Rod Fuller answered the “call” – and is back doing what he loves!
One of the country’s most accurate racecallers, 60-year-old Fuller, with the support and encouragement of colleagues and friends, has resumed his career after an enforced lengthy hiatus.
“I hit a hurdle with the Taxation Department and went into semi-retirement in 2013,” Fuller said.
“I didn’t know if I would ever get the opportunity to call again, but thankfully I got a second chance.”
That came in March 2017 when Fuller made the twelve-and-a-half-hour drive from his Coffs Harbour base to Broken Hill to call the popular St Patrick’s Day race meeting – and hasn’t missed the annual fixture since.
Whilst he also called at various country non-TAB’s and picnic meetings such as Barraba and Wean, a telephone call “out of the blue” in March this year proved the catalyst for his dulcet tones to again be heard by racing fans throughout Australia.
“Kevin Wolfe from Sky Sports Radio rang and asked if I was interested in returning to call at country TAB meetings, and naturally I jumped at the chance,” Fuller said.
“I was thrown in the deep end, and called about 14 meetings in the first month or so.
“Obviously I’m a bit older now and my reflexes aren’t as sharp, but I’m getting more confident with each meeting, and hope listeners and viewers are enjoying my calls.
“I’m loving being behind the binoculars and microphone again, and I’m very appreciative and thankful to a lot of people who have helped me get going again.
“Sky’s Northern Rivers and Mid North Coast host Gary Kliese has been a huge help, as has RacingNSW boss Peter V’Landys, who went out of his way to assist in my return to calling.
“Radio 2GB’s Ray Hadley rang before I called the Tamworth Cup program earlier in the year and wished me luck, and all the clubs where I have called at their race meetings have been tremendously supportive.
“I have been made feel very welcome, and it has made my return so much easier.”
The legendary racecaller Ken Howard can take credit for Fuller’s interest in following suit.
“Dad worked at Beaurepaire’s Tyres during the week, and at Randwick on Saturday putting down the duck boards in the Leger and Flat enclosures, and Mum was a 50c punter,” Sydney-born Fuller explained.
“I was five years old in 1966 when I heard Ken broadcast a race on radio, and it caught my attention.
“I asked Mum and Dad to take me to the races, and I was sold.”
Fuller learnt his craft rolling down marbles on carpet in the hallway at home and calling them, imaging they were races.
Later working at St Luke’s Hospital in Sydney, he was fortunate to meet the mother of another legendary Sydney caller Ian Craig.
“I spoke with her, and she suggested I should send a tape of one of my calls to Ian,” Fuller said.
“I did that and got a lovely letter back from him encouraging me to keep practising.
“I was 19 years of age when I plucked up the courage one day to introduce myself to Ian high up on the fourth floor at a Randwick meeting.”
Aware Craig was hosting a tour to the Kentucky Derby the following year, Fuller saved his pennies to join the 30-strong group – and it was worth every cent.
“I got to know Ian better, and he was very helpful and supportive,” he said.
“On our return to Sydney, he invited me to be his offsider and I worked alongside him for 19 years.”
“It was a tremendous experience no doubt.”
Fuller recalls using an empty box on course to call to himself a then young apprentice Wayne Harris win the 1979 Golden Slipper Stakes for Bart Cummings at Rosehill Gardens, whilst Craig broadcast to a nation from the other end of the grandstand.
He also remembers joining Ray Hadley and Michael Maxworthy (now Sky Racing’s Brisbane host) broadcasting at harness gymkhanas at Liverpool and Menangle.
Fuller got his first “break” when he called a Bathurst trots meeting on the October long weekend in 1980, and then greyhound meetings at Richmond and Penrith. He was off and running.
Joining 2KY in 1986, he quickly became a versatile all-rounder, calling all three codes as well as studio hosting and co-ordinating.
When 2KY and Sky merged, he spent three years hosting in the studio – but couldn’t wait to get back into the real action at the track.
Fuller took up a role as Sky’s Mid North Coast caller in 2007, calling from Taree in the south to Murwillumbah in the north and as far afield as Armidale and Tamworth.
That all ended prematurely in 2013 when Fuller disappeared off the racing scene – and his voice was lost to thousands of punters across the nation who loved his accuracy, even if it didn’t always mean he called their bets as winners.
Now he’s back and loving every minute of his “second chance” – everyone deserves that – and will take another step in his comeback when he returns to the provincial scene to call the Hawkesbury meeting next Thursday (December 16).