Farewell to another ‘good one’

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Caption: Sadly greyhound racing lost muscle man John Warrell in December (Photo: Just Greyhound Photos)

By Chase editor Pat McLeod

We lost another ‘good one’ in December with the passing of veteran Brisbane greyhound muscle man John Warrell.

John began training in the early 1970s and stayed in the sport for about 30 years. Around 2000 he became frustrated with the direction the industry was taking and stepped away.

However, a few years ago, over a game of lawn bowls, a friendship sparked with Glass House Mountains (north of Brisbane) trainer Robert Ayres and John stepped back.

“We became really good mates,” recalled Ayres.

“His passing was so sad because he was really enjoying being involved with greyhounds. He had a special gift as a muscle man. He was very good.

“After that initial game of bowls at Windsor (a Brisbane suburb) I took one of my dogs, Gagan Cee Jay, over to him. Although he had been out of greyhounds for a long time he had not lost his touch.

“From then on I took all my dogs to him.

“Even when he became ill (with pancreatic cancer) he would ask me to bring a particular dog over for him to have a look at.

“He just loved the greyhound breed. And it wasn’t about getting them right so they could win. For him it wasn’t about winning. He just wanted the dog to be sound so it could do its best.

“It was amazing to watch him with dogs. He would just look at them as they walked around him, did a pee or had a scratch in the grass. He would immediately pick up something in the way the dog moved and was able to diagnose and treat whatever the issue was.”

Chase spoke to John in April. He had just prepared one of Ayres’ dogs, Boscono, for a win up the straight at Capalaba. That was on March 22. He celebrated his 72nd birthday soon after, on April 6. The next day he was diagnosed with cancer.

At the time he said: “I began training in the early 1970s. I only ever had a small team, just a couple of dogs at any time. I never had any real champions, but a few good dogs.

“One of the better ones was Sirrahnelle (his wife Ellen Harris spelt backwards), which won two from two starts before suffering a career-ending injury.”

He soon realised his niche was as a muscle man.

“Early on in my training career I realised that was my niche and so I started to watch closely how the good muscle men operated. I watched and I learnt,” he said.

“One of the best was Dennis Robinson. I learnt a lot from him.

“Eventually I became pretty good at it myself. It got to a stage when there would be a procession of trainers bringing their dogs to my place for me to have a look at.”

With the support of his wife, three children – Jeanne, Troy and Tracy – and seven grandchildren, John fought hard to overcome his illness.

One of his goals was to continue in greyhound racing.

“The aim is to be back leading in another winner in 12 months,” he said.

Sadly, this was one race he was unable to win.

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