AT LONG last, another state has elected to run formal trials of the finish-on-lure. GRV will start off with a meeting at Geelong next month and continue for eight weeks. Unofficial trials have already been held at five Victorian tracks in order to fine down the specifications of the arm and lure.
The new lure will be of the hooped style, 1.2m high and 1.5m away from the rail, both distances much larger than current practice with conventional arm lures. It generally conforms to some of the lures in use in New Zealand and also at Mt Gambier and Gawler in South Australia. Previous experiments at Angle Park and Albion Park were successful but were discontinued following objections from some trainers.
NSW conducted short FOL trials at two tracks – apparently successfully – but failed to continue on or even announce reasons for their terminations. The current Victorian effort also represents a radical change from what were reputed to be “over my dead body” views from the previous administration.
The new design aims to improve chasing keenness and provide a reward to runners at the end of the trip.
However, it may well offer a bonus. Observations of NZ races and photos of the GRV trials indicate that dogs spread out a little more on the track, which could reduce interference caused by bunching at the first turn. If that happens it could cause a minor revolution in the way races are run in this country – all to the good.
More technology could boost greyhounds
In an area barely touched by racing, Walter Schroder of Big Data Solutions at NetApp A/NZ points to new ways in which science is supporting sports of all kinds (The Australian, 17 July).
“Vast amounts of data are generated in any event, he says. In every second a ball is hit, or when a Formula One car roars around the track, streams of unstructured data are generated. Such data can yield useful statistics, information and insights, from an individual’s performance to a team’s ability to function together effectively. However, these insights are only available if this sheer abundance of information is captured, processed and stored effectively.”
This is one of several avenues available to assess the worth and performance of greyhound tracks, and also to allow trainers/coaches to better understand how their charges are racing. And in real time. It lends itself to analysing the good and bad aspects of track design, an art massively underdone in racing.
“Sports have become a multibillion-dollar global business. Data analytics is no longer an option, it’s a necessity,” claims Schroder. Very true.
A lesson for the inquiries?
20 years after it was privatised, Qantas has rebounded from recent struggles and is on line to post a $900 million profit. Yet, at the time, “the privatisation of Qantas under the Keating Labor government sparked fears the airline would no longer have the cash to invest in new aircraft and would not represent the national interest,” The Australian reported.
The experts differed. Brendan Lyon, chief executive of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, said: “You would have to say the deregulation of the aviation sector and privatisation of Qantas has only been good for the consumer. They are substantially better off with domestic travel and it’s cheaper. It really shows the government did the right thing.”
Peter Harbison, executive chairman of the Centre for Aviation, pointed out “Qantas had to be privatised, if it had been left any longer it would have been a total disaster. In the old days, it was about flying metal, but in the 90s it started becoming more about the customer. And you had to make a transition from a government department to a commercial enterprise.”
Qantas boss, Alan Joyce, said the cultural change that had occurred at Qantas since privatisation could not be underestimated. “I was on a flight recently and a cabin crew member who had been with the company since before privatisation, said to me, ‘passengers would get on board and we treated them as though they were lucky to be here, but that culture has gone now and we’re a much better airline.’
Interestingly, Qantas once controlled half of all international travel to and from Australia. Today that share has reduced by two thirds yet it is able to run more efficiently and turn a profit in a highly competitive environment.
Racing has seen an almost identical change in market share but still cannot see its way clear to either growing its business or making a profit. To explain that, attention must go to the unchanging culture of the industry, which largely expects the world to provide for it, rather than the other way round. Racing’s once trenchant opposition to the arrival of online bookmakers and Betfair might be equated to Qantas objecting to the use of jet aircraft. That would be unthinkable.
Your money at work.
And a few words on our previous article on how state administrators are performing. An anonymous reader threw in a one-liner, claiming only that “It’s dogs running around in a circle. Time to get a new hobby.”
In round terms, the current spate of inquiries will cost well over $10 million, much of it funded directly or indirectly by punters and reduced prize money. You could double that if you take into account all the wasted time by staff of various sorts. Then you could double it again if you count up the cost of all the capital and income losses suffered by owners, trainers and offenders generally, some of whom were innocent, some not.
To say nothing about the prospect of shutting down or sharply reducing greyhound racing activity, as some would have it. The above $40-$50 million would then pale into insignificance. It almost would need an entry in the national budget.
Besides all that, the comment is insulting to the professionalism of the good people taking part in the sport. Nevertheless, it is a salutary reminder that the industry needs to better package its wares and so inform the public with some authority.