Gunnedah truly the home of champions

\"\"Caption: The statue of Chief Havoc at the Gunnedah Greyhound Club

 

By TERRY WILSON

IT may be a small country town with a population of less than 10,000 people, but Gunnedah is more than just a speck on the Australian landscape.
The Namoi Riverside town can boast some famous people.
Two of Australian rugby league Test front rowers, John ‘Lurch’ O’Neill and John ‘Dallas’ Donnelly, both came from Gunnedah.
So, too, did super model Miranda Kerr and Erica Baxter, James Packer’s ex-wife.
Gunnedah is famous as a hub of coal mining, cotton and wheat growing and once boasted the biggest abattoir in New South Wales.
Then, of course, Gunnedah is perhaps best known as being where the great Chief Havoc, arguably the best greyhound Australia has seen, was raised.
Chief Havoc is undoubtedly the most outstanding racing greyhound of New South Wales and probably the nation, holding national records in the 500, 660, 700, 750 and 800 yard runs.
Racing against the clock in a solo run, the Chief broke many records in front of an amazing crowd of 17,000 people at Harold Park in 1947.
This level of achievement was, and still is, unprecedented in the sport of greyhound racing.
The peculiar thing about Chief Havoc is that the dog never actually raced at the Gunnedah track.
Long-serving Gunnedah Greyhound Racing Club official Geoff Rose delved back into the history books and discovered that Chief Havoc actually broke the track record when it won a Grafton Maiden (440 yards) in track record time on debut.
A greyhound named Xerri almost put the international greyhound spotlight back on Gunnedah when it ran second to Handsome Prince in the Million Dollar Chase at Wentworth Park last month.
Xerri, trained at Sawyers Gully by Darryl Thomas, qualified for the Chase semi-finals after taking out a regional qualifying final at Gunnedah.
A victory in the world’s richest dog race would have been something special for the Gunnedah club to be able to boast about.
This country club continues to prosper. It stages about 28 TAB meetings a year and Rose said it is performing well under current conditions and attracting strong fields.
Gunnedah is in the NSW North Western Slopes and Plains area, as titled by the Bureau of Meteorology, and attracts runners from far and wide as well as runners from about 30 trainers in the general area.
Rose, who turned 68 on October 17, has been a stalwart of the club for years.
“I have been involved with the club since 1970 and been president since 1990,” said Rose.
“I’m still president and also area director of the Greyhound Breeders Owners and Trainers Association.
“Cherie Rosier is Secretary Manager of the Club.”
Rose said the Gunnedah racing history goes back to 1939 when racing started on an old sawdust and oil track at Wolseley Park, which is about three kilometres away from the current headquarters.
And that is where Chief Havoc has been immortalised with a life-size monument at the club’s entrance.
The strikingly-marked white and fawn flyer left an indelible mark on the history of national dog racing.
As a pup the dog was bred in Manilla by the Swain family.
The Chief was then purchased by Jack Millerd, a bookmaker whose two sons still live in the area, and was moved to Gunnedah where he was trained in the family back yard.
At one stage the Chief smashed national records in the 500, 660, 700, 750 and 800 yard runs – all those records he broke were in a solo run at Harold Park.
Like the old theory about it being only the good dogs who get injuries, Chief Havoc copped his fair share and was eventually forced into stud duties after breaking 20 Australian records.
Chief Havoc is understandably in the Australian Hall of Fame and despite never racing overseas was also included in the American Greyhound Racing Hall of Fame.

 

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