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Corie Waller - Stipendiary Steward, Racing Victoria Limited (RVL)

Corie Waller
'I grew up going to the races every weekend, and after Year 12 I started a cadetship and worked my way up from there.'

Corie has been a steward at the races for around seven years. This is his first year working at the Spring Carnival. Before working at Flemington, Victoria, he worked as a steward in Western Australia and Queensland.

Stewards have a busy role before, during and after a race, with tasks including checking licences, permits, ownership papers, veterinary certificates, weight allowances, racing colours and organising equipment.


What exactly does a steward at the races do?

We're sort of the police and judiciary of the racing industry –  we protect the integrity of racing by ensuring that all the participants – trainers, jockeys and stable hands – abide by the rules of racing. We're involved from every stage, 24 hours a day. The rules are quite thorough and there's quite a lot of work, from early in the morning to the last race every day.

How is working at the Spring Carnival different to working at smaller events?

We have races every day leading up to the carnival but obviously the carnival is a little bit more important. The main difference is that we have a lot of overseas and interstate visitors so we have to make sure that their stabling is up to scratch and secure, to keep the integrity of the site. We ensure the validity of everyone's licences, especially interstate and overseas jockeys. We have a lot of visitors during the carnival period and we have to make sure they're all aware of how we want RVL racing to go forward, so they know the rules and their obligations.

FYI Stabling means accommodation for horses in stables.

What's your job before, during and after a race?

Before the race we make sure we're up to date with the racing patterns of all the runners. We also check that all the horses are racing in their correct gear, for example their blinkers and pacifiers.

During the race we observe and make sure the jockeys are riding in a fair manner, and that there's no undue interference.

Directly after the race we weigh every rider to make sure that they carry the correct weight – that's when you see all the jockeys hop on the scales and Terry Bailey, Chairman of Stewards, will check the weight. Once they're all correct, Mr Bailey waves a hand which means all the wagers put on a race can be paid.

After that the stewards all go into a room, get reports from stewards who are stationed around the track, and review the video. All the stewards give their observations of what happened and if there's any interferences we'll enquire into them. This involves getting the rider into the room and asking why an interference took place. If anyone's at fault, we can suspend riders for a period of time for careless riding.

We also compile a steward's report, so all racing participants, owners and punters can read a full rundown of every bit of interference that happens during a race, or any other general racing matters, like horses racing wide, or anything that might have affected a run of a race.

What's your role in the case of an accident or emergency?

We'd only have an advisory role. If an accident takes place and there's a bad fall, like last year, we have to make sure that ambulance officers have a large number of medical staff on the course. We'd make sure that there are doctors, trauma nurses and ambulance paramedics on site. We also have vets for the horses and we generally advise and monitor the situation to make sure everyone's taken care of.

Do you ever ride a horse on a race day?

No. A lot of the stewards used to be riders but on race day we're a long way away from that side of it.

What's your background?

I was born into racing – my father was a jockey and my mother used to train in Queensland. So I grew up going to the races every weekend, and after Year 12 I started a cadetship, or an administration traineeship, at Toowoomba. I worked my way up from there. I worked in various roles – photo finish, clerk at the scale, those sorts of roles – to become a cadet steward.

If you had the right build would you have considered becoming a jockey?

My build wasn't too bad – at a young age I was quite a scrawny young fellow. I probably could have gone that way but unfortunately I think I inherited my mother's balance instead of my father's! So race riding was ruled out rather early in the piece.

It's interesting that several people we've spoken to work in the races because they come from racing families. Is this a fairly common thing?

It's a very family-orientated business. It's amazing because the kids just seem to get swept up in it. The fact that it's just such an all-encompassing industry means it's hard not to be involved in it from a young age. It's not like a typical career, such as IT, where you just work; with racing it's something you live and breathe every day.

What is a 'stipendiary' steward?

In the dictionary 'stipendiary' just means 'paid'. That's the term it's been for 150 years or so. Obviously the main stewards were paid stewards back then and they were called stipendiary stewards, so it's just rolled on from there.

How many stewards are there in your team?

At RVL we have a panel of almost 20 – a chairman, a deputy chairman, two senior stewards, approximately a dozen stipendiary stewards, plus a couple of assistants and a couple of cadets.

How is the pay?

It's one of those roles where for everyone involved in it, the pay is not a major factor: it's more about a way of being involved in the industry.

Is it very male dominated?

No, especially not here. In a couple of the states the female contingent is rather small, but here we have three females on our panel, as well as a few who work as part-time stewards. Three out of 20 doesn't sound like much but it is a large increase compared to a couple of decades ago!

What's next for you?

I've only been here for a little while so I'm happy to delve into Victorian racing for the moment, but there are different steps you can take in this role – many overseas opportunities, and some within Australia. There are around 100 stewards in Australia. I've worked in a few states; now my main aim is to get to chairman level and maybe work overseas, like in Hong Kong or Singapore. There are lots of places that are open and available to Australian stewards.

Have you seen the Grand National race in the UK? Most of the horses fall over!

Yes, it's a pretty gruelling task, I think they have to travel something like 6 kilometres, whilst jumping. It's probably the major level of endurance. I don't think we'll ever have anything like that here.

What would you tell someone who wants to become a steward?

Get involved as soon as you can at the grassroots level and build up some practical experience within a stable. Also try to delve into a bit of extra study, like a Diploma of Law or TAFE course, so you can build up both sides. It's a strange role in that it not only covers your practical knowledge of the industry but there are quite a lot of legal applications involved with process hearings and enquiries. So it's one of those jobs for which it would be good to build up your practical knowledge by working part time with a racing stable and also gain your knowledge through further education in the legal side.

What skills do you need to be a good steward?

Obviously integrity is a main one. Stewards are seen as integrity leaders in the industry. Also you need to be good at decision making, and be able to focus on tasks and perform well under stress.

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