Having started his career as a steward in the early 1980s, Ron Petterson can’t help but laugh when asked about the changes he’s witnessed in greyhound racing officiating.
“We only used to do one swab per meeting, as a matter of fact,” said Petterson.
“I would put the sample in a metal container and seal it with copper wire. Then I’d wrap it up in paper and get up early on Monday morning and put the parcel on the train to Melbourne!
“I also remember a couple of times when I was told to take the sample straight to the police station!
“It’s comical the way we used to do it. Nowadays, you can’t take the sample out of the stewards’ room without signing a form.”
Petterson fell into greyhound racing when he started working in the kennels at Sale in 1971, before graduating to Steward in Charge in 1983, a position he filled until 1988.
“I started work in the factory at Maffra in 1966 and I worked with Donald Cameron, who was into the greyhounds,” Petterson explained.
“I left the factory and started working at Sale Hospital and then about a week later the Camerons rang me and asked if I wanted to come over to Sale greyhounds and see what I thought about working in the kennels. That’s how it all started.
“Between 1983 and 1988 I was the Steward in Charge at Sale. We used to race on Saturday nights back then. But then I got ill and took some time off – 18 years actually.
“A job came up again in 2006, which I was lucky enough to get.
“Sale, Traralgon and Warragul are the main tracks I’ve worked at. Every now and then I’ve worked at Sandown and Healesville and I’ve also done a couple of meetings at Geelong, which I was quite happy about because my daughter lives down there.”
Petterson doesn’t hesitate in identifying technology as the biggest change to impact stewarding over the course of his lengthy career.
“When I started we had carbon paper between the pages and had to handwrite the report. People today wouldn’t know what you’re talking about!” Petterson quipped.
“We used to have four stewards standing around every corner of the track and after the race we’d come back and report on what had happened on each particular section of the track.
“There’s so much technology now – cameras, front-on – and it’s all for the better obviously.
“We can show a trainer or owner the vision of where we believe their greyhound has run off or whatever, while years ago it was our word and that was it. They really didn’t have any comeback.
“It’s so much more professional now.”
Fittingly, Petterson bowed out where his greyhound racing career commenced, when working his final meeting at Sale on Sunday, June 16, with travel and football plans already in the pipeline to fill what will be a considerable void.
“I’ll miss the trainers – there were so many characters – and I’ve been very lucky to be part of a great team at the track and to work with good people,” Petterson offered.
“I’ve just turned 70 so it’s a good time to get out. My wife and I plan to do some travelling around Australia and overseas too.
“Hopefully I can go and see a bit more football too. I’ve been involved with the Maffra Club for a while now and I’d like to see the Dees (Melbourne) go a bit better than they are at the moment!”