Promotion, Perhaps?

Greyhound Racing NSW is often trumpeting what it has done to promote distance racing and “C” class country meetings, where we hear about extra turnover but never about extra costs, including a drop in takings at neighbouring higher class meetings.

700m racing at NSW provincials is still rare (Richmond aside) and likely to remain so. They just do not have the dogs to measure up so the program was always doomed to fail. The proverb is an oldie but a goodie: “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”. But more of that at another time.

The interesting story is at Grafton, a relative newcomer to the TAB ranks (ie aside from its annual carnival), which picks up whatever lunch time spot is available on Thursday or Friday.

For example, last Friday it offered a 12-race meeting. The program included three 302m squibs’ races which are best forgotten. Or, better still, banned at TAB meetings.

However, the bigger story is that in NSW those races averaged a Win pool of $13,103 overall, or $14,038 without the 302m races. That’s nice but not spectacular. However, it was better than the big hitters did at Wentworth Park and The Meadows on the previous Sunday ($13,900 and $9,200 resp). Sale, a regular on Sunday nights, did much worse again. Clearly, folks have other things to do at that time. Only passing gamblers would have kept the machines going.

Those city meetings were transferred from the Saturday slot due to New Years Eve fireworks and the like. That’s understandable in itself and a Plan B was needed. Still, it seems as though Plans C or D might have been better as the industry lost near half a million dollars turnover on the NSW tote alone, compared with normal Saturdays. Australia-wide, the drop could have been closer to $2 million if you add in bookies and Betfair.

Back to Grafton, in the longer term it needs a closer look. It is by far the cleanest running track on the NSW North Coast, or probably in NSW (and joins Hobart 461m, Mandurah 405m or 490m, Northam 508m and Horsham 480m as one of the few low-interference Australian trips). It is worth rewarding on that ground alone. Casino and Lismore are demolition derbies by comparison, and badly need rebuilding. Geographically, those two are only a stone’s throw from each other (32k actually), an expensive duplication which could be justified only in a major capital city, if then.

Grafton is 100k to the south of both and brings into focus the much larger tourist and population centre at Coffs Harbour, another 85k away but with no greyhound action until you get a further 116k to the south at Kempsey, which is Non-TAB. Elsewhere, for comparison, Orange is only 56k from Bathurst and those clubs were combined at one track. Similarly, Cessnock was de-licensed and business effectively moved over to Maitland, 30k away.

Casino and Lismore clubs should be racing at single location, hopefully using state of the art track design criteria and a flood-free location. If it was good enough for the GBOTA to move the 3k from the world’s best track at Harold Park, to join the NCA at Wentworth Park, why not combine the two North Coast operations? Racing has now disappeared forever at Harold Park but the 1987 move was a result of economic pressures and for no other reason.

Anyway, on a number of measures, Grafton justifies a prime time slot on its own. Perhaps the upcoming independent board at GRNSW will look more closely at those things?

It’s worth remembering that, along with the Gold Coast, the NSW North Coast is the fastest growing region in the country. New arrivals lead to new industry and greater demand for services. And Lismore is a university city. No doubt all that is why greyhound fields in the area are always well patronised, unlike most others in NSW and interstate, where short fields are becoming normal.

(Info: catchment area populations are of the order … Casino 30,000, Lismore (including Ballina)100,000-plus, Grafton 53,000, Coffs Harbour 100,000-plus, Kempsey 30,000).

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