WA leads the way - on and off the track

Powerhouse: Zipping Bailey. Picture: Sandown Greyhounds.
Powerhouse: Zipping Bailey. Picture: Sandown Greyhounds.

The dust has settled on Saturday's National Sprint and Distance Championships yet the indelible mark the week's events will have a lasting effect.

In just 144 days of planning, Greyhound Clubs' Australian Chief Executive David Simonette executed four days of industry engagement which sets the tone for greyhound racing's path for the foreseeable future.

Only three years ago, greyhound racing was on its knees.

Today, it's rejuvenated, vibrant, progressive, respectful and focused.

And it was the GCA Hall of Fame night on Friday which set the tone.

Held at the Perth Entertainment and Convention Centre, Simonette engaged Kate Wilson Events and, with Perth-based Dancing With The Stars choreographer Carmelo Pizzino, a spectacular production themed on the Greatest Showman (starring Hugh Jackman) dazzled all and sundry.

The night's anthem "This Is Me" - performed by all 48 cast members - many West Australian Academy of Performing Arts students - was a show stopper.

Significant WAAPA alumni include Jackman, musician and actor Eddie Perfect, Nine presenter Georgie Gardiner, 12-time Logie Award winner Lisa McCune and multiple Helpmann Award winner Tim Minchin.

Young acrobats from local calisthenics academies added colour to a night which celebrated the entry Keen Jet and Xylia Allen into the GCA Hall of Fame, Zipping Bailey secured the Run of the Year for her heroics in a last-to-first Golden Easter Egg offering, Greyhound of the Year was Orson Allen and Broodbitch of the Year was secured by Chica Destacada while the incomparable Fernando Bale was a runaway winner of Sire of the Year.

Top Gun: Fernando Bale in action

Trainer of the Year was West Australian Chris Halse and his award was made all the more pertinent when the locally prepared Reidy's Runner (National Distance) and Premier Share (National Sprint) added Group 1s to their resume.

The benchmark set by this 2019 occasion will be hard to maintain but Greyhound Racing New South Wales has 12 months to prepare for the challenge.

A dozen or so locals made a silent anti-greyhound racing protest in the forecourt of the Cannington track on Saturday but their presence failed to turn a head let alone attract support.

NSW Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation and Racing Kevin Anderson has been a solid advocate for greyhound racing following the March election and formal announcements for high end upgrading of the tracks at Grafton and Goulburn are imminent.

Prizemoney increases, short-term reductions in regulatory fees and a new grading schedule in NSW have received a positive response from rank and file participants but there is more to do.

Breeders are yet to receive significant assistance and NSW's costly non-TAB sector is surely not helping GRNSW balance budgets.

Once the poor relation of the three racing codes, greyhound racing has a new spring in its step.

The launch of the TAB Million Dollar Chase is only five weeks away and significant promotion of the code is planned.

The Perth extravaganza showed what can be done.

GRNSW's gaze will be steely and expectation high.

One of three songs performed on the night at the Hall of Fame dinner, This Is Me's rousing chorus (written by Academy Award winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul) will resonate with all who endured the darkness of the NSW Government's now repealed greyhound racing ban:

The Greatest Showman: This Is Me.

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down

I'm gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out

I am brave, I am bruised

I am who I'm meant to be, this is me

Look out 'cause here I come

And I'm marching on to the beat I drum

I'm not scared to be seen

I make no apologies, this is me

In Perth, greyhound racing's true believers stood tall and defied naysayers.

The code's future shines brightly and, with David Simonette watching from Perth, the foundations of a new halcyon era have been laid.

This story WA's own snare National titles first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.