Final call for a champion bloke

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By Paul Dolan

Greyhound racing, and the wider world, is much the poorer for the recent passing of long-time Hunter Valley racecaller and character John McDermott.

The 75-year-old lost a painful battle with bone cancer on November 2. He called his last races in September, 2019.

What you saw was what you got with the man known as ‘Macca’. Nothing pretentious, just a champion bloke devoted to his family and racing.

McDermott was a Novacastrian through and through. He lived a few minutes drive from the Gardens greyhound complex in Newcastle, where his virtually unique style of racecalling could be heard as well as at nearby tracks Gosford and Maitland.

Well known media men Greg Radley and Tim Newbold are also Newcastle born and bred and are high in praise of the part McDermott played in their lives.

“I knew John and the family since I was very young, in fact, I was at John and Susan’s wedding when I was nine months of age,’’ Radley said.

“I wouldn’t be where I am in the media today without Macca’s help and guidance.’’

Newbold said that, at age 16 and with an interest in racecalling, he wrote McDermott a letter about how to potentially get started.

“John rang me and invited me to the gallops at Newcastle where he was the caller. He showed me everything that was involved, mentored and supported me. I can’t thank him enough for how he helped me.’’

Radley added: “I don’t know a nicer man. John was so loyal.’’

Retired broadcasting icon Paul Ambrosoli echoes Radley’s sentiments.

“John and I were good friends for a heck of a long time and never had a cross word. Everybody liked John and you don’t find many people like that. You only ever heard complimentary things about him. His pain has ceased, he’s been through a helluva lot with that and we should be pleased and happy that we knew him.’’

John and his wife Susan raced and trained greyhounds with a fair degree of success. Away from the racetrack, John enjoyed watching movies and looking after his yard, in particular the lawn, at home.

John was genuinely chuffed when, in 2009, a feature race was introduced at the Gardens called ‘The Macca’.

You would hope that will be ongoing, despite John’s passing.

When race clubs held invitation racecallers nights, it was always terrific to have John in attendance. He journeyed to such occasions at Dapto, Moss Vale and Wentworth Park. He was a non-drinker and would volunteer to call the last race or two so the other callers could do some socialising after they called their race. A bonus was that Macca would then offer to drive a carload back to their accommodation.

If you phoned John looking for some information, or just to say gidday, there was no such thing as a short call. But that was Macca. He made time for everyone.

In a tribute on Sky Racing, a segment was played in which McDermott was asked various questions about himself and his career. He was asked: ‘What would you do if you won Lotto?’

His reply was: ‘I’d look after my family then go and help some people doing it tough and not as fortunate as us.’

That summed up Macca perfectly.

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