Laurie’s dive into greyhound racing more like a dog paddle



LEGENDARY Australian swimming coach Laurie Lawrence has applied the polish to many a champion swimmer.

During his time Lawrence (pictured) went to eight Olympic Games as either a coach or an athlete liaison officer and motivator.

His expertise with up and coming swimmers was second to none and in his time at the Olympics he was involved in 10 gold medals, 11 silvers and 12 bronzes.

Among the Lawrence stable of superstars were Steven Holland, Tracey Wickham, Duncan Armstrong and Jon Sieben, among others.

But not too many people would know that Lawrence once caught the greyhound bug and had a crack at training them.

And the great man readily admits that as a dog trainer things did not exactly work out the way he had hoped.

“I really don’t know,” Lawrence said when asked where he caught the greyhound itch.

“That was about 45 years ago in Brisbane and I used to go to the dogs (Gabba).

“Lou Bickle, who I went to school with, was the bookmaker and he started videoing the dogs for the club.

“I used to go to the track and was always interested in them and how they trained them.

“Anyway I thought those fellers didn’t work them hard enough. They didn’t train dogs they just played with them and just walk them a bit.

“I thought half of them didn’t know what they were doing.

“I was coaching swimmers and I was hard-nosed I’d be pushing the kids, so I thought if you push the dogs a bit more you’d have a couple of champions.”

Interesting theory, that one, so Lawrence finally took the plunge, as it were, into applying the polish to some four-legged chasers.

He bought a couple of pups, one of them by Irish sire Lively Band, and started rearing and preparing it on his mother’s property at Jimboomba.

“Actually a picture with Steven Holland with it was on the front page of a paper,” said Lawrence.

“I had just the one pup and I was hard on him.

“It was a very unusual method of training dogs – and it was unsuccessful, so it became a pet.

“He had one jump-out but started playing with another dog, so it was a very brief flirtation with the dogs and that was my one success – that it became a very good pet.”

These days, aged 79 and still going strong, Lawrence runs four learn-to-swim complexes at Banora Point, Beenleigh, Underwood and Burleigh Heads.

He employs about 50 staff to operate his business and whenever he gets a chance will still have a look at the greyhounds on television.

“If I’m at a pub – and I don’t bet any more – I’ll watch the dogs to see how one the red and eight the pink go,” he said.

FOOTNOTE: Laurie Lawrence was the name of a greyhound that raced for trainer Rodney Lee at Grafton. It was a red fawn dog by Barcia Bale from Zarina Lee. It was only marginally more successful than it’s two-legged namesake because it raced only five times and won just the once.



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