By TERRY WILSON
A MAN with extensive experience in the sports arena, including a number of years in Queensland, is settling nicely into his new role as boss of the Richmond Greyhound Racing Club in western Sydney.
Richard Griffiths, 60, was appointed Chief Executive Officer at Richmond last March, just in time to face dramas when the COVID-19 pandemic stuck the world.
But, in typical dogged style, if you’ll excuse the play on words, Griffiths has dug in his toes preparing for the long haul, carrying hopes that a number of his ideas will eventually bear fruit for the Richmond club at the base of the Blue Mountains.
Griffiths becomes one of a growing list of former sports players and administrators to find a home in the greyhound industry.
Greyhound Racing New South Wales CEO Tony Mestrov was a top-notch rugby league player in his heyday and Steve Noyce, General Manager of NSW GBOTA, had a strong administrative role also in rugby league.
Now Griffiths has taken the ball up as a former leading figure in administration in Australian rules football before a stint in soccer.
And Griffiths is as keen as the leading chasers now that he is into a brand new role in a brand new industry venture.
He was firstly involved with the Melbourne Demons in pre-AFL days; he was then sent to Queensland by the AFL to take over at troubled AFL Queensland; he had a number of years with new AFL club GWS Giants as operations manager; was with Football Queensland (soccer) for a short time; and now it is on to the greyhounds.
And many people should surely see the irony of Griffiths landing at a club named Richmond, the same name as long-time arch rivals of the Melbourne Demons.
Chase sat down with Griffiths to see how he is settling into his new role.
Chase: After so long being involved with various football codes, how is life as new Richmond boss?
RG: From my point of view it has been the perfect scenario to transition into a different industry where the skills I’ve learned over my 30-odd years in AFL, in terms of administering organisations, clubs and state sporting organisations. I’ve been able to utilise my skills and transition that into running a greyhound club.
While I clearly don’t have a greyhound background in terms of intricacies around greyhound racing itself, the principles still apply in terms of running the business operations of a club.
Chase: So did you have any previous interest in greyhounds?
RG: Not really. I’m not a big punter, but since I’ve been here I have a greater appreciation of the power and athleticism of the dogs themselves. And clearly the attention to detail around the welfare and integrity components associated with the sport now and, I suppose, the training techniques and the detail around how the trainers and owners actually care for their dogs and train them to have them race at their optimum.
Chase: As a new boy on the block, as it were, how do you see dog racing now?
RG: You get a greater appreciation of the race itself when you see it live rather on television. Greyhounds are just powerful animals, incredible. Explosive is a good term.
Chase: You have been at Richmond for less than four months now. What are your impressions?
RG: There is a lot more to it than I thought possible. The breadth of the industry, the number of participants in the industry, for the majority of people it’s their livelihood.
The size of the industry has not surprised me, but I now have a great appreciation of the size and passion in the industry. Clearly here in New South Wales since the shutdown by Mike Baird a few years back there has been an enormous emphasis on integrity and welfare of dogs, which is very important for all the clubs, the participants, the stewards. It is good.
Chase: Okay Griffo, tell us all about your transition from professional football administrator to professional greyhounds administrator. Where did it all begin?
RG: I started with the Melbourne Demons back in 1996 and I was part of the football admin and recruiting. It was in 1996, the year when a merger between Melbourne and Richmond looked like going through.
But then Joseph Gutnik came in and took over at Melbourne. He wielded the axe and got rid of the coaches and the administration and I was one of those to go.
The AFL then appointed me to go to Queensland to run the AFL Queensland and that was in October of 1996. I was there to the end of 2011 when I accepted a job with new AFL club the Greater Western Sydney Giants for their first season. I was chief operating officer for six years.
Chase: But you were back in Queensland after that. And you found a new position.
RG: I went back to Queensland for personal reasons and had two years as CEO with Football Queensland. But I went back to Sydney to pursue my career in sport and I applied for numerous jobs including Richmond race club which had some attractions in it being non-football. I was appointed in March, a week before covid hit and everything was shut down. But, fortunately, the racing codes were not.
Chase: Do you see the irony in you working for a club named Richmond, but not the footy Tigers that won last year’s AFL flag?
RG: Never would I have dreamt that happening. Never, ever dreamt that I would be running a greyhound club at the base of the Blue Mountains but it just goes to show that you never know what’s around the corner. I’m very thankful for the opportunity the club has given me and that there are such great opportunities and challenges for the club. Over time I’ll want to restore the club to a vibrant, family-focussed community hub for the people of Hawkesbury and Penrith, so this becomes a destination hub to not only enjoy our racing but also enjoy some live entertainment. We have a fantastic facility here.
Chase: What lies ahead for you and the club? I understand you have some ideas you’d love to see come into play.
RG: In my mind I have a long-term vision for the club. We’ve just revised our post-virus strategic plan and I like to think I get the opportunity to implement them. I’m here for the long haul as long as I can deliver what the board wants.