2024 Queensland Racing Carnival homepage
  • Home
  • News
  • Beloved bush race caller gets his chance on the big stage

Beloved bush race caller gets his chance on the big stage

Thu 27 June 2024

By Jordan Gerrans

When Andrew Watts thinks back to his maiden race call just under a decade ago – he could never have envisioned just how much his life would have changed in the time since.

Back in December of 2015, Watts was thrown in the deep end behind the microphone in the bush.

At that time, he was a young fella who loved a punt, the races and was cooking steaks at the local pub to pay the bills. 

As Watts prepares to call his first event under the bright lights of metropolitan racing this Saturday, three of his closest mentors have reflected on his journey from 'immature' young bloke in the bush to a respected family man that may one day walk around Longreach with the title of ‘Mayor’.

Tony Clements was key in giving Watts a chance to call on Sky Racing through his former role of Program Director at RadioTAB.

Clements reckons Watts would have laughed in his face if he told him a decade ago, he would be calling at Eagle Farm in the middle of 2024.

He believes it is exactly the same when it comes to his recent move into local politics as a councillor in Longreach.

As well as being a councillor, Watts is also the president of the Longreach Jockey Club.

His predecessor in the president’s chair at LJC - Rob Luck – has mentored him closely over the years since he relocated to the Central West in 2008.

“You could see the potential in him to have a future in doing a lot for the community in Longreach,” Luck said.

“As a person he has matured with age and is a family man.

“As he travels far and wide, people have got to know him and it was probably a natural thing for him to become a councillor in the local community.

“Down the line he might end up becoming the Mayor.

“It is one of those great development stories that he has grown with maturity into these roles. He has been able to produce the goods in everything he does.”

Sky Racing’s principal caller for Queensland Josh Fleming refers to Watts as ‘the voice of the Central West’.

He is a local councillor, the president of the racetrack as well as being prominent through the airwaves in the bush on Radio 4LG.

Fleming hails from Barcaldine and understands just how vital figures such as Watts are in regional communities.

“You need that voice in that part of the world and that certainly has become Andrew Watts,” Fleming said.

“He is one of the more well-known and popular people in the district.”

Fleming and Watts have followed similar paths in the calling ranks to the city.

They both enjoyed their first meetings in the Central West and cut their teeth at the grass fed tracks such as Kooroorinya.

Fleming was mentored by Alan Thomas before becoming Sky Racing’s principal caller for Queensland and he has passed that knowledge on to Watts.

He feels a responsibility to do so like the great Thomas did for him.

“Wattsy has started from scratch to now calling on a carnival day in Brisbane,” Fleming said.

“He is a good learner and he is willing to listen.

“He is not afraid of criticism; he takes it on board and handles it well. He is always looking for ways to improve his calling and develop as he goes along.

“It has been great to see his improvement as he has gone along. He has developed so much so quickly.”

While Watts has only been calling the gallopers on race day for just under a decade, he always had a love for the caper.

As a kid he grew up on the Northern Rivers of NSW and was a keen greyhound man in his younger days.

He held an owner and trainers license and would go home at night and do his own mock calls in the late 1990s.

He eventually made his way to the Central West as a chef and it has all grown from there.

Luck was the race caller and Longreach Jockey Club president in those days.

Luck took the newcomer to the area under his wing and mentored him in both roles.

When Luck departed the region a couple of years ago to retire to the Gold Coast, Watts was ready and waiting to take on both roles and he says his protégé is doing an excellent job.

They refer to Watts as Luck’s apprentice in the Central West.

Luck also co-hosts regional racing program Bush Beat with Clements on RadioTAB every Tuesday.

Luck notes that he was driving home from the recent Barcaldine Tree Of Knowledge meeting with Watts and remarked to him that it was the best he had ever heard him perform behind the binoculars.

To rise through the ranks from the grass fed meetings to calling at Eagle Farm, Watts has done thousands of kilometres in the car and in small airplanes to get to regional race meetings.

From his Longreach base he has travelled far and wide to broadcast, heading to tracks such as Cunnamulla, Mount Isa, Cloncurry, McKinlay, Julia Creek, Augathella and many places in between.

Luck believes the people in those racing communities will be brimming with pride on Saturday to hear their local caller on the big stage.

And, the popular figure in the bush certainly has his own style of calling.

In the concluding stages of a race, he is known to lift the decibels, especially when it is a photo-finish.

That is something Luck and Fleming have both worked with Watts on, harnessing his passion for the sport and his job to ensure there is the best product being sent out through the airwaves.

Fleming says Watts’ accuracy in his calls can never be questioned despite his exciting style of finishes.

“You could not measure it for him, it will be a massive thrill for him and a career highlight,” Fleming said of Watts calling in town on Saturday.

“To see his growth through the grass fed picnic meetings then up to the other meetings in Western Queensland around the Longreach and Barcaldine area and for him now to get a shot in town – it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“I know he has been looking forward to it for a while and I cannot wait to hear his call.

“He will not be overawed by the occasion at Eagle Farm, he will be keen to get there and he will be more excited than nervous.”

When he does enter the caller’s booth on Saturday, Watts follows in the footsteps of fellow regional broadcasters such as Brett Moody, Scott Power, Tony Wode and Jarrod Wessel who have been given the race chance on a metropolitan Saturday.

“He is reliable, solid and has youthful exuberance – he has got that passion and that shines in his calling,” Clements said.

“What shines especially is that he knows and loves country racing.

“When he is out there in the bush calling at some of these country tracks, he knows the people that are winning these races and how much it means to them.

“And, that comes out in his calls. I have no doubt it will be the same on Saturday at Eagle Farm."

Watts will call the fourth event from Eagle Farm on Saturday.