STAWELL - Young race caller Travis Noonan has successfully called his first entire race meeting.
The son of Stawell horse trainer David Noonan, the sixteen year old recently attended Woolamai, which is situated down near Phillip Island, where he took the microphone for the six race card.
Noonan was pleased with his performance on the day, which was heard by 5000 people who had turned out to enjoy the picnic races.
"It went pretty good overall," he said.
"I've had a lot of feedback and I was pretty happy with how I went."
Noonan first came to attention when, as a fourteen year old, he made an impromptu debut at the Murtoa Cup.
Overheard practicing his craft that day by two stewards, Noonan was asked to step in and call the final two races to replace regular caller Rick McIntosh who had lost his voice.
Since then, the teenager has progressed further and has called races at several meetings including Manangatang, Wycheproof, Balnarring and last weekend at Great Western's Seppelt Salinger Cup.
Noonan admits getting the names of the horses right can be a challenge.
"The pronunciation can be difficult. At Balnarring, I had a bit of a stumble but nothing traumatic," he said.
"My nerves have gotten better because I'm doing it more often. I practice when I can."
How do you find out about these race calling opportunities?
"Through other callers. When they're on other duties, they let you know to help you out," Noonan said.
Race calling is something Noonan is passionate about and his main aim when he finishes school is to obtain a scholarship.
There is one available in Sydney for aspiring young callers like Travis, called the John Tapp Scholarship which is run through Sky Racing Channel.
Noonan credits Rick McIntosh and another young race caller, TVN's Adam Olszanski, as his mentors.
Olszanski, in particular, has a similar story to Noonan's - he was invited to call races as a 16 year old at Alexandra and was then also offered the chance to fill in for a couple of races at Woolamai, which led to doing full meetings and picking up full-time gigs at non-TAB clubs such as Burrumbeet and Kerang.
A decade after calling at Alexandra, Olszanski landed a role as Victoria's number three caller behind Bryan Martin and Terry Bailey at TVN.
Noonan's main aim is to eventually gain a number one spot in Melbourne.
"That would be great. Calling across free-to-air networks would be good too," he said.
Noonan has been doing phantom Cox Plate/Caulfield/Melbourne Cup calls for Radio Sports National for the last two years and he uses a tape recorder to practice and analyse his calls.
This year, the teenager will be busy juggling year 11 studies with his calling.
He has another meeting at Woolamai coming up and will also jump in the chair at VFL games for their online streaming of games this season.
Noonan has also been invited by the Victorian Athletics League to call at the Australia Post Stawell Gift this year, after calling a couple of events at the Ararat Gift last month.
It will definitely be a challenge for the 16 year old.
"It (athletics) is a lot harder to call than horse racing. Athletes go a lot quicker - the first race (in Ararat) went for seven seconds," Noonan said.
Although Noonan is looking at other sports, horse racing is the main interest.
"It's the one sport I know most about, but I'm willing to do anything," he said.