By TERRY WILSON
STEVE Williams is one of Australia’s most prolific greyhound owners and will continue his love of the high velocity sport for as long as he can.
The adopted Queenslander looks after, at a rough estimate, about 170 greyhounds – which amounts to a lot of mouths to feed.
There are prime stock in full racing mode, there are brood bitches, there are stud dogs, there are puppies and there are retired performers – the full industry from grass roots level up.
Williams, through his Velocity Lodge operation he shares with wife Meryl, estimates the running costs to be about $20,000 a month.
Chase newspaper sat down with the leviathan owner for an insight to his deep involvement in the industry.
Chase: The obvious first question is where did it all begin for you.
SW: When we lived in Sydney and I was about 15 my old man got a dog, a giveaway. But Dad got crook so I started walking it, feeding it and generally looking after it a bit. Unfortunately Dad’s health deteriorated and he passed away. So I was 17 and I got my first trainer’s licence.
Chase: Can you remember any details about the giveaway that kick-started your love affair with the hounds?
SW: The mother was Norika Lass and she ended up throwing a litter by Top Bomber. One of them was Adriatic Oka and it won at Harold Park. One of the litter won 17 races and another won 19.
Chase: You were married at 19 and you eventually shifted away from the greyhounds and moved to Townsville. We have been told you dabbled at a lot of things chasing employment. What sort of jobs did you have?
SW: I was qualified as a structural engineer and boilermaker by trade but when I got out of dogs I was picking tomatoes in Bowen and I worked in an abattoir. I just battled away.
Chase: So when did you leave north Queensland and move to your current headquarters in Hervey Bay.
SW: When we moved here we started with a coffee shop, I did some landscaping and then I bought a chemical business. When I bought the business the guy manufactured just one product and since then we’ve gone from one chemical up to 54 different chemicals. I was asked one day if we did toilet paper, so we started doing that – then beer glasses and everything from there.
Chase: That sort of explains just what has happened with you, Velocity Lodge and the dogs. It has just built and built. So how many greyhounds do you look after do you think?
SW: Velocity Lodge operations probably involve about 170 dogs from pups upwards. I don’t put dogs down, I wait until I find them a home so I keep feeding them until I can find them a home.
Chase: That is an awful lot of hounds you are responsible for. What sort of money are we looking at here with the Velocity Lodge empire?
SW: It is a big investment. We probably spend about $50,000 a year minimum transporting the dogs to and from trainers and it costs me about $20,000 a month to operate before I make a cent out of the dogs. And that’s without whelping fees.
Chase: We believe you have dogs with about 30 trainers around Australia. So do you do all the other work, like breeding, rearing and breaking in?
SW: No. when the brood bitches are ready to give birth we send them to Dan Henry. He is an absolute genius, he, his wife Kylie and son Peter. They are the best in the business of whelping I have ever seen.
Chase: You have bred and owned some absolute champions, among them the best pair of Glen Gallon and Jury, who were both trained by Dave Brett. Which is your pick of all of the hounds you have owned?
SW: It’s hard to say. Glen Gallon won three Group 1 races and Jury won two of them. But I always thought Alliwishus Jones was my fastest dog. Jury was very fast too and Velocity Regina was a good bitch. I’ve had my share, I suppose.
Chase: We understand that Glen Gallon, which Tony Brett once rated as the best dog in the world (it did make 16 G1 finals), was once looking like being sold to interstate interests.
SW: He had his first start and ran second last at Ipswich. Tony said then that we had to give him another chance or we’d have to move him on. He didn’t show much coming through. Then, bingo, he then broke the record at Albion Park.
Chase: You were close to selling Glen Gallon, though?
SW: Just before the Brisbane Cup we had a good offer for him and I said let’s sell. But Tony asked me to let him run through the Cup because he thought he was a chance. That was one of my favourite memories – of Tony yahooing and skipping down the track after the dog won the Cup. Obviously we kept him and he’s still with Tony.
Chase: You would surely have to rate Glen Gallon up there as the best and surely the dog holds a special place in the history of Velocity Lodge.
SW: Yes, when times were tough he always put baked beans on the table for us.
Chase: Where to now, hoping that the coronavirus issue disappears and prizemoney levels for big events can be restored to what they were. The question is if you are making money out of your canine investments.
SW: I wouldn’t have been doing it for as long as I had if I was not. If not I don’t think I would be. But we survive, put it that way.
Chase: You have the same name as a bloke they dub as the richest sportsman in New Zealand. (Steve Williams caddied for star golfers Tiger Woods, Greg Norman and Adam Scott, among others, and made an absolute squillion).
SW: I have a theory that people think I’m loaded. But that’s because I pay my bills on time.
Chase: We have to get over the coronavirus, which we will, so what did you think of the live baiting scandal that threatened to shut down greyhound racing.
SW: In a way the live baiting issues probably did a job in getting a lot of crap out the industry. It cleaned it up a tad.