by David McCarthy
Harness racing lost one of its best reporters and analysts with the passing of a long time Press trotting editor Jeff Scott.
Jeff had suffered from the effects of a brain tumour diagnosed after he collapsed on a golf holiday in Queensland in mid-2019. Treatment proved unsuccessful.
He died as he had lived. Brave, stoic, cheerful to the end in the face of great adversity. It was also a reflection of his career in racing journalism where he was a true professional in an era of rapid change.
From farming stock in Southland, Jeff was a harness fan from an early age and while still at school had some work published in what was then the Trotting Calendar. Much of his time was spent developing his love affair with trotting. The premature deaths of both parents were an early battle with adversity handled in his usual quiet competent fashion,
In 1977 he joined the Southland Times as a cadet under Norman Pierce and later Don Wright and was soon being noticed for his work. In 1982 he was hired by The Press as an assistant to longtime editor Geoff Yule whom he succeeded with Yule’s firm support in 1987. He was then already editor of the highly popular Trotting Annual which he continued for four years.
Even though the journalism world was changing in the wake of new technology Jeff remained true to the essential harness tradition of his earlier years. His analysis of trials and races; the sectional times and the field quality led him to be an expert selector primarily because he was not easily swept away by fads and fallacies. It was always form where Jeff was concerned and, especially as there were no replays of workouts and trials in those times, he had a large following.
Jeff also had a wide knowledge of harness racing in all its forms and in all countries and continued to be well informed about the local and national scene. He probably had no equal in his time in this respect and it was the source of many news stories
In later years, with the virtual demolition of the racing department of the Press through computerisation and technology and with the demand for more drama and controversy in content, he was less at ease believing readers wanted substance rather than style.
A wrist problem associated with RSI was typical of Jeff’s work ethic. While some others took weeks and months off work to recover he carried on without complaint. He finally resigned in 2005 having achieved all those early goals from his cadet days. It would be fair to say some industry trends dismayed him but he never let it affect his basic love of the standardbred sport.
Jeff enjoyed his leisure time especially through golf where he was a leading member of a Press-based group with their own “PGA” series of “majors” and "minors” with whom he made 13 trips to Australia. In all he won 49 tournaments. In marked contrast to his racing activities Jeff could be somewhat inconsistent on the golf course - largely because of the wrist problems- but almost unbeatable on a good day. Fair to say his golf form would not have appealed to him as a harness selector.
Jeff was no extrovert and underrated by some because of it, but his dry sense of humour helped him through times good and bad and was soon appreciated by his associates. He also had a canny ability to quickly sum up character and personality in others
Jeff continued to work in the industry through form comments and selections for Australian publications and latterly web site management for Mark Jones and Cran Dalgety. His enthusiasm never let up and he was watching races on both sides of the Tasman until very recently with the usual solid analysis being offered after each one.
Jeff was and remained devoted to his wife Nicola and sons Chris and Cam, merely an extension of his honourable character in the best of Southland traditions.
Jeffrey John Scott was 59. It is not in this case just a cliche to say he will be sadly missed.