THE Gardens Greyhound Club has officially ended its search for a new CEO with the appointment of former steward Dave Kiernan last Friday.
Kiernan, who started his official duties on Tuesday, took over from Interim CEO Tanya Hayes, who stepped in following the resignation of original Club CEO, Alan Williamson, in February.
Kiernan comes into the role having a diverse background in the industry which started back when he was a teenager.
“I started as an owner/trainer back in 1970 when I was 17 and I was training dogs,” Kiernan said.
“I also bred a litter and participated as an owner for quite a while before I got a job as a greyhound steward in 1981.
“That came about by accident – I actually bought a property at Bishop’s Bridge and I was going to set up a greyhound rearing and training establishment.
“The very week that we settled on the property I saw the stewards job advertised and I thought I would do it as a temporary job.
“I ended up doing it for 26 years, so naturally we didn’t go ahead with the greyhound rearing and training and ran a few cows on the property instead.
“I had a health scare when I got diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2007 – luckily it was non-malignant – but I reassessed everything and decided to retire early then and there.
“After that I started training, owning and breeding and spending all my retirement funds on the dogs.”
Kiernan decided to step out of retirement when he saw an opportunity to make a change within the industry he loves.
“I wanted to do it because I thought I had something to offer and I thought the club needed a little bit of direction from the management point of view,” he said.
His appointment shows positive signs for the track which has been embroiled in controversy in recent years.
Formerly run by the National Coursing Association (NCA), the group lost control of racing at the Birmingham Gardens Complex when its registration was cancelled by Greyhound Racing NSW (GRNSW) in 2013.
Racing was then run under the NSW Greyhound Breeders Owners Trainers Association (GBOTA) until June 2014 when the Gardens Greyhound Racing Club, trading as Newcastle Greyhounds, was formed and subsequently took over the racing operations of the venue.
Kiernan acknowledged that participant support is pertinent to the success of the track which has been continually hit with criticism since its opening back in 2004.
“Whether it is because Singleton, Cessnock and Wyong had to fold to get The Gardens running – that could be one of the causes – or the other thing could have been some of the personalities that had been there, as well as the fact that it has been a bit of a money pitt,” Kiernan said of the possible reasons why the track has divided participants.
“The negativity surrounding the track is something that has to change and that is my first priority.
“If you have got half of the participants dirty on the place it isn’t going to go ahead and I am hoping that, through some of my connections in the industry, we can start with a clean slate.”
Kiernan says he wants to bring the Club back to the participants, giving them a say in how things are done.
“I am starting a membership drive and I want everyone on board so it can be their club – so I can interview and survey people to find out what they want out of the club and what they think the problems are.
“I am hoping to give the industry participants a voice, I think that is lacking at the moment. “
Kiernan’s role as CEO will see him on the board of the Club – the other members being Brett Lazzarini (Chairman), Ron Bell (Vice Chairman) and Michael Brown (Treasurer).
He is hoping that he can create some positive changes for the local industry, with the full support of the board behind him.
“The board wants someone to come in and take control – they don’t want to be calling the shots – they want someone here as the CEO who will have the place running smoothly, with them being there to back me up,” Kiernan said.
“Ultimately, I want to get in everyone’s face – I think everyone will be surprised by how much promotion we have planned.
“We will start within the industry and after the Royal Commission Report comes down we will pick up the pieces, see where we stand and start getting out into the community.”