Has the fun gone out of greyhound racing?

Greyhound racing at Rockhampton

, 89, retired from training just over four years ago at the age of 85.

The former pool manager and swimming coach trained a modest team of three greyhounds from the age of 35 and said whilst he loved every minute of it, he feared the “stress” of it all had taken its toll on many participants.

“Yeah, I enjoyed training the greyhounds,” he said.

“Training has changed so much now and after retiring I barely follow it anymore though.

“There's a lot of new and although some are good, some are, well, bloody ridiculous and I can see why a lot are getting out.

“The sport has changed so much. When I was in Melbourne, I used to take a racedog on a tram to the track, and then race it. A lot of us did.

“I know that couldn't happen now but you can't really race at all if you haven't got an air conditioned trailer in the summer months.”

Cunningham believed that former owners and trainers had “more fun” in the business in years gone by and was worried the enjoyment was decreasing amongst participants in this day and age.

“We used to just walk our dogs for miles around the streets twice a day,” he said.

“Now, trainers wouldn't because there are so many loose pet dogs running around off the leads. Most trainers free gallop or use walking machines which I started doing when I turned 60.

“We used to go to the track with a couple of dogs in the back of the car and enjoy the day out.

“We would all have a few beers, all the trainers would talk to each other and share a meal together and then we would bet on our dog, race it and go home.

“Nowadays, trainers keep to themselves, there are hardly any spectators on track and all the punting is done online and you can't blame COVID because that was happening before the pandemic.

“The sport itself seems to be going okay in Australia, though, even with some harsh policies and strict .

“The prizemoney has increased, and starters fees, but are people enjoying it as much?”

Cunningham said that he trained for the social side of the sport, to keep fit and the love of the animal but those reasons seemed lost among many participants.

He believes greyhound racing clubs needed to attract spectators back and make the sport lively again.

“The dogs kept me going and I would attend to them three times a day,” he said.

“I made many friends in the industry and a lot of the time we would catch up on a night if we weren't racing.

“Most of the time now, the big trainers just send their workers to the track and it's more like a job and it is pretty boring at the track for spectators.

“The hobby trainers find it hard and it has gotten ridiculous with the re-homing rules. I had to keep one of my greyhounds home for a year after she raced before I could move her on to a home.

“But it probably still is a great sport but I don't really watch any greyhound racing anymore, but occasionally I watch the horse races though.”

Whilst Cunningham is lost to training, he still cares for a retired greyhound – Mate – who he lets out three times a day for a relaxing sunbake.

“In the last 50 years, there have only been two stages of like three or four months when I was without a greyhound.”

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