By Paul Dolan
Recently, I was driving along Old Gympie Road at Lawnton, an outer Brisbane suburb where there was once a bustling greyhound track.
I drove in and had a look. Some of the original buildings and fixtures are still there, including the building from where I and others called the races. We were right there among the people, a cosy, intimate sort of an atmosphere.
It was twenty-five years ago, on September 15, 1995 to be precise, when racing at Lawnton ceased. Through changing times, crowds and bookmakers disappeared and the battle for survival was a very tough road for many clubs.
The Lawnton closure was different to most, though. There was no warning, even though rumours about a potential shutdown had been around for quite some time. Racing was conducted on Tuesday twilight, September 15, and it was announced by the then Greyhound Racing Control Board next morning that the venue was closed.
I called that final meeting, it was on radio TAB only. Lawnton was not part of the Sky Channel coverage due to the costs involved, which had to be borne by the club.
Lawnton’s weekly meeting was transferred to Ipswich in what the Control Board billed as a positive outcome, Ipswich with Wednesday and Saturday night racing.
The decision to close Lawnton was political. The club wasn’t broke, in fact, had $90,000 in the bank. The track was a grass surface and a complete circle.
Many trainers enjoyed wonderful success at Lawnton. They include, in no particular order, John Adams, Ken Gibson, Sid Norris, Bob Belford, Frank Bellamy, David Church, Ray Gatti, Dave Palmer, John Reimer, Peter Rayner, Bob Glindemann, Mike Stephenson, Neil Thompson, Jeff Ahern, Margaret Quarrell and Paddy Rynne.
Who could forget Rayner’s great successes at Lawnton with his ‘Bundy’ greyhounds? Bundy Cane and Bundy Cola were sprinting superstars.
Reimer’s Roy Trease – Miss Perlita litter in the mid-1980s produced a host of stars including Rinkeno, Playboy Roy, Playboy Jack, Little Trease, Prince Trease and Lord Perlita.
And what about one of the great characters of the game, Ray Gatti? His superstar Call Me Roscoe was twice Lawnton Greyhound Of The Year. In 1979 the 609 metres record was 35.37, to the credit of a truly outstanding bitch, Solar Beach. Would you believe that ‘Roscoe’ lowered that record to 35.00 in October, 1980, a figure that stood for 15 years until the track closed.
Racecallers who worked at Lawnton, as well as Mick Cox and myself, include Danny Ryan, Michael Wrona, Bob Bowman, Alan Thomas, John Brasch, Shawne McKenna, Terry Spargo and Martin Ross.
Administrators and tireless workers included Albert Hauff, Artie Belford, Col Miller, Peter Rayner, Karen Bell, Sarah Dubin, Steve Bryant, Bevan Williamson, David Church, Charlie Rilley, Peter Denaro, Merv Fox and Jim Duckwitz.
Lawnton is gone, but not from the memories of those who participated there.
Pictured: One of the race callers from the Lawnton days – Danny Ryan