Greyhounds navigate a safe passage through a pandemic

Greyhounds navigate a safe passage through a pandemic

He didn’t write any policies, police any of the strict protocols, or even train a single winner, but the part played by Don Micallef in helping the greyhound industry get through COVID-19 this year should not be underestimated.

That was the consensus of Greyhound Racing NSW Chief Operating Officer Wayne Billett when discussing the roles of Don and a select group who essentially served as dog couriers during the lockdown.

“The jobs guys like Don, Glen Goodwin and Ray Magri did during lockdown was truly amazing and allowed those trainers in the tightly locked down LGAs to have the opportunity to continue to race,” Billett said.

“Everyone in our industry showed great resilience and flexibility during that time which allowed us to continue racing, and we shouldn’t underestimate the contribution of the transporters.”

After the NSW Government implemented stricter lockdowns on 11 Sydney LGAs, and 12 suburbs of Penrith, GRNSW introduced a program to allow participants in those areas the opportunity to race their dogs, where contactless transport was provided, with drivers collecting dogs and delivering them to the racetrack where they were collected by a licenced representative organised by the trainer.

“I think it went smoothly. It could have gone pear-shaped but collectively we all pulled it together quite nicely and made it work,” said Micallef, who operates Donny’s Dog Transport.

“There were plenty of kilometres and some long hours as we went to Dapto, Bulli, Gosford and Richmond, but I love the dogs and I just looked at this as my little bit I could do to help the industry and keep it going.

greyhound racing pandemic
Racing continues: Through careful management, greyhound racing continued through the pandemic. Picture: Shutterstock.

“I have a van which accommodates four dogs, and then a six-dog trailer and we were pretty full all the time.

“Some trainers were a bit hesitant, but they came around when they heard and saw that the dogs were being looked after and that was always my number one priority.”

The drivers would get a list of their pick-ups each morning, then work out a schedule of when each dog needed to be collected to arrive at the track in time for kenneling. Trainers would put their own dogs in the trailer, and their representative would take them out at the track, then the process was repeated after the meeting.

“I was a bit hesitant at first, but I asked a few people who were using it, and they were full of praise, and once I used the service, I couldn’t have been happier,” said trainer Jacqueline Davis.

“It worked really well, there were no hiccups, the vehicles were very clean and well looked after and you could tell the drivers all cared about the dogs, and the help we got from other trainers at the track was fantastic.”

This article was published in the Newcastle Herald on 21st November 2021.

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