The voice of local racing turns 70

WHEN the lure moves at Casino, Lismore and Grafton in the run-up to yet another race, it also signals the start of yet another Bob Lane race call.

Bob turned 70 last week.

His voice has been part and parcel of the greyhound racing scene, and thoroughbreds before that, on the Northern Rivers since 1967.

Greyhound racing Northern Rivers-style would not be the same without Bob.

And yet, five years ago, Bob dragged himself out of a near-death experience to get back to his beloved race calling.

Calling is a passion he has developed, not one he always had nurtured.

A born-and-bred Casino boy, he worked in the railway for 15 years. Race calling started by accident.

"Johnny Keep was the caller at Casino dogs," said Bob. "He was moving to Brisbane and late in 1967 the club needed a race caller.

"I'd never been to the dogs. I'd always followed the horses."

BIRTHDAY BOY: Long-time race caller Bob Lane turned 70 last week.
BIRTHDAY BOY: Long-time race caller Bob Lane turned 70 last week.

"It just happened," he said. "It was a non TAB meeting in those days and Casino raced Saturday nights.

"Casino had a high running rail and a wheel that ran around the track with the lure on it. You'd never get away with today what you could in those days."

Not long after, the local thoroughbred caller Tony McMahon decided to move to Rockhampton. He was a sports reporter and changed jobs. Bob was asked to give horse calling a try as well.

"I just had a go," he said. "The race caller's box was three foot square and I had to share it with the steward. It was pretty cramped to say the least.

"George Reid senior was the president of the horse club at Ballina and in the early 1970s he asked if I wanted to call the horses there as well.

"I didn't know what I was getting myself into, but I just kept going."

The early 1970s saw radio get involved in the coverage of racing. Bob's calls were first taken on 2LM at Lismore and then 2GF at Grafton.

That continued until Sky Channel started to cover Northern Rivers race meetings in 2004.

By this time Bob was calling both greyhounds and all the horse meetings in the area.

In 2005 he was diagnosed with Hodgkinson's Lymphoma.

"I had eight shots of chemo and 15 of radiation. I've been clear ever since," he said.

Back in 2009 Bob suffered a near-fatal gall stone attack which put him into hospital for four months.

He recovered and today swans about his small property at Bundocks Lane, just outside Casino, where he has a few head of cattle.