From home to the track: Garry Armstrong’s COVID-19 racing experience

By Brayden May

LAST week’s race meeting at Echuca Racing Club was a day almost two months in the making for club general manager Garry Armstrong.

That’s because he hasn’t been able to work in his office at the track since Racing Victoria (RV) introduced strict COVID-19 restrictions in March.

“Because I live in Moama, the protocols RV has in place was that if you travelled from interstate then you had that 14-day quarantine period before you could walk on any Victorian racetrack,” Armstrong told radio station RSN.

“For me individually to have seven weeks working from home didn’t kill me. But that was part of what we had to do to keep the industry rolling.

“It was good to be back at the club and at the races.”

In order to get back to work, Armstrong needed to receive permission from the industry’s governing body which he received in the lead-up to the nine-race meeting.

“Eventually people like me were allowed to put a case forward as to how we could work within those protocols,” he said.

“As the COVID situation started to unfold, you could see that the protocols were working and that allowed for people to get back on track.”

During his time in his home office, Armstrong experienced several challenges along the way, most notably keeping contact with his staff.

“The biggest difference (about being back) is being able to liaise directly with staff, especially the ground staff and making sure they have everything in order and have everything they need,” Armstrong explained.

“We’ve got a relatively heavy schedule for winter (and) the track cops a fair bit of wear and tear.

“Our last three meetings have all been on soft tracks.

“It’s hard to always get the full understanding of what’s needed or what’s going on if you’re just conversing by phone or email.

“As they say, seeing is believing and being out here and speaking to the guys and being a part of what’s happening makes a big difference.”

With state governments continuing to ease restrictions, Armstrong said he was also hopeful of seeing more people converge on the twin towns to help boost the local economy.

“Echuca-Moama is a tourist town, everybody knows that,” he said.

“It’s all about sponsors and a lot of the people who support the Echuca Racing Club are directly linked to tourism.

“Echuca-Moama need the people to have confidence to come back up and enjoy the river and the weather.

“That’s not just us, there have been a lot of other tourist areas doing it tough.”

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