By MIKE HILL
IN the past 10 years Nev Jackson has travelled more than 500,000 kilometres to race his dogs.
The Mackay-based administrator-trainer lives for dogs.
“They keep me going,” said the 80-year-old, whose mantra is to ‘give back to the sport that supports you’.
Jackson, who we feature this month in The Trainer column, has spent more than 60 years around dogs – not just greyhounds.
He’s an international dog show judge, a leading greyhound administrator in central Queensland, a member of Dogs Queensland since 1958 and a greyhound owner-trainer-breeder for many years.
He was a member of the steering committee that established greyhound racing in Mackay in 1976.
While waiting for the big day to arrive, Jackson decided to get a jump on his rivals and bred a litter. To keep himself interested, he decided to show one of the pups.
The splendid looking youngster that carried the show name and later racing name Polkadot Patch achieved an Australian Show Championship title.
“He was an impressive white greyhound with black flecking through his coat,” said Jackson, “and he proved to be more successful on the show circuit than on the race track.”
However, the trainer, who has eight dogs in work at present, remembers leading in a winner at the first Mackay meeting on July 8, 1976.
Since then he has had his share of major wins, including the Mackay Cup, Young Guns and other feature races.
“I haven’t had any world beaters but a lot of honest dogs,” he said in an earlier interview with Chase .
Before the Mackay club staged its final meeting at the end of June in 2009, Jackson had served in all positions on the club committee, except race secretary, and had several stints as president.
And in the last decade he has served as president of the Rockhampton club for eight years.
Jackson recalls that he was going to give it away when the Mackay track closed.
“But then one day my daughter asked if I would go down to a Rocky meeting with her,” he said.
“I said ‘why not’ and put in a couple of dogs I still had in the kennels.
“Since then I have only missed a handful of meetings in my 10-year association with the Rocky club.”
That’s an amazing effort considering the two cities are separated by a notorious section of the Bruce Highway stretching just over 330kms.
“I’ve done over half a million kilometres travelling to Rockhampton in the past 10 years to race my dogs,” Jackson said last month.
“That’s a lot of travelling for someone my age.”
These days he doesn’t drive the long trips to Rocky and back each week.
“My son-in-law John Brider does the driving. He also helps with boxing and catching some of the dogs,” he said.
“I average about 60 trips to Rockhampton and back a year for meetings and functions. I can honestly say I know the road backwards.”
Jackson said early in his training career he had spent time with Hall-of-Famer Allen Wheeler, patriarch of the mighty Wheeler dynasty, and his wife June.
“A good friend of mine and I went to visit the Wheelers for almost a week in the 1970s and I never forgot the advice Allen gave me,” he said.
“When we left, Allen said if you need any help at any time just get on the phone and give me a call.”
Jackson believes in giving back to the sport that has given him so much pleasure over the years.
He’s been in greyhound administration since 1974 and feels the time is fast approaching to step down.
He said when he became Rocky president he set himself three goals:
* Get Group status for the Rockhampton Cup;
* Completely upgrade the track; and
*Leave the club in a better operating condition.
“We’ve almost achieved all of that,” he said.
“The Cup has been upgraded to Group 3 level, more than $500,000 has been spent on track improvements and amenities and the club is in a sound position.
“We’re just waiting on a new control tower and additional race kennels to allow the club to stage 12-race programs.
“I want to see this work completed.”
Jackson hinted that he may then step down.
But it doesn’t mean he will leave the sport.
“I want to keep racing my dogs,” he said.
“The greatest thing about being involved in racing, as well as the show circuit, is the nice people you meet along the way.
“It makes it all worthwhile.
“I’ve met wonderful people and made some great friends over the years.”
Honours already bestowed on Jackson include life memberships for service to Dogs Queensland, the Mackay Greyhound Racing Club, the Rockhampton Greyhound Club and the Mackay Kennel Club.
“I’m a sports fanatic, but I also believe you have to put something back into any sport that supports you and gives you enjoyment,” he said.
And Jackson has done that in spades.
1: How and when did you get involved in greyhound racing?
A: In 1974 as a member of the steering committee that introduced greyhound racing to Mackay.
2: Who has been the greatest influence on you as a trainer?
A: Several trainers over the years such as Allen and June Wheeler, Peter Rayner and the late Les Youngberg as well as having great family support.
3: At what age do you start preparing a pup for racing?
A: About one month after breaking in.
4: How long does it take to prepare a pup for its first race?
A: This varies depending on the pup, some take longer than others.
5: What makes a good pup?
A: Healthy, outgoing and adventurous – a happy animal will perform most times.
6: Do you do anything special when preparing a young dog for its maiden compared to a seasoned performer?
A: Yes, more trialling is required, especially field trials to get the pup used to racing with other dogs.
7: Do you have a set routine for all your greyhounds or do you vary training for individual runners?
A: All dogs are individuals and what works for one may not work for the next one – you have to work each one out.
8: Do you have any unique or unusual methods you would like to share in regard to training?
9: Do you swim your dogs as part of your training regime?
A: Sometimes, mainly after certain injuries.
10: How frequently do you like to race your dogs?
A: Once a week.
11: What’s your training routine for dogs between races?
A: Plenty of exercise early in the week, then a freshen up close to race day.
12: Do you do all muscle work on your dogs or do you use a professional muscle man?
A: I do all my own.
13: Do you do treat all injuries to your dogs yourself?
A: No, some injuries require specialist veterinary treatment.
14: Which is the best greyhound you have trained?
A: Le Roy My Man.
15: What do you consider is the best greyhound track in Australia and why?
A: I believe that I can only speak of the tracks that I have raced on and sadly the best of them is now closed – Toowoomba – a safe track with good, long straights.
16: What does the industry need most going forward?
A: 1) We urgently need more trainers in our industry. Perhaps we need to simplify the entrance criteria and encourage more younger people to participate.
2) We need to find a way to keep the younger, slower dogs racing.
3) I believe that Queensland needs a good, one-turn track.
17: What is the best advice you could give someone just starting out as a trainer?
A: Enjoy what they are doing, be patient and don’t expect miracles.