Photo: Box 1 Photography
By Chase Editor Pat McLeod
Ipswich Greyhound Club secretary Di O’Donnell doesn’t have to look far to find the reason she stays passionately involved in the sport.
“It’s the people. They welcome you in and really care about you,” she says.
“My son Rick has Asperges. Both he and I accept that and just get on with life.
“What I quickly found in greyhound racing was a family of people who just accept you for who you are. Through greyhounds Rick has been able to pursue a career in photography and because of that acceptance has been able to do something very well.
“I’m extremely proud of my son and what he continues to achieve, but I also really enjoy being involved in greyhound racing.”
In early April Di was awarded the prestigious Woman In Racing gong at the gala TAB Queensland Greyhound Awards.
The accolade came as a shock to the 69-year-old, but not to those at the awards night at Brisbane’s Queensland Cricketers Club.
For almost 30 years Di has been giving to the greyhound industry through a variety of avenues and she says she’s humbled to be acknowledged.
“Obviously we are very busy at Ipswich (as the club fills the gap left by flooding at the Albion Park and Capalaba tracks), but I agreed to come along to the awards night because I was led to believe that there would be a thank-you to all those involved in organizing the annual greyhound feature at the Ekka,” she explained.
“So I was totally surprised when they announced this award.”
Di is Ipswich born and bred. In fact she grew up in Moffat Street, just a stone’s throw from the showgrounds, which houses the greyhound track.
Her involvement and service to greyhound racing goes back to the mid-1990s when a colleague at the trucking company she was working for started racing a greyhound – Chief Wiggum – which was a litter brother to the lightning fast Bearability.
“We started going to the Ipswich races to watch the dog race. We all enjoyed it, especially Rick,” recalls Di.
“We decided to buy a greyhound pup. However, it was injured during rearing and ‘Nitro’ (it never had a race name) spent the rest of his life on my couch.”
However, while at the rearing farm Di had her first experience of GAP (the Greyhound Adoption Program for retired or unraced greyhounds).
“I met Fran Forbes, who was then heading GAP in its earliest stages, and Dash (race name Mal’s Honour), a race dog that was up for adoption at the rearing farm,” says Di.
“Websites were in their infancy in those days, but I helped Fran build a website for the GAP program. Through that site we found Dash a home.
“With the website building, I just learnt as I went along. With the success of the GAP site I could see the potential of what they could do, so I offered to build sites for free for greyhound clubs.”
With Rick’s help the Dinky Di Web Design team put together sites for most clubs in Queensland and many interstate, including Darwin, Gawler, Grafton and Richmond.
“Mostly the sites were very successful and were a big help in bringing greyhound racing into the digital age,” says Di.
“Most of the clubs have since upgraded or rebuilt their sites, but I am really happy that those initial sites paved the way for what they have today.”
While helping out with GAP and the websites Di and Rick also continued their greyhound ownership. Their first race dog was Polar Princess, which won a couple from about a dozen starts.
Since then they have raced several dogs, including Two Up Tuffy and Monica’s Joy, who were both ‘good bread-winners’.
In fact Di has matched that pair for their first foray into breeding, which resulted in a seven-pup litter about 15 months ago.
Four of the pups have been sold and Di is ‘quite excited’ about the race prospects off all of the litter.
Currently Rick is racing Shining Force, which has had plenty of success at Ipswich.
In 2010 Rick began taking track photos at Ipswich and is now the official track photographer at both Ipswich and Capalaba.
In 2015 Di was approached to join the committee at Ipswich.
“I was asked if I would join the committee and by the end of that first meeting I was the secretary and have held that role since,” she says.
“It is very busy at the moment in the wake of the flooding and staff here are getting a bit tired, but overall they have worked so hard and coped so well racing seven days a week.
“The aim is to try to keep the trainers happy … and we’ve been able to do that most of the time.”
Di said she was ‘so surprised’ at the awards night that she didn’t thank a couple of ‘special’ people.
“There are so many people who have helped Rick and I along the way … but especially the Bloomfield family and Kelly Anderson,” she said.
“The award means a lot to me. You never do what you do so people will thank you, but this award makes me feel that everything I have done is worth it.
“To me it is a very special thank-you.”