By PAT McLEOD
For starters it is pronounced ‘War-hope’, not ‘War-choppy’.
And according to president of Wauchope’s greyhound club, Rex Nairn, the idyllic village on the New South Wales mid-north coast is about to receive one of its biggest profile boosts in the past century.
Nairn, who has been president of the Hastings River Greyhound Club – the official name – since 1998, says a three-and-a-half year quest to bring TAB status to the club has been successful.
“What does this mean?” he poses. “Well it means that it will put Wauchope on the map.
“In clubs, pubs (when they re-open) and homes across Australia people will see the name ‘Wauchope’ on TV screens. The first thing they are going to say is, ‘Where is War-chop?’ or ‘Have you ever been to ‘War-choppy?
“It will put a spotlight on this town like never before. Soon everyone will know that this is one of the best places on earth.”
Nairn has been a Wauchope ‘local’ for more than 20 years. He retired there from Sydney back in 1997 with wife Yvonne. A year later he took over as president of the greyhound club.
“I have been involved in greyhounds since my 18th birthday (he is now 76),” Nairn explains. “I had brought dogs to Wauchope several times over the years, really liked what I saw and so decided to retire here.
“When I moved here I became involved with the greyhound club straight away. I would ask lots of questions, like I always have. Someone said, ‘Well, why don’t you stand as president?’
“So I did, and have been president ever since.”
Although there may not have been an official announcement yet, Nairn says he ‘has been told by very reliable sources’ that the club would be getting at least 18 TAB meetings as well as several non-TAB dates from as early as July 1.
“Of course the start date is up in the air because of the Coronavirus, but yes, Wauchope is being elevated to TAB status,” he said.
“In fact in a strange way the virus works in our favour. Because of the current shutdown of tracks, including ours, it allows us to put in any work that needs to be done.
“We don’t need to do a lot, but we will have to install a semaphore board, new boxes, cameras, do some lure cable work and we would like to install 24 new lights to make the track available for TAB night meetings.
“But we will be ready to race when required – no doubt about that.”
Nairn said the TAB ‘tick’ would mean a lot to the club and the entire town.
“At the moment we race for $300 a race, that will increase to about $1500,” he said.
“The feature prizemoney will increase from $5000 to $20,000 and possibly more. That will attract the better trainers and the better dogs.
“This track already has a fantastic reputation. It is a big, grass, one-turn track. (Legendary race caller) Paul Ambrosoli once described the track as the best in New South Wales.
“Trainers bring their maidens here because it is an extremely safe track. Not only that, but because of the size of the track the best dog invariably wins.”
The track has boxes at the 384m and 457m marks and there is provision for a distance start if required in the future.
Nairn has no doubt TAB status will lift the profile of Wauchope, population about 6000.
“It is almost impossible not to fall in love with the place,” he says.
“It is a great place, but the people are good people as well. I remember when Yvonne and I first came up here to live. I parked in town under some trees. A bloke parked beside me, got out and walked to the shops leaving his front car door wide open. He wasn’t worried about anything being stolen.
“I turned to Yvonne and said: “This is country living!”
The TAB news is obviously a shot in the arm for the Hastings River Greyhound Club, which opened its doors in 1953. During the 1990s the club raced up to 40 times a year. However, in recent years their annual allocation has dropped to as low as 18.
Nairn says that in an age when the major focus has been placed on animal welfare, Wauchope has rightly been recognised.
“We have a lot of people here, committee and other volunteers, who have worked so hard for this club over the years, not just for TAB status, but to make this club and track one of the best in the country,” he said.
“Wayne Billett (GM Racing Operations GRNSW) has been a great supporter of the club, so has local member Melinda Pavey.”
Nairn says the TAB ‘victory’ is the highlight of his greyhound career, which is nudging 50 years.
He says it even eclipses the night at Dapto in 1976 when his ‘little star’ Megan’s Rebel beat the very highly fancied Willy Wong and broke the 722m track record.
“I loved that dog and that was a big night … but this is even bigger.”