Photo: Andrew Messenger)

David, 67, is a local from the area, while 65-year-old Liz moved to the town from Tamworth in 1975.

Married for 46 years, it’s that strong partnership that guarantees the four race days the club hosts every year run smoothly.

As secretary, Liz handles the communications and organisation of race day programs, food and drink orders, and managing staff and volunteers.

Dave decided to step back from the vice-president position this year, but still plays a critical role in ensuring punters are never left thirsty on race day.

“I go out early on the race day and set all the stuff up for the stewards and the jockeys, make sure all the gate people, bar staff and food are right, and find all the volunteers,” Liz said.

“For the last seven years, we’ve been putting on morning tea for the trainers, so when they arrive to the races, they’ve got morning tea there and that’s free for them.

“Dave and I also look after the alcohol - we make sure it’s there, and he’s the runner for everything that we need on the day.

“When he’s asked at the races ‘what are you doing?’ he says ‘anything that Liz wants’ and that’s wonderful to have that backup there.

“It’s a team effort by he and I, just to make sure everything’s ready.”

David and Liz Land.

The club will host its next meeting on Saturday, June 15 with five races on the day.

The annual Cup day on October 12 is the big meeting of the year, usually attracting around 300-400 people – a huge turnout for the Paroo Shire town with a population of just over 1,200.

This year’s ANZAC Day meeting also proved popular, with over 300 race goers turning out for the seven-race card.

Last year, the club hosted eight race days after taking on Charleville’s meetings, and also stepped up to host the Noorama race day last month.

When submitting the nomination for the award, club member Chrissie Higgins noted the vital role the duo plays in getting the meetings off the ground.

“Without this couple, our club would not race,” she said.

“This couple have been the working backbone of our club and still take time to offer a cuppa and food for all our racing people including stewards, jockeys, trainers, wives and children.

“It’s people like them that keep racing in the bush simply the best.”

Legendary Indigenous jockey Darby McCarthy, Queensland training stalwart Barry Miller, champion trainer and war hero Cocky Easton, and Group 1-winning hoop Alan “Jock” Gollogly all called the town home at various stages of their lives and careers.

Liz and Dave are keen to keep on playing their part in adding more chapters to the town’s rich racing history.

Legendary jockey Darby McCarthy.

“I volunteer my time wherever I can - because if you don’t have the volunteers, and you don’t have events in your towns, then your town will slowly die,” Liz said.

“We’ve given a lot and we don’t expect anything in return - you do it because that is what you do for your town.

“All we’re interested in as a club is to keep racing in South West Queensland.

“That is our number one priority, so we are doing what we can to help Racing Queensland to bring it.”

The club will be sent a new set of bibs and cloths as the winner of the monthly Cheer A Volunteer award.

Having recently received bibs and cloths as part of RQ’s Pay It Forward Program, Liz demonstrated her generosity by donating those materials to the Noorama Picnic Race Club, who usually have to borrow them.

Clubs are encouraged to nominate their valued volunteers for the award, which is sponsored by Neil Mansell Transport & Mittys.

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.