Non-Proprietary Greyhound Racing in Victoria

For the benefit of the many newcomers to greyhound racing who are enjoying the sport as it is today, below is an article written by the late Dave Heneberry, a former President of the Greyhound Owners, Trainers and Breeders Association for 33 years, which discusses guiding greyhound racing through the early turbulent years.

 The reproduced article appeared in the GOTBA Greyhound Gazette, August 1977.

Long Struggle for Non-Proprietary Greyhound Racing in Victoria

 By D.P. Heneberry, Past President of the GOTBA

In 1929 an Association was formed by Greyhound Owners, Trainers and Breeders.  Later in the year, the Executive submitted a number of requests to the Clubs for an increase in stakemoney and improvements to the tracks and kennels.  Clubs refused the requests.

The Executive called a General Meeting and a ban was placed on owners nominating their dogs at Napier Park Club.  In a few weeks the Executive called another general meeting of Owners and Trainers at which they made a recommendation to lift the ban and instructed owners to nominate again.  The meeting would not accept such a ruling but decided to continue the strike.

Executive Resigns

The Executive resigned and walked out of the hall.  A new Executive was immediately elected to carry on the strike.  For a few weeks the Club had difficulty in securing enough greyhounds for a programme.  The big boss of one city Club went to the country and purchased 40 to 50 dogs.  They were given names and registered by the NCA.

The strike lasted 26 weeks, during that time, OTBA Executive could see that it was hopeless to meet the Clubs head on over any dispute.  It was decided to make representation to the NCA Executive re any grievances which we desired rectified.  (We could never find out who have the NCA the power to control greyhound racing).  However, that was the position and we had to go along with it.  We made representations to that body to have certain improvements to the sport and amendments to rules.  It was there we found out that the proprietary Clubs controlled the NCA Executive.  (The body that was controlling greyhound racing).

Representation on NCA Annual Conference

Our next effort was to try and get representation at the Annual Conference of the NCA as we were told that was the only place where new rules could be made and present rules altered.

We were also told that we would have to form a Field Coursing Club and obtain registration for same by the NCA to run a 16 dog stake to enable the OTBA to have two delegates on the Conference.

We formed that Club and rant the first Meeting at Diggers Rest behind the Oval Hotel in 1932.

We continued to run a Field Meeting each year at Melton, Sydenham and Diggers Rest until 1947 to comply with NCA rules.  In 1947, the Benalla Plumpton Club offered OTBA the use of their Plumpton course.  The NCA Executive agreed.  We ran a two-day meeting which was a great success.

Successful Meetings on Plumpton

 Nominations were received from all over Victoria and the southern part of NSW.

A programme of one 32 dog stake, three 16 dog, five 8 dogs with prizemoney to the value of £675, with £800 value of trophies. The money and trophies were supplied by bookmakers who worked at Napier Park, Maribyrnong and Sandown Park.

For the next four years, our meetings were held twice at Bendigo, twice at Geelong.  At all of these meetings, the OTBA added £100 to their Championship. Profits averaged £200 per meeting, which was equally divided between the Club which loaned the ground and the OTBA.

One of the reasons that our Plumpton Meetings were so successful and popular, was that our Judge and Slipper had the confidence of all coursing people.

Mr Jack McKenna, who was our Judge, had judged all the Coursing Meetings for the Tynong Plumpton Club for 12 years.  In 1947 he was invited by NCA of South Australia to judge both the Derby and Oaks of that year.

Mr McKenna set a high standard as a Judge which gave entire satisfaction to the owners of greyhounds and followers of the sport.

Mr Doug Harwood, the Slipper (a member of our Association) did all the slipping at the OTBA meetings.  He was such a success, and when members of the NCA Executive saw the brilliant exhibition he gave they engaged him as Official Slipper to the NCA of Victoria. Doug had the honour of slipping the greyhounds in the Waterloo Cup, Derby and Oaks for many years.

Proprietary Clubs Form a Control Council

In the meantime, the proprietary Speed Clubs form a Greyhound Control Council in an endeavor to oust the NCA from control. 

When this Control Council found it could not damage the NCA it turned its attention to organising all the Speed Clubs in the country, which were all proprietary, to send delegates to the NCA Conference. 

OTBA formed branches in all localities in which Proprietary Clubs had a track.  Field Clubs were formed and a stake was run, which enabled the NCA to register, so as to allow the Club to send two delegates to the Conference.

An item which the OTBA had placed on the agenda for the NCA Annual Conference each year was that the policy of the NCA be altered so that Greyhound Racing in Victoria be placed under Government control, by the formation of a Government Control Board, the sport to be conducted on a proprietary basis, the installation of a mechanical lure and totalisator. 

At the conference we were always a few votes short.  It was at that time the late Tom Morley came to our aid in advocating our case. Some of the articles he wrote in the Sporting Globe were so forthright, that it startled the Clubs, public and politicians, so that at the next Annual Conference, the voting was equal. 

The Chairman, the late Mr Campbell McArthur had casting vote, he voted in favour of the motion which was the first breakthrough we had in 16 years agitation.  With renewed vigour, the Executive planned a big campaign to place our case before Parliament.  A very strong case was made out , a copy was sent to every politician in the Victorian Parliament. 

All our previous deputations to the Chief Secretaries over the years were just futile.  In 1946 a Bill was introduced to Parliament by Mr Bill Slater who explained the Bill to the House and read a second time.  Whilst we were waiting for the Bill to come before the Assembly again for discussion, a Proprietor of one of the city tracks wanted to bet a new hat that the legislation would not go through, how right he was.  The Bill was withdrawn a week later

Legislation was Passed for Non-Proprietary Coursing

We were getting nowhere.  It was then decided that some of us would attend all sessions of Parliament. 

We interviewed all the Members over the years, and we received a promise from each Party that if legislation was introduced, they would support it. 

As a Labor Government was in power, we concentrated on that.  The rank and file members were very sympathetic but Cabinet would not introduce any legislation.

We appealed to the Central Executive of the Labor Party.  The President of that body place the request before Caucus, with the result, Cabinet was instructed to introduce a Bill into Parliament along the lines asked for by the OTBA. 

It was placed before Parliament in April 1954, discussed and passed in the Assembly in July 1954 and by Legislative Council in November 1954.  It became law and written into the Statute Book in May 1955 (23 of agitation).

Architects Draw up Plans for Track and Building

We held our first non-proprietary meeting at Maribyrnong in January 1956 using the drag lure.  It was not very successful as a spectacle.  The Executive were told that Trustees of Olympic Park were interested, and a conference was held with that body’s Chairman, Mr Coleman. 

He informed us that No 2 Oval would be available.  A firm of Architects was engaged to draw up plans of our requirements, as to track, stands, fencing and building etc to place before the Trustees. 

Prior to getting the green light from the Trustees of Olympic Park, we had been negotiating with Melbourne City Council and North Melbourne Football Club.  In the meantime, an election was held by Parliament.  Labor Party was defeated. 

North Melbourne Football Club Secured

When the Liberal Government was formed, we made representation to them.  They were very sympathetic, and we were asked to open negotiations with the City Council, as they considered that Olympic Park Oval was too close to Government House, it would be too noisy with the barking of the dogs.  North Melbourne was secured at a price which we did not like, but had to accept. 

After a firm of solicitors drew up a constitution and articles of association, a company was formed and an election held to elect Directors. 

During the period 1929 to 1955, the OTBA had stakemoney increased from £86 to £250 per night and later £350. 

All worthwhile reforms and alterations to rules were secured for greyhound owners, such as having fighters penalised, branding of greyhounds, bookmakers to use betting board, qualifying trials for low grade dogs, box draw to take place on the track before the public, automatic handicapping, veterinarian to be in attendance at all Melbourne meetings, photo finish at all greyhound racing meetings in the metropolitan area, installation of oscillating fans in kennels, installation of shields on starting boxes.

The fight was long and rugged with its heartbreaks and disappointments, but when one looks around at the present set-up for the racing of greyhounds, big prizemoney, good amenities for the public, high standard of presentation and promotion, the high regard it is held in the estimation of the sporting public, the recognition it has received by the Government then we must regard it as being worthwhile. 

But what does the future hold, who can tell to what heights this sport will attain. 

In concluding the article which I was invited to write, I would like to thank the owners and trainers for their loyalty down the years.

Just one thought for the Proprietary Clubs which we superseded, White City and Gracedale Park received £7000 each as compensation, which was paid by the two City Clubs.  Napier Park was compulsorily acquired by the Town Planning Commission (Government body) and compensation was paid by the Government, Maribyrnong got nothing as the ground was held on a rental basis.

©The Greyhound Owners Trainers and Breeders Association of Victoria, Inc

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