Michael McGill interviews media personality Glenn Munsie. View his interview below.
Your father Norm was a well respected jockey who rode a lot for Bob Mead and owner/bookie Ken Rogers. Do you remember any stories of their successful plunges?
Well before that he rode for a man by the name of Mr Frank Packer. Frank’s private trainer was a bloke called Billy Childs and he trained at Moorefield and what Frank used to do was name all his horses after newspaper type things as he was the owner of the Daily Telegraph at the time. One of their best horses was named Journalist and another was called Columnist.
I remember Journalist one day was 330/1 to 4/1 to win a welter race in town and I think they got a bit of money out of it that day. They had a lot of luck together Dad and Frank Packer. He tells a couple of stories about going in there to meet him in the offices of News Limited and I think he may have even got a couple of little presents off him.
What was it like growing up on the tracks back then? Did you attend many meetings as a young boy?
I am 53 now so I have been going to the races for 54 years. Mum used to always go to the races with Dad and I don’t think there are many racetracks I haven’t been to in NSW. I would say I have probably been to every racetrack from as far south as Bega and right up to the boarder. Then from Coffs harbour and out as far west to Warren, Dubbo, Cowra, Orange, Bathurst and all those places out there.
How old where you when you were bitten by the racing bug?
Well like I said I have been going to the races all my life but it was just something you did. I went to the races with Dad and when we were on holidays and things like that. Dad was a regular visitor to Grafton and in our school holidays we would be there for a month.
Did you ever consider a career as a jockey and follow in your father’s footsteps?
I don’t think I had much hope. I tell the story where I sat at the opposite end of the dinner table to Dad and I managed to get a lot more to eat than he did.
What was your first job in the Industry?
I was a bookies clerk for a bookie by the name of Kevin Leighton back in 1980 as soon as I turned 18. I was at University at the time and I needed a part time job to basically get myself through University.
I met Kevin Leighton at a function through a mutual friend of ours and told him I was interested in going to the races and learning to be a clerk. Back in those days you actually had to learn to be a clerk. You had to learn how to pencil, and I actually started at the payout and I had no idea realistically about the ledgers and how the bets were recorded in those days. I was taught how to clerk and tick off and payout the tickets.
In those days it wasn’t decimalised odds so it was like $30 on a 6/4 chance was 45 to 30 and 11/8 and 13/4 and all those crazy odds and things. So that was it, as soon as I turned 18 I got a job at the races.
How did you get the job with Robbie Waterhouse?
I was looking to go to the races a little more often. I started going to the races on a Saturday because it didn’t interfere with University and as I got through Uni I realised they had races on a Wednesday so I would try to jig my calendar year to get Wednesday’s off so I was going to the races two days a week. Then I got a little bit smarter and said well they race on a Thursday as well and an opportunity came to work for Robbie and I knew Robbie went to the races Wednesday and Thursday as well as the trots on a Friday night and the races on a Saturday.
I wasn’t a regular worker at the trots on a Friday night because I was playing football at the time and Friday night was training night and I was lucky enough to play on a Sunday at that stage so the races didn’t interfere with it.
I worked for Robbie for a very long time and was the front bagman for a number of years and everywhere that Robbie went to the races I would go with him. We would go to the Wellington Boot, the Black Opal and all the major races in the bush. You could be a clerk back in those days and seriously if you worked for the right bookies it would be nothing for you to work six days a week.
You would have Bankstown trots Monday night, Newcastle or Kembla on the Tuesday, Wednesday at the races, Wednesday night at Dapto dogs, Thursday at the races, Thursday night might be Bulli dogs or Penrith trots, Friday night would be the trots and Saturday would be back at the races and then finish at the dogs that night.
Not many people know that you were on the bag for Robbie during the Fine Cotton affair. What was it like with all the media scrutiny?
I was lucky. I was basically there and I actually bailed. I said I have had enough of this with people coming to the races everyday and shoving cameras in your face. I knew I had nothing to do with it and I actually said to Robbie; because my photo was on the front page of the paper and in the news; because people that knew me knew my father and I think a lot of people where trying to tie the two together and I just said to Robbie, look mate I am getting out of here and going on holiday for a week. To this day I have never ever been asked a question at an official enquiry about the Fine Cotton affair.
So where did you go from there?
When Robbie was put out I worked for a few different bookies in Sydney like Mark Reed and Charlie D’Amore and I filled in with a lot of bookmakers like Ray Hopkins who was a very close friend of mine that I worked for at the races and dogs. I also worked for a number of smaller bookies at the provincials.
In those days as a bookies clerk once the bookmakers knew you were keen to go to the races they would find you out. After a while Colin Tidy who has become a very good friend of mine he was a bookie in the outer ring and I got the opportunity to work for Col and then he moved across to the interstate ring so he needed a few more staff.
How did the TAB job come about in 1999 and what were your initial responsibilities?
I was doing my best. I was still working for Col and I had my own business that I had started probably 10 years before doing the pre-post markets on the races and I was selling those to a number of different bookies through out the country and a couple in PNG.
I was also doing the radio at that stage with 2KY and I was doing some work for the radio station in Brisbane and Melbourne and also a TV show for Optus as their racing expert. I then got a phone call off a bloke I knew called Dave Sim who was a punter at the races and he was approached by the TAB when sports betting was in its infancy.
In the middle of 1999 Dave rang me and said they were looking for someone to do their media work. He said to the powers that be at the TAB that he had the perfect guy for the job.
I then went to Col and had a sit down with him and asked him what he thought and he said he wasn’t going to be around for ever and my business with a number of bookies was declining and he said, ‘If it was me I don’t think they are going to go broke and you do not know what sports betting is going to be like so why not give it a crack.’ And that is what I did in December 1999 and I have been there ever since.
Tom Waterhouse changed the industry by becoming the face. Has the TAB gone down the same road with Jamie Rogers and Matt Jenkins?
We actually started all of that. It wasn’t Tom that changed the Industry he changed the public’s perception of the Industry by saturation, marketing and putting himself out there. We had been on Channel 9 for the previous four years before that.
When Tom came out and did it everyone complained about him being in your face and we sat back and said we must not have ruffled any feathers in the four years that we did it because we had been on Channel 9 for that period of time.
What is the best part about your job?
Variety. You never really know what the next day holds. One day you are worried about a tennis tournament, the next day it’s a rugby union test, then it’s a rugby league game and a horse race, a car race. It is all about variety.
The acceptance of sports betting at the moment and its growth has been something that I have seen since the infancy of the TAB. When I first started we turned over $40 million in a year and we now turn over in excess of $4 billion.
From the early days of SportsTab to now you must be amazed at the rapid rise in sports betting and peoples perception of it?
Sport is a funny thing. Everyone is an expert on sport and there is always a lot of discussion about it. We call it ‘Monday’s experts’ and everyone comes into work on a Monday and they all discuss what happened on the weekend and how your team did this or that. What sport’s betting has actually done is make those experts realise that they can make some money out of it.
What we say is who are you going to take more notice of; the Monday expert or the Monday expert that told you that team was going to win and here is the ticket that I backed them with to prove it.
What do you see as being the next revolution in gambling heading into the future?
The internet has been the revolution of gambling for three main reasons. You can see things via the internet, bet via the internet and gain the information via the internet.
What makes the TAB stand out as a preferred agency over the corporate bookies?
It is the ease and availability and the 3000 agencies we now have in NSW, Victoria and the ACT. It is also our App. We have the best App. We were the first out with mobile Apps. The digital way is the way to go and younger people are all betting digitally. A vast majority of our business is also still done in agencies in cash. It is the anonymity of the person having a bet.
Tell us about working with your co-hosts Greg Radley and Gary Harley on Sky Thoroughbred Central.
They are great blokes. I have known Gaz for a long while from when I was a kid and knocking around the races at Newcastle. Gaz was the voice of Newcastle and always at the races and the Dogs and at 2HD calling the football. Gary Harley was a bloke you associated with sport in Newcastle.
Greg I have known all the way back when he was working on 2KY. He had his own drive time show on the station then he had the morning show and then he was the original host of the Big Sports Breakfast. I have worked with Greg in a number of different ways and we get on well together.
I also think that comes across. If you are at ease with the people you are working with it comes across well for the people who are sitting at home. What you need to do is make the people sitting at home feel like they are sitting at the races. You are not drilling things into their heads and you need to try and make it as easy for them as possible and as informative as possible. You are trying to find them a winner.
Who are your three favourite horses?
One of my favourite horses was one called Oxford Prince, only because I had $50 each way on it at 200/1 on the 16th of June 1994 when it won the first race at Randwick and was ridden by a bloke called Gary Mathews and trained by Gary Nixon. It was coming off three duck eggs at Wyong, Cessnock and Kembla and it came from last in a 1600m 2 year old race and won by a nose.
Kingstown Town has always been a favourite. And a favourite for our family was a horse called Air Field back in the 70’s and it is the only horse to ever make it on the wall at mum and dads place. Dad was on it when it won its maiden at Gosford and went from 6/1 to 4/6 in a maiden and it ran faster time than the flying and then won its next eleven haha.
You are a bit of a joker and comedian with a large personality. How does your wife Denise put up with you at home? Is there an off button?
She says I don’t have an off button because you get pretty hyped and involved in what you are doing and she says I bring my work home with me to much. I will be at work all day and the first thing I do when I get home is go out to my office and sit down and turn the TV on and watch a race meeting or put fox Sports on. She says I need to learn to switch off when I walk in the door which I find difficult to do.
You are a big Souths fan. Who is your all-time favourite player and can they go back to back this year?
Probably Sattler and Ronnie Coote and in the modern generation Sam Burgess for what he did for South Sydney last year and I also have a massive wrap for Isaac Luke. I think he will be a huge loss to South Sydney next year. I don’t think he has got any where near the wraps he deserves. He is the player that gets Souths moving forward and keeps them on a roll. I was very disappointed for him last year in missing out in the Grand Final.
Glenn thank you very much for your time.