LAST week the Maitland Greyhound Breeders Owners & Trainers Association (GBOTA) welcomed Tony Edmunds on board, with the veteran Journalist assuming the position of Operations Manager at the Hunter Valley track.
Edmunds takes over from former manager Jeanette Bennett, who recently made the decision to retire, with 56-year-old Edmunds bringing 40 years of journalism experience to the job.
Two months ago, Edmunds took voluntary redundancy from the Maitland Mercury and planned to commence training greyhounds, however he made the decision to put that on hold and pursue another avenue within the industry.
“I have three pups which are about 15 months old and I really wanted to take about 12 months off, spend time with them, get them ready for the track and then have a go at training for the first time,” Edmunds told Australian Racing Greyhound.
“About six weeks into my ‘retirement’ the job at Maitland came up so I threw my hat in the ring.”
While Edmunds has always had passion for the sport of greyhound racing, it wasn’t until 2012 that he finally decided to buy his own greyhound, with he and wife Mischelle racing their first dog, named Miston Belle, together.
Edmunds explained how he came to be involved in greyhound racing through his job as a journalist.
“In the 40 years I was at The Mercury I spent 36 years as a sports writer/news reporter/deputy editor/jack of all trades.
“But deep down I was a sports writer at heart and I had been writing about the dogs since I first started there.
“A while back I had a go at training trotters… that didn’t last very long. I still remember the day I was training a horse at the showground and it jumped a shadow.
“Needless to say it scared the pants off of me and that was the end of my time as a trotting trainer and driver.
“Many years later I was at the Maitland track and I mentioned that I was interested in getting involved in greyhounds.
“I was put onto Kenny Cheetham – I had interviewed him dozens of times over the years and so I rang him and told him I wanted to buy a pup.
“He said ‘I’ve got just the one for you’ and he took me up to Branxton to the property of Lindsay Davis.
“She had two pups left for sale from the Take The Kitty – Key Exit litter.
“Kenny trained both Take The Kitty and Key Exit and he thought this mating would produce something special which it did in Keybow.
“At the time I went to see them there were only two bitches left, so I bought one and we raced her under the name Miston Belle.”
“It was one of the most rewarding things I have done in my life,” he said.
Keeping three from the litter, Edmunds said it was a bittersweet decision to go after the job at Maitland instead of training the pups himself, however he is confident he made the right move.
“I thought long and hard about the decision and I sat down with Mischelle and we talked about it.
“Once I accepted the redundancy I thought my path was set – but when this job came up I knew that I had to grab it with both hands.
“Mischelle is still keen to have a go at training – she is going to get her trainer’s licence and have a go with one of the girls.
“She is good friends with local trainers Anne Foley, Lindsay Davis and Gayle Masterson, so she has plenty of people to turn to for advice.”
As for his position at Maitland, Edmunds said he is keen to get into it and is hopeful that he can make a positive impact.
“The showground is an old facility and I think it needs a bit of a freshen up – thats something I have been looking at.
“We want to be able to cater for our patrons and the trainers – they are the most important people to us – without them we wouldn’t have a sport.
“Hopefully we can provide a facility which they are comfortable with and can provide what they need week in and week out.
“It’s also difficult to get crowds there when you start racing at 3.30pm but one of the things I want to achieve is to encourage people to come down after work – at which stage they would still probably be able to see five races.
“I would love to see a venue where people could come for a drink, a punt and for something to eat and possibly even bring the kids down in the warmer months.
“If people do start to turn up then you could start putting things on for the kids.”
Overall, Edmunds, who praised the work of Bennett during her time in charge, says his key objective is to ensure the track maintains a high standard of safe racing for greyhounds.
“Personally I think Maitland is one of the best one turn tracks,” he said.
“As a journalist, I used to hear everyone say they come to Maitland because it was one of the safest tracks.
“If thats what I’ve got to maintain then that’s what my goal is – I want to keep having trainers coming back to Maitland saying this is the best one-turn track in Australia.”