Tasmania, the country’s smallest greyhound state, has just launched trials of the controversial finish-on lure at the Launceston track. Three states have already tried the same experiment but SA is the only one that has persevered. But this is only one part of a challenge which has national implications.
The FOL ran extensively at Albion Park with results showing that injury rates were lower and non-chasing problems improved. Despite that, a sizeable proportion of local trainers remained opposed to the change and eventually Racing Queensland (formerly QGRA) decided to revert to the traditional lure.
NSW ran trials at two tracks, apparently with success, but the subject then disappeared off the agenda.
SA also conducted lengthy tests at Angle Park. An in-depth review then revealed much the same as in Queensland – interference, injuries and chasing factors had all improved. Consequently the SA board approved a permanent change.
Other states’ views are unknown but chatter in Victoria has included a number of “over my dead body” comments. No trials have been run.
Apart from the statistics, no conclusive report has been seen about the pros and cons of the FOL. So let’s interpret from the data we do have and add our own observations.
First, objections often related to injuries suffered when the dogs eventually catch up with the lure. Yet no such trend is evident in the actual results collected in Brisbane or Adelaide.
Second, you could theorise that the higher physical profile of the FOL makes it more visible to runners back in the field, which would in turn encourage them to chase more keenly. Certainly the stats support that view.
Third, a further possibility would be that the nature of the FOL reduces interference because it tends to encourage runners to spread out a little more, rather than diving towards the rail, as many are usually keen to do.
Why, then, has the FOL had a generally negative experience in Australia, unlike in New Zealand where it has been in use for donkey’s years? It seems the only answer is that state authorities, or their advisers, are cemented to traditional practices and do not want to change, whether to the FOL or anything else.
Given that the subject is essentially one of safety and consistency, it should normally fall under the reach of Greyhounds Australasia. However, no words of wisdom have been emerging from its Melbourne bunker.
This is disappointing as an issue like this one is precisely what a national body should be looking into. The secrecy surrounding GA’s agendas means we do not know whether it has even been discussed or, if so, what the outcome was.
In the same vein, you can add track and equipment specifications to the list warranting independent and objective analysis. Another item would be an expert and ongoing assessment of the state of the greyhound breed – what are the genetic trends, for example? How are they affecting race programs?
Together with varying grading systems or agreements with various TABs and bookmaker groups or a national betting pool, these are all matters which would be better handled on a national basis where the full power and expertise of the industry could be brought to bear.
Instead, we are stuck with GA members from each state taking a parochial brief to meetings, then returning home to further consider whether they can be bothered implementing any changes – and they often don’t.
Racing’s processes may be likened to having a different leg-before-wicket rule in each state. Or to tennis courts having different dimensions. Or to different rules for AFL reserves from one state to another. It would be farcical.
Yet that is the system so jealously guarded by incumbent state authorities. It is one which, at heart, must take the blame for the general failure of the racing industry to keep pace with modern society. It is why racing had been losing influence over betting activity, which has been in relative decline for over two decades now.
It is why the Australian Institute of Sport has served notice on backward looking sports that they must measure up to modern governance standards or lose their federal subsidies. AIS has demonstrated that sports with independent national bodies do much better than those with state-centric organisations. It is why Rugby League, Rugby Union and Cricket have each implemented major changes over the last year or so.
To have a working, competent and authoritative national body is a no-brainer.