ONE of the last big debates in the ongoing string of greyhound inquiries is going to be about the value of separating integrity or steward’s functions from what is called the commercial sector of racing authorities. Both Victoria and Queensland have opted for the split while NSW is still thinking about it. In fact, the Special Commission is looking for your ideas on it.
What is hard to find is the reason those two states changed course. A good reason, anyway.
Reading the reports, it seems they assumed that because live baiting occurred in a traditional system that therefore that the system was the problem, and needed to be changed. That’s all very circular. But the answer they found was to move the integrity function away from those somebodies and it won’t happen again.
Really? As it happens all those somebodies got removed anyway. Not because they stole money or punched the Minister on the nose but because they were in charge at the time. It’s the old Westminster system of responsibility.
Well, that is fair enough as far as it goes, but it does not pin down the real reason for the shortcomings. The nearest to it was the inference that inspections were not frequent enough or that access to trial tracks and the like was too restrictive. Both points are being handled, primarily by adding more staff.
One unanswered question is why managers did not add more staff in the first place. Presumably, they failed to recognise the existence of the abuses and therefore relied on the alertness of staff to pick them out. In that event, both the management and stewards groups failed – both are at least partly responsible for the errors. In turn, that may be partly due to personal shortcomings – ie a lack of initiative, a lack of awareness of what is going on in the industry, a reliance on the “system” to take care of problems, or whatever.
After all, on the basis of man-hours, the major occupation of racing authorities is purely clerical while what is being loosely titled “commercial” lags a long way behind. And even were managers real go-getter types they would soon have to run up against slow-acting committees – ie boards – to obtain the OK for their programs. Essentially, racing authorities are bureaucracies which specialise in pushing pieces of paper around, often at dead slow, and are notoriously resistant to change (just ask the NT bookies).
To go back to the findings to date, neither Victoria nor Queensland has given any consideration to (a) the structure of their authorities, stewards aside, or (b) the sort of people they should employ. They are simply playing musical chairs and opting for more of the same.
Equally, what would be accomplished by moving the stewards away to a separate unit? Higher costs, certainly (as occurred with GHHRA in NSW a few years ago). Different objectives to those running the authority proper – almost certainly. A fall in feedback in both directions between stewards and the “commercial” arm – unavoidable. More specific responsibility for identifying problems and law breakers – possible but arguable. Independence of thought? Maybe, but the history of chief stewards across the country suggests a move in that direction is risky at best. Some have done well, some have not. And remember that no-one has ever split the operation before so there is no experience to draw on bar the brief episode in NSW and the practice in Tasmania where the task is very small in the first place – ie only three tracks for each code.
My summation is that a split would put the industry on a hiding to nothing. Worse, it avoids attention to the real problems of poor organisational structures and unsuitable staff to run them. If you put good people at the top you can almost guarantee there will be good people at the bottom.
More dynasties emerge
One day, someone is going to have to write a book about the Wheeler family – or dynasty, really. At the same time, with the demise of the closely related Bate group, another family has achieved a position of dominance.
It hit between the eyes when adding up the influence of the Daillys (Andrea, Tom, George) at the modest “provincial” standard meeting at The Meadows last Wednesday. In the 12 races, 25 starters came from the Dailly camp, four of which were winners. Most were youngsters. Two others were reserves but missed a run.
While only eight of those were Wheeler dogs, at the same meeting the mighty breeder had 11 other starters in the care of different trainers.
On the same day, the Daillys had three more runners at Ballarat (all Wheelers’) while Cranbourne and Bendigo welcomed eight more from the Wheeler camp but with different trainers, not counting four Bendigo runners which were bred by Wheelers but sold on.
A point of interest is that the Daillys, from Anakie just outside Geelong, must have a massive transport operation, a large staff, a huge feed bill and therefore make a big contribution to the state’s economy. Anakie is known as “Koala Country” but the area presence of several trainers and many greyhounds might be giving them a run for their money.
Fernando Bale and Dyna Double One might get the headlines but the 5th graders are providing a lot of the meat and potatoes. In case you have lost track of the above figures it means the Wheelers had 30 dogs racing on Wednesday in Victoria alone. Eight more raced at Gawler.
And for those concerned about alleged overbreeding, those Victorian races included six which started with empty boxes. Another 19 across the country had the same problem: Wenty – 3, Albion Park – 1, Gawler – 4, Northam – 7, Richmond – 3, Rockhampton – 1. Quite a bit of room left there.
It’s not the heat, it’s the mist
At a time when the state is running into 40 degree temperatures, Thursday night’s Warrnambool meeting was abandoned after the eighth race when the lure driver was unable to see the runners coming around the main turn due to “sea mist”. The track is not too far from the southern ocean. Maybe the whales were breaching?