Time to say goodbye

Justin FrisSouth Western Times
Premier Mark McGowan, former Bunbury Trotting Club general manager Julie Doble and Bunbury MLA Don Punch.
Camera IconPremier Mark McGowan, former Bunbury Trotting Club general manager Julie Doble and Bunbury MLA Don Punch. Credit: Shannon Verhagen

A picture can tell a thousand words — just ask longstanding Bunbury Trotting Club general manager Julie Doble.

Julie, who made the tough decision to retire from her position when the COVID-19 pandemic hit earlier this year, had just spent time with Premier Mark McGowan and Bunbury MLA Don Punch at Donaldson Park when this photo was taken. They had just completed a tour of the facility.

The image is also telling, as there was a time early in her career when Julie would deliberately not wear her heels during health inspection visits, due to her fear of them going through the floor.

Julie and current general manager Kate Ryan-Taylor had both worked hard over many years to turn the track at Donaldson Park into one of the State’s most appealing facilities — all of which made saying goodbye so hard.

“I found out that I had Parkinson’s disease two years ago,” Julie said. “I did not tell too many people, except obviously the club committee.

“ I also told them that when I felt like I was not the right person for the job that I would step aside. I was still coping pretty well, but when COVID-19 hit, things changed as I could have been more susceptible.

“I was then starting to find it all a bit harder. We work six days a week and Saturday race nights are long, so I decided to take my long service leave while COVID-19 was on and I just felt heaps better health-wise.

“And I then I made the decision to retire.”

Now Julie, who’s a close friend of Ryan-Taylor, is thrilled with her new replacement and commended her on successfully managing several weekends of back-to-back meetings during a notoriously wet period.

“I still talk to her a lot,” Julie said. “We are good friends, she has my full support and I will do whatever I can to help her. The committee is the same and they are really lucky to have had such a great team for so long. But it is hard to leave when it has been such a massive part of your life.

“The achievement of holding consecutive meetings over two nights is significant. Especially when you are trying to socially distance and work with trainers. Kate even had to move the stewards.

“It is a big job, even without the public facilities open. You also have to do all of the stable allocations. Racing two days in a row during winter is a big deal, so they have done very well.”

Along with spending more time with her children, Julie has begun the next chapter of her life, which already commanded plenty of interest.

“I have been getting old furniture and giving it a second go at life by sprucing it up a bit,” she said.

“It’s funny but I actually seem to be busier now.”

She is excited to return to Donaldson Park when further COVID-19 restrictions are eased, as it will give her another chance to reconnect with all the people who made her job so satisfying.

“They are all so very professional,” she said.

“The likes of Justin Prentice, Barry Howlett ... and Aiden De Campo was a kid when I started 12 years ago. I think he had only just finished pony trots and now he’s a professional young driver.

“There are still a lot of young trainers and drivers and they always had the time of day for you and they treat their staff well.”

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