Together with chairman of judges, John Gaustad, this was the 26th time I have been involved with the William Hill Sports Book of the Year - yet I am in my 43rd year with the company.
What must I have been thinking of for the first 17 years?!
Unlike some of the duties that come with my role as media relations director, the WHSBOTY is somehow more, rather than less, stressful year on year – probably because it seems to become a bigger deal as it ages and matures like a fine vintage wine. The thought of the disappointment the runners-up will be feeling almost overwhelms anticipation of the joy of the winners.
But maybe here I'm actually outing my own resentment that, despite writing over a dozen books of my own during that 26 year period, none of them has ever been put in front of the judges. Perhaps when I retire...
Over the years I have witnessed distraught losers threaten judges, flounce out in a huff and even deliberately divulge the identity of a winner before the official announcement. Winners seem to react with a little more decorum, showering their defeated rivals with generous praise; modestly insisting they are not worthy – but happily pocketing the readies, warning loyal publishers they'll be touting their next offering to the highest bidder, and wondering how best to exploit the free-bet part of their prize.
Ingenious tactics such as backing a non-runner to convert the stake money to cash or dividing the money amongst every runner in the race, or team in the match in the hope that an outsider wins, have been tried in the past. Last year's winner Jamie Reid opted to risk all of his free bet stake on UKIP to win the Rochester by-election – thus voting himself a handsome profit.
This year's thoroughly warranted winner Anna Krien – the first Australian and second female to win – hails from a country full of passionate punters and should have no shortage of advice about how to turn her wager into winnings.
I am also very pleased that the award has made a significant international impact – recent winners have included Americans, Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle; German, Ronald Reng, and now Aussie Anna – and all of them were happy to travel thousands of miles to risk rejection while hoping to be hailed.
Much of the credit for the acclaim that the WHSBOTY has accrued rests with the much respected members of our judging panel, and I never cease to be amazed by their attention to detail, and enthusiasm for the task at hand.
Contenders for next year's 27th running of the world's greatest prize for sporting literature are already milling about at the starting line – they will soon come under orders and the race will once more begin to unfold its drama. I'm betting I'll still be around to find out who'll win.
Graham Sharpe is media relations director at William Hill, and founder of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award
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