Wombats and community raring for Warialda races

The Warialda Jockey Club will race on April 17. Photo: Warialda Jockey Club.

While the racing will take centre stage at Warialda Jockey Club’s meeting on April 17, the accompanied Warialda Wombats reunion is sure to add a different flavour to the popular country program. 

The Wombats have one of the more storied histories in country rugby league, producing players such as Ray Stehr, Les Cleal and Jim Payne just to name a few.

So, it is no surprise the club dominated the Group 5 competition in the 1960s before proving to be the most successful Group 19 club in later years, winning 11 titles in total. 

Unfortunately, the club’s 40-year celebration of their 1980 Group 5 title was cancelled last year due to Covid, and now the Wombats will take their 41-year reunion at the races, which will coincide with the club celebrating the 60-year anniversary of Jim Payne’s Wombats defeating the Clive Churchill coached Moree team in the 1961 decider.

Having the Wombats celebrating their history at the races is a big win according to Warialda Jockey Club Treasurer, Peter Hancock. 

“We will be hosting the Warialda Wombats. They have had some very successful teams out here over the years and the town has produced some quality players,” Hancock said. 

“They are coming to the races as part of their weekend of activities, which is great. It will add a real social atmosphere to the day.”

Creating a unique social day at the races is key for Warialda Jockey Club, who has already sold 300 tickets for their races. 

“We want to make it a good day at the races. We have the 100m dash for the colts and fillies and there is a bit of prize money, and the other thing we have this year is a yabbie race,” Hancock said.

“The yabbie race is to raise funds for a community program, the Warialda Community Fund, which our doctors use for local patients who need transport and other things.”

Punters and racing fans will be well looked after too, with the club hosting a six-race-program, headlined by the $9,000 Warialda Cup over the 1400m. 

“The focus for the rest of our meeting is the races. We have the six-race-program, and it should be good,” Hancock said. 

“We draw horses from Tamworth, Moree, Inverell and everywhere in the region. We used to always run a five-race-program, but we started running six races about five or six years ago and it increased the pace of the meeting, which made it much more exciting and enjoyable.” 

Fashionistas will also have plenty to compete for, with the club slowly announcing their themed categories on social media, with Vivacious and Vibrant just two sections made public so far.

Warialda Jockey Club have raced officially since 1892, and there is reference to the jockey club since the 1870s, so racing is well and truly entrenched in the town and region, which has the current committee working hard to upgrade their facilities. 

“We would love to build up the bank – not having a meeting last year hurt us, but we would like to do some work on the track,” Hancock said.

“We actually have a plan of development to upgrade our facilities, but that is dependent on grants and fundraising. The plan is to get the centre of the track upgraded so we can get Polo going there. 

“Ideally, we want to get the grounds up to the standard to hold events, such as if we want to have a small wedding or something along those lines.”

Racing fans, rugby league supporters and fashionistas can all get behind the small country club by getting out to their meeting.

Tickets are available online and more information on the racing, fashions and events on the day can be found on the club’s Facebook page