I suppose it is significant that I have been asked to give advice for those wanting to get into greyhound racing, a sport for which I have a great passion.

My passion is obvious to anyone and everyone because next year will mark my 50th anniversary of involvement in the industry.

I have never lost the passion I found for greyhounds way back when I was just 17. I bought my first greyhound, a pup by Temlee, with the first pay packet I received when I started work. Actually I bought three, one by Temlee, one by Half Your Luck and another by New Mariner.

My Mum Carmen helped me buy them.

I reared them in the family’s back yard and then sent them off to trainers. I’ve never been without a greyhound ever since.

It was the first mistake I made and my first piece of advice for anyone wanting to come into this industry.

I looked only at the sire, not the dam. I had to learn that the breeding is so important. Make sure there is depth in the bloodlines … the female lines.

I actually got interested in racing through my sister Jenny Francis. At the time she was going out with an apprentice jockey, Mick Gorham. He would soon become apprenticed to Bart Cummings. As a kid so interested in racing, I would simply hang around the stables.

Greyhound racing has changed so much in those 50 years.

In those days it was all about 500m and 700m racing. These days racing is from 280m to 700m and it allows every dog to have some sort of racing career. There is a race for almost every standard of dog.

If I am approached by someone wanting some advice of getting into greyhounds, the strongest is to deal only with the right people. Some greyhound people are better than others.

Deal with the people who have the animal at heart. There are some who look at them as a commodity.

My next suggestion for newcomers is to make a gradual entry into the industry.

I normally suggest buying a tried dog. Deal with a reputable person, someone who has a reputation to protect. Go shares in a dog with some mates. Learn the ropes of greyhound racing and what to look out for.

Buying that wonderful young pup is great but the wait of almost two years can be daunting for some newcomers who want an instant racing fix. Get a race dog, then buy a pup to have something to look forward to in the future.

But don’t expect to pay $5000 for a tried dog and get a city class racer. That does not happen.

Learn to love greyhound racing as a hobby. The thrill of winning a race is indescribable. You cannot put a price on that satisfaction.

I’ve gone from those first three puppies to now having more than 1000. That figure is conservative because I stopped counting when I got to 1000. I have between 30 and 40 broodbitches.

I have one very strong bit of advice for those buying pups. Always buy from good families … not good individuals. If there is anything that stands out to me in the almost 50 years I have been in this industry it is that.

That is why I will keep descendents of my great race bitch and broodbitch Aston Elle and her daughters. It is a family that continues to toss up great race dogs. It has taken me 49 years to learn this.

Having so many dogs, having a good degree of success, and being a public face of the industry, you can understand I constantly am approached by jockeys, horse trainers, AFL footballers and the like about getting into greyhound racing.

I always want them to get a good dog because it will give our industry more wonderful publicity; publicity it so rightfully deserves.

But finding the right dog is a difficult process.

Pup buying is just one step in the process. I cannot emphasise enough that pups must be reared correctly. I prefer all my pups to be reared with access to free galloping in big paddocks.

Go out and check out the property where your pup is to be reared. Interview the rearer, not in an insulting way, but make sure the rearer does exactly what is needed.

My sister and brother-in-law have a thoroughbred stud and I have become involved with them. And, I’ve also become involved with a black-type mare that is being mated to top stallions and thus visiting all the leading studs. One of those is Coolmore Stud in the Hunter Valley.

I have been absolutely amazed, but overjoyed, with the constant updates Coolmore send me in regards to the mare and her foal. It shows the great professionalism by which they do everything.

It is something newcomers to greyhound racing should seek out.