Covid did not halt innovation and change
By Greyhounds Australasia CEO Cherie Nicholl
As I write today, it’s great to be working from the GA offices for the first time since the end of March in 2020. Although working from home has its appeal and the GA team mastered remote working last year, nothing beats the sense of camaraderie and connection you get from working with colleagues in the same building.
While in 2020 we had to learn to do things a little differently, this is often a good thing and sparks ideas for innovation and better ways of working. With that as inspiration, this month I’d like to highlight some of the advances, new thinking and innovations that have been introduced around the jurisdictions in recent time.
GRSA launched a new remote / battery lure at the first race at the new Murray Bridge straight track. Working with local engineering firms, Steriline Racing and Kovey Engineering over many years, the GRSA team designed a modern and innovative replacement for cable and bramich lure systems – a self-propelled battery-operated lure carriage operated by remote control that could be used on existing lure rail infrastructure.
The unit eliminates the need for a high-speed cable to propel a lure, thereby reducing operational risk for both racing greyhounds and race day human operatives. Following this successful launch GRSA are progressively rolling out the SafeChase lure to all tracks in SA. Other jurisdictions are also trialing or have launched the new lure and if you have not seen one in operation it won’t be long before there’s one at a track near you.
In Victoria GRV successfully deployed an impressive suite of enhancements to their Watchdog mobile app. Introducing new features such as dedicated live streaming via Sky Racing for all Victorian greyhound race meetings and an expanded in-depth form guide, including an animated early speed indicator for each greyhound on all Victorian race cards. Other enhancements include fixed odds market movers, improvements to the Click to Bet functionality, more detailed form guides and statistics, expert selections and video previews and fast race replays.
In Tasmania there have been some great initiatives related to the Greyhound Adoption Program. The first was to purchase the first Tas Racing stand-alone Greyhound Adoption Program (GAP) facility at Mangalore in southern Tasmania. And later in the year Tas Racing announced that they would cover the costs of all desexing operations for eligible greyhounds who raced in and are domiciled in Tasmania through the interim Greyhound Desexing Program, which is in place whilst the full Program is being developed. Greyhounds that were bred in Tasmania but did not make it to the track will also be eligible for the Interim Greyhound Desexing Program.
The team at Greyhound Racing NZ have made a significant investment designing and launching new rehoming and tracking software. This purpose-built software was integrated and linked into Greyhound Racing New Zealand’s existing database to ensure every dog is accounted for. A greyhound can now be tracked from birth, through its racing career, while it is on the rehoming waitlist, through the rehoming programme and onto its adopted home. This ensures accurate reporting and management of the greyhound population.
In Western Australia, RWWA introduced a Greyhound Injury Full Recovery Scheme. While 99.8 % of starters in WA race safely without sustaining major injuries, RWWA has both its Greyhound Injury Rebate scheme and Greyhound Injury Full Recovery scheme to assist the small number of greyhounds that sustain a major injury with their recovery and subsequent rehoming. The Greyhound Injury Full Recovery Scheme allows owners and trainers to sign over ownership of the greyhound to RWWA, where all veterinary costs are paid for. Once recovered, the greyhound progresses through RWWA’s Greyhounds as Pets (GAP) program standard rehoming process.
GRNSW announced a major project with the acquisition of a property for a world-first Farm stay greyhound sanctuary in the Hunter Valley to facilitate the adoption of greyhounds and ensure their health and wellbeing. The Farmstay operation is intended to help fast-track GRNSW’s target of zero unnecessary euthanasia of greyhounds and further accelerate the rehoming of greyhounds as pets into the wider community through the GAP NSW Program.
GRNSW has also enhanced its digital assets with the relaunch of thedogs.com.au platform. The new platform includes enhanced capabilities to deliver live stream video and data across all devices, with the objective of driving future commercial outcomes.
In Queensland, a ‘Summer Carnival’ was introduced by Racing Queensland, providing Group racing opportunities for sprinters, middle distance types, stayers, and age-restricted greyhounds throughout December and January. Headlined by the new $235,000 Gold Bullion – Queensland’s second richest greyhound race – the ‘TAB Golden Greys Summer Carnival’ featured six black-type events over eight weeks.
Racing Queensland is also progressing with stakeholder consultation and planning for the new Greater Brisbane Greyhound Centre which will include a large one-turn track, two-turn track and straight track; track safety benefits including radius and surface banking to be designed in a way to reduce excessive limb forces acting on greyhounds while racing; world-class racing surfaces; starting box positioning – including roll on boxes were best suited – which reduces racing interference and supports race safety; starting box design incorporating optimum spacing between contestants and grille heights; grandstand and customer facilities ensuring gold standard customer experience and viewing of all three tracks; and air-conditioned, sound-attenuated kennels with best practice pre and post racing support services.
All the jurisdictions operate independently and have their own strategic objectives and plans to deliver the best racing product and support for participants and care for our greyhounds. This handful of examples demonstrates the continual improvement across a range of areas and just some of the ways our industry continues to evolve, develop, improve, and achieve excellence to ensure the sustainability of our industry.