Glenview’s greyhounds legacy

WHEN Hector Caruana plays the Maffra Golf Course, he marvels at the foresight of its forebears.

Mature trees line the fairways, the layout and design are considered – all this planned out more than half a century ago with future golfers in mind.

That’s the type of legacy the Traralgon Greyhound Racing Club manager wants to leave at Glenview Park.

Currently leading a $6 million redevelopment at TGRC, the biggest spend on a greyhound track since an $8 million project at Geelong in 2010, Caruana watches his vision draw closer every day.

Already the new 660 metre two-turn track, rotated 140 degrees from its original bearing, has taken shape, and the skeleton of a new multipurpose pavilion casts an impressive shadow across the home straight.

With the nearby drone of heavy machinery audible from his office, Caruana details the club’s journey from the brink of the abyss to its impending “Flemington” appeal.

The former Greyhound Racing Victoria director came to Traralgon about five years ago with a firm plan to save the ageing facility.

Riddled with tired infrastructure, Caruana believed without a major overhaul the club was “heading to be closed down”.

“That’s not overdramatising it. Their infrastructure was aged, and I’m talking 40 years plus aged,” Caruana said.

“They could not continue to exist with their old infrastructure so they were heading for a bad place.

“Someone had to grab the project by the collar and say, ‘no, I’m not going to let that happen; we’ve got to rebuild it’.”

Caruana set about lobbying Latrobe City Council, GRV and local politicians to secure the future of greyhounds in the Valley, culminating in this year’s funding deal comprised of $1.2 million from the State Government and $5.02 million from GRV.

The key, according to the 58 year-old, was convincing the industry of Traralgon’s importance as a nursery for young trainers and dogs, citing Denison trainer Gerald Kleeven as a prime example.

After doing much of his greyhound education at Traralgon, Kleeven last week had a runner in the $600,000 Melbourne Cup final.

“We convinced the authorities that the metropolitan racing, which is where the big prize money races are… is fantastic, but greyhounds aren’t bred and reared and educated in metro areas, they’ve got to come from the regional areas,” Caruana said.

“It’s a bit like footy I suppose to a small degree, most of them come from country or regional Australia to play in the big league and greyhound racing is no different.”

Formerly a one meeting per week venue, Caruana is hopeful of running twice a week when the track is reopened next year.

With five distances on offer the venue will cater to all varieties of greyhounds, from sprinters to stayers and everything in between.

“It’s a Flemington dog track – it’s going to be a big spacious dog track which will be nice for the dogs but also good for the punter to watch it,” Caruana said.

A veteran in the greyhound game, Caruana believes interest in the dogs will reach new heights when the track is completed, peaking with the return of the Traralgon Cup in June.

Moreover, the pavilion will provide a multipurpose venue for use outside the races and increased activity will lead to more casual employment at the track for the region’s youth.

“It’ll be really great for the greyhound club but actually good for the community (too),” Caruana said.

“It’s part of the infrastructure of the community as far as the economics of it.”

The club has another 27 years on the lease, and is hopeful the revamped complex will hold up at least that long with a view to the next 30 to 50 years.

If the punters of 2050 are still flocking to Glenview Park, Caruana will be happy the job was done right.

“I love greyhound racing, I love watching the dog run. Just a beautiful animal that can hit the deck and do 60 kilometres per hour at the drop of a hat, they’re faster than a car and I’m just fascinated watching them run,” he said.

“We enjoy the racing side of it and it’d be just nice to pass on a legacy to another group of enthusiasts who will hopefully look after it for the next 20 or 30 years.

“Fortunately I was able to do this part of the project so when I give it away… at least I walk away and say I’ve really helped this club take another step in their life.”

The redevelopment has an anticipated completion date of March/April 2015.