Faces of Tamworth: Julie Maughan and harness racing are tightly bound

CLOSE CONNECTIONS: Julie Maughan describes NSW's harness racing community as her "family". Photo: Gareth Gardner
CLOSE CONNECTIONS: Julie Maughan describes NSW's harness racing community as her "family". Photo: Gareth Gardner

Julie Maughan is powered along a road of devotion to a single cause, harness racing's prosperity, by love.

“Everything I do is just for love. There’s no money exchanged, whatsoever,” she says.

Maughan is the daughter of Toby and Judy Grant. But she is also the daughter of the region’s harness racing industry.

She was born into the industry through her parents’ involvement in it. And through a dizzying level of commitment, she now presides over the industry as chairwoman of the Tamworth Harness Racing Club and the long-serving president of the North West Harness Racing Association.

They are among the several hats she wears in the sport – also among them secretary of the Armidale Harness Racing Club and a delegate to the committees overseeing large clubs and small clubs in the state. 

The married mother of two and grandmother is an owner and the holder of a trainers licence. She is also the long-time scribe for the industry in the region, her “Keeping Pace” column a staple of The Northern Daily Leader, while she conducts on-course interviews.

Unsurprisingly, she describes her involvement in the sport as “very time-consuming”. “But [I get] a lot of support from the clubs, in the sense that we’re all on the same ship and we’re all sailing in the same direction, I suppose,” she says.

“As far as family goes, wonderful support. My husband [Rodney] supports me and backs me all the way. There’s no blockages from him. He also says, ‘Do what you want’ and supports me.

“My two daughters [Jenna and Jordan] have grown up with me being on all these committees, and now they’re off and married and still [say] ‘Have you got time for this? Because I know you’re busy.’”

ACTION WOMAN: Maughan's many roles include on-course interviewer. “Just because I’ve got a title doesn’t mean I’m sitting at a desk and doing nothing."

ACTION WOMAN: Maughan's many roles include on-course interviewer. “Just because I’ve got a title doesn’t mean I’m sitting at a desk and doing nothing."

Having been involved in the industry since “day one” of her life, Maughan reflected on how people had seen her “grow up in the sport”, and now she observed the “next generation and the generation after that” develop within the sport.

She regards the harness racing community as her “family”. “I mean, I haven’t met a bad one [person] yet. We all just get on together.”

Maughan says industry figures give her “a lot of respect” because of the positions she holds, but they know she is “happy to get her hands dirty and get in there and work as well”.  “Just because I’ve got a title doesn’t mean I’m sitting at a desk and doing nothing,” she adds.

She “enjoys” what she does, describing it as “having a job but it’s not a job”. “It’s something that I’ve got a passion for. I’m just proud of what I do and who I deal with.”

When Racing NSW purchased the Tamworth Showground in November 2016 and renamed it Tamworth Paceway, thus starting a new and exciting chapter for the sport, Maughan was the obvious choice to be appointed the new THRC chair. Being chair was “everything I expected and more”, she says.

While she “doesn’t know what a normal day is”, she insists she has no trouble uncoupling herself from the sport when required. “I’m a mother, I’m a wife and I’m a grandmother. And I can hop on a cruise and shut down the computer and turn off the phone.”

Away from harness racing, her and Rodney renovate homes. They have almost finished “rebuilding” a Manilla home built in 1920. “I love painting and building and doing all those sorts of things that are probably left field to some people,” she says. 

“And I love the writing,” she adds. “I started doing a family history about 16 years ago … That’s my outlets, doing those sorts of things.”

Maughan’s 40th wedding anniversary is in September. She met Rodney when they worked in the Manilla butchers owned by her uncle, Neville Grant, a relationship that intensified through their involvement in the harness racing industry.

“We always have little battles on the track, and I can claim the rights to having the last winner against him,” she says. 

With Julie Anne Maughan, the road always leads back to harness racing.

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