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Wyong Introduces New General Manager

WORDS: FRANCES O’SHEA PICTURE: STEVE HART

WYONG RACE CLUB HAS EMPLOYED A NEW GENERAL MANAGER, ROBIN TAYLOR, WHO BRINGS TO THE CLUB SOME IMPRESSIVE EXPERIENCE IN THE CORPORATE WORLD

Robin Taylor may not have a racing pedigree, but his impressive business résumé will put him in good stead for his new position at Wyong Race Club.

Robin, 51, took over the newly created General Manager’s position in March.

Working under CEO David Jewell, he will oversee the day-to-day operations of the club.

Robin freely concedes his previous racing experience extends to watching the Grand National while growing up in the UK but is enthusiastic about learning every aspect of the industry.

Wyong Race Club’s new General Manager, Robin Taylor (2nd from the left), with Club stalwarts (L-R) Ray White, Colin Pike and Kevin Langby

“I’m not really daunted by the challenge,” he said.

“I’ve jumped from industry to industry during my career going from aviation, to the automotive industry then to sports management.

“I’ve made the change a number of times so it’s just going through that process of understanding the stakeholders; the key drivers.

“It will probably take me a while to get up-to-speed and then it’s business as usual.

“Fortunately, we have an excellent management team here at Wyong, with lots of industry experience. “Being able to work alongside David for the next six to 12 months will allow me the opportunity to grow my industry knowledge and then gain experience first-hand around what it takes to run a successful Provincial Racing Club.”

While Robin may come with the ‘first starter’ tag when it comes to racing administration, his previous business experience should ensure a smooth transition.

Originally from England, he came to Australia in 1996 for what he had planned to be a brief stint getting consulting experience with Sydney Airport.

“I met my now wife Jodie after a couple of weeks and things changed.

“I had planned to stay six months to a year to get more experience before moving on somewhere else, but it didn’t quite happen like that,” Robin said.

He had obtained a PHD in Airport Planning and Management in England and spent his first six years in Australia working at Sydney Airport.

“I helped with the Olympic preparations and redevelopment of the international terminal, privatisation and response to 9/11. It was the busiest time in my career in relation to time lines and getting things done.

“Following the privatisation of the airport I moved to NRMA motor services and held a number of senior management positions there.

“Then I decided to revert to a career in sports management.

“My first degree was Physical Education, Sports Science and Recreation Management and I took a position working for Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust as manager of Sport and Recreation.

“I had responsibilities with sporting facilities including Centennial Park Equestrian Centre and Moore Park Golf and that was my first exposure to working with the equestrian industry and horses in general.”

A year later, Robin accepted a position as General Manager of Pennant Hills Golf Club, a role he held for almost six years.

He and the family, including daughter Jade, 21, and 17-year-old Michael, had relocated to Jilliby on the Central Coast in 2011 and with countless hours spent commuting on the freeway, Robin recently began looking for a more local position.

“I was keen to land a role on the coast, but they are highly contested.

“When I applied for the General Manager’s job at Wyong, I didn’t think I’d be looked at to be perfectly honest, but because of David’s plans to continue to be involved and do project work for the Club and the vision of the Board, they looked at things slightly differently and here we are.

“In many ways it is quite a similar role to the Golf Club business, in terms of function and event management, food and beverage service, licenced club, governance, staff management and running a membership-based organisation, all the same sort of things, along with turf and asset management, that we have here at Wyong as well.

“It is going to still be a steep learning curve.

“For me it is about understanding and getting up-to-speed with the dynamics of the industry, the wagering and financial model, Racing NSW, the role of the Stewards and getting to know the trainers and licence holders.

“All-important sectors that are quite unique to the industry.

“It’s absolutely exciting learning all the new things. You have the conundrum of declining attendances at race venues, with everything going online and apps and all that sort of stuff.

“Trying to find a way of reinventing a few things, engaging with the next generation and working on getting a people back to the races and growing both the Club’s racing and non-racing revenues is a challenge for all Racing Clubs.”

Robin said cutting back his commute from an hour and a half to just 10 minutes will also allow him to become more active in the local community.

“That was the other appealing factor, being more involved in local community which I haven’t been able to do when I’ve been stuck on the motorway.

“Now I’ve got more time and I’m looking forward to it.”

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