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By Graham Potter | Monday, July 1, 2019

To be allowed to train at Toowoomba … or to not be allowed to train at Toowoomba. That was the essence of the Mark Currie issue which has used up a lot of oxygen at the top of the range over the past couple of weeks as the Toowoomba Turf Club committee and its members faced off on a matter which clearly divided the local racing community. The committee voted against Mark Currie being allowed to train. The members then voted and overturned the committee’s decision.

HRO’s Graham Potter was at the Toowoomba race-meeting on Sunday where he gathered a cross section of opinions from some of those directly involved (from both sides of the fence) to put the matter into some perspective. Kent Woodford remains the captain of the ship. Robbie Dare resigned from the club committee when the committee voted to close the track to Mark Currie. Bob Frappell resigned from the club committee when a members’ vote overturned the committee’s decision. These are their views.


Club Chairman Kent Woodford (talking about what has happened and what happens next)

“The member’s decision to overturn the committee’s decision with regard to Mark Currie’s training rights at the track was controversial.

“Four committee members have now indicated they will resign over the members not supporting their decision and that is disappointing because we would be losing people of a high calibre … but, we will obviously seek replacements and it will be business as usual.

“We can appoint people to these positions as casual vacancies and then we would move through a general meeting procedure with that.

“Prior to the members vote, the committee did send out a letter urging the members to support the decision that was made at committee level. The vote to not allow Mark Currie to train at Toowoomba was originally passed by four to three votes at committee level.

“Every individual committee member had their own reasons for either rejecting the Mark Currie proposal or supporting it … there wasn’t one collective reason. It was a simple majority vote and it came down four to three against Mark Currie.

“It was the same situation with the members who voted to overturn the committee’s decision. Looking at how close the decision was in both areas you could see how divided people were on this matter … but we need to move forward now.

“We have a great club here. We are losing a lot of experience with those committee members who have indicated they will resign and that is unfortunate, but we have already had some very good people put up their hand to help the club moving forward into what would be a new era.”


ROBBIE DARE (talking about why he took the stance he did and his overview of what should always be the club’s priority

“I was on the Toowoomba Turf Club committee and I resigned over this issue. I resigned after the committee voted four to three for Mark Currie to not to be able to train at Toowoomba.

“I was one of the three that voted against that proposal. To me, it wasn’t about Mark Currie … it was about the fact that they wanted a trainer to not be allowed to train here because of an infringement which was race-day treatment. For a person to not be allowed to train here over that charge after the matter had been fully dealt by QRIC and he was free to train, I thought was going to set a precedent and this was what I was worried about for the club.

“For me, it was about the precedent and the principle it was going to set for the club.

“If you are going to sack every trainer from now on who have been charged for race-day treatment or some similar charge once they have been cleared to train again after serving any penalty that might have been handed out … how was that going to work?

“My concern was simply about the precedent that was being set irrespective of who was involved … because you can’t sack one and not another.

“It has been an issue that has divided the club. The committee vote of four to three against Mark Currie been allowed train … well you can’t get closer than that. The members vote of 97 to 95 to overturn the committee’s decision … well you can’t get much closer than that. So, while this particular matter has been resolved, the club’s challenge now is to address the clear divide in the local racing community and to somehow close the gap between the two groups who have been at odds.

“As things stand now, certain committee members have indicated they will stand down on the back of the members vote. If that happens, I am led to believe that the committee can second people to the committee until they can hold an election.

“I was seconded originally and I didn’t like the idea. I just think there should be an election … a by-election. If someone pulls out of local government you have a by-election. There is no way in the world you can second someone to local government and I believe a similar approach should be adopted here.

“I think seconding people is a strange way of getting people on the committee. Some people, rightly or wrongly, could see that as stacking the committee which is not a good perception.

“Either way, as race-club committee members we are all temporary managers of a facility which has to be run for the betterment of all … and that is what we have all got to remember.

“It’s difficult, I know, but everybody needs to have an open mind and seek to do what is best for the club. That was my motivation when I voted the way I did and why I resigned my position after that vote.

“I think everything should all be out in the open because then you can look people in the eye and everybody knows what is going on and therefore there is no need for any speculation which can often have a damaging effect.

“I have stuck to my convictions. I respect those who stick to their convictions but, irrespective of the rights and wrongs on any side, looking after the well-being of the club is the most important thing and, ultimately, that is what we all have to bear in mind.”


BOB FRAPPELL (talking about why he took the stance he did and about moving on)

“The committee was split on this issue. I took a stand on principle and, along with all of the representations we’d had from members of this club and other training participants, I believed it was in the best interests of racing if Mark Currie did not train at Toowoomba.

“We all, individually, came to our individual conclusions. The committee voted four to three to stop Currie training at the track. One committeeman then quit over that outcome.

“The members then called for a member’s vote. I went to that meeting where the Currie supporters basically dressed us down … and then the members voted to overturn the committee’s decision.

“OK, we got their sentiments wrong … but I’ve still not changed my mind.

“I still feel we made the right stand for a number of reasons but the members ultimately disagreed. We were wrong and I do accept the vote of the members.

“Once they came through with that decision though my position became untenable so I felt I had no other option but to resign.

“I have made my peace with that. I am sorry my service to the club (as a former Chairman and then Treasurer) has ended in this way but I’ve done my time.

“I can hold my head high and look myself in the mirror and say. ‘yes, that was what I believed and I acted accordingly.”


HRO comments:

The strength of the convictions of people on both sides of the fence in this matter is as clearly defined as the divide between them. Ironically, they all have the same common goal, namely to do what is best for the Toowoomba Turf Club. There was no self-interest here just an extraordinarily strong, contradictory set of beliefs in dealing with an extraordinary matter which brought the management of the club to a tipping edge. While there was a touch of sadness in general conversation about why things had to unfold the way they did, nobody, publically at least, wanted anything to do with recriminations. Everybody just wanted to move on … and that, importantly in its own way, is a positive outcome for the club in the aftermath of a difficult couple of weeks.

*Mark Currie was approached but he declined to comment.

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