The sudden passing of Leeton HRC president Gary Punch on Tuesday has left the harness racing industry shocked and saddened.
THE sudden passing of Leeton HRC president Gary Punch on Tuesday has left the harness racing industry shocked and saddened.
Punch, who dedicated much of his time to the administration of the sport over the past 40 years, was also the president of the South West and Riverina Harness Racing Association.
Never one to take a backward step, Gary fought hard to ensure a fair distribution of racing throughout country New South Wales and was a great promoter of the sport.
After moving to Leeton in the late 1980s, Gary was introduced to harness racing by some close friends including Vern Cornelissen, Brian Forest and Max Lamont.
After joining the Leeton committee, Gary held various roles but did have a few breaks from that body to devote his time to junior rugby league when his boys were young.
He also headed up the Leeton Show Society at the time of his passing.
“He was a natural-born leader and gave 100 per cent to everything he took on and was a bundle of energy,” said his close friend trainer-driver Bill Trembath.
“Like many of his friends and associates we were stunned and saddened by his passing.
“He was a fair bloke who loved helping out wherever he could.”
Trembath has been the regular reinsman for the Punch stable for the past 15 years and between them, they had met with moderate success.
“As they say, behind every good man is a good woman and Gary’s wife Joanne has been right beside him in everything he took on,” said Trembath.
“She has been such a dedicated secretary of the Leeton Club for years and they were such a well-organised team.”
Over the years Punch trained some handy pacers including his best, Rollie Brigade, a multiple winner throughout the Riverina and at Melbourne’s metropolitan tracks.
In more recent times he trained the handy pacer Nifty Jolt, which last raced for Punch at Wagga Wagga last Friday week.
CEO of Harness Racing New South Wales, John Dumesny pointed out that Punch had made a significant contribution to the sport.
“Gary was highly regarded in his various roles with the Leeton Club and the South West and Riverina Association,” said Dumesny.
“His participation on the Harness Racing Clubs Committee was always appreciated as he put forward his opinion on important matters that affected country clubs and participants.”