Warragul trotting Steward Maurie Andrews has retired after 37 years of service to the racing game.
Maurie officiated as Steward at his final Warragul barrier trials session today (June 4), ending a lengthy association with the trotting sport.
Raised in Melbourne's southern suburbs, Maurie began attending Saturday night trots meetings at the Melbourne Showgrounds as a child.
In those days his local area had a strong trotting presence, with famous names such as Wilson, Dove and Demmler all operating stables in the region, along with the well known Southern Speedways track in Oakleigh.
Maurie became friendly with the Frost family, local market gardeners who also raced numerous horses in that era including the veteran trotter Garden Star.
His interest in trotting developed, and, upon moving to Gippsland with his wife, Bev, he took the opportunity to join the newly formed Warragul and District Light Harness Club.
Since becoming involved at Warragul, Maurie has held several roles within the club, including stints as Vice-President and committeeman, while also serving 37 years as a Steward at local barrier trials.
He also handled judging and timekeeping of trials events at the Warragul Pacing Bowl.
Maurie learnt the ropes of becoming a Steward from fellow local Laurie Porter, and took over as head Steward from Laurie upon his retirement well over 20 years ago.
He has always taken his role seriously at the trials, being eager to learn and to take particular notice of horses and their traits, while keeping up with rule changes in the industry.
"I've been in constant touch with (senior steward) Barry Delaney over the years, and I've learnt a lot from Barry," Maurie said.
Although he has dabbled in thoroughbred ownership on a small scale, he has long enjoyed the challenge of finding a good quality pacer, and has been involved in ownership of several smart horses through the years.
During his time on the Warragul and District Light Harness Club committee, he played a key role in two successful syndicates run by the club.
Tact Laughter and King Lear both introduced many new faces to trotting, with the pair winning at Moonee Valley.
King Lear also won a number of feature races in Victoria during the late 1990's.
Maurie part-owned several other handy horses, many with the Noel Alexander and Jayne Davies stable.
He said he particularly enjoyed attending the annual yearling sales with Noel and Jayne, and casting his eye over the groups of horses for sale.
Looking back over his time in local trotting, Maurie feels the sport lost a significant amount of interest in Gippsland when night racing ceased at Warragul.
While he believes the sport is still capable of increasing its popularity in the Eastern region, he feels the Training Centre facilities at Warragul could be enhanced with access to surplus land behind the Warragul Showgrounds complex.
"We could probably do a bit more here with paddocks and shelters, as a lot of horses like that," Maurie said.
Maurie and his wife Bev are looking forward to hitting the open road in their retirement.
Keen travellers, they will soon start up their motorhome and head for nowhere in particular, discovering the countryside and making new friends in the many towns they will visit along the way.
No doubt, quite a few of those towns will conveniently be home to a trotting track.
"When I was up at West Wyalong, they had trials on one of the mornings we were there," Maurie explained.
"We went over and had breakfast with them and had a chat. Some of the stories they were telling, they can go back years some of those fellows."
Maurie said he has thoroughly enjoyed his hands on association with trotting over so many years.
"I've enjoyed my time," Maurie said. "I've made a lot of good friends and met some really good people in the industry."
"Wherever we go, I'll keep an eye on things and keep an interest."