Ron lives and breathes the ‘Bundy spirit’

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By TERRY WILSON

IT is fair to say that veteran trainer Ron Brook literally represents what the spirit of Bundaberg is all about.
Brook and Queensland’s Rum City have formed a wonderful relationship in the famous Wide Bay-Burnett region since he moved there in the early 1970s from Toowoomba on the Darling Downs.
Brook, now 67, is dog man through and through – and not just with greyhounds, an area where he has excelled.
Apart from the blinding speedsters of the track, Brook also runs boarding kennels with his partner Darlene at Gin Gin, not that far away from Bundaberg.
And Brook has had some good successes with his greyhounds.
He is not sure – “I don’t keep count of things like that” – but the veteran has won the Bundaberg Greyhound Club’s Trainer of the Year more than 10 times.
On top of this, Brook has also served on the dog club’s board, where he was twice president.
Chase caught up with Brook to reminisce about his days growing up in Toowoomba and his life with the dogs.
Chase: As we usually do, we’ll ask you first-up about where it all began for you with the greyhounds.
RB: I had my first greyhound when I was 18. It was named Popani, because my granddad and I got involved in it. From memory it had about seven wins from 15 starts at tracks like Beenleigh, Lawnton and Moree and it was trained by Sid Capewell.
Chase: You sort of dropped out of the racing scene for a while. When did the urge return?
RB: It was probably in early 1990s when I decided I wanted to get back into a dog and from there I got my trainer’s licence, my breeder’s licence and my stud licence. I guess that shows how long I’ve been in the game.
Chase: You must be keeping busy with your training and running boarding kennels.
RB: I have more than 50 dogs (greyhounds) on the property with the boarding kennels named Honey’s Dog House. It was named after a little house dog I rescued on a property in my job as pest controller and carpet cleaner. I found her near Gin Gin as well and now we’re licensed for 100 animals and we always booked out. I also rear pups for people.
Chase: What led you to the Bundaberg region in the first place? Was it because of dogs?
RB: I’ve been in the Bundy region since 1979. My stepfather and I were asked to run a football club then and that’s when I met my partner Darlene. She always had a dream of owning boarding kennels and now we’ve been here about 11 years.
Chase: What made you choose Gin Gin as your racing-rearing headquarters?
RB: I was out doing a job on a property and we started talking to a bloke about building a boarding kennel. I asked him if there were any good properties up there. He took me to one that was for sale, I looked at the property once and bought it.
Chase: Let’s get back to the Bundaberg club and your association with it.
RB: I was on the committee, I became president then I got off. I was then asked to go back again and I’m still on the committee.
Chase: You must have seen plenty of changes over the years during what were, at times, difficult circumstances.
RB: For sure. It’s a different ball game today because we don’t run the clubs like we used to. A lot of decisions are made in Brisbane, but I’ve seen our club go from the absolute pits to a stage where now we’ve got money in the bank. So, we have to be happy and appreciative about that.
It was not that long ago we were racing for $250 first money and $500 a race. We used to have 37 meetings a year and now we have 52.
Chase: In line with that surely the standard of greyhounds racing at the track has improved in leaps and bounds.
RB: You can’t take anything for granted up here now. People who used to take giveaways are now buying dogs. And I can remember when the track record (460m) was 26.50s seconds (the current record is 25.95s held by Shakey Diesel). So the quality of the dogs has increased significantly and I’m on the look-out all the time.
Chase: What is the best dog you have had and what have been your most cherished moments?
RB: My best was named Beware The Boss. I reared and trained him for the local butcher who bought him off me when it was a pup. He won at Albion Park and unofficially broke a track record at Rockhampton.
I won a Bundy Cup with a dog called Crazy Bomb. I backed him up the next year and it would have been a record to win twice, but it lost by a half head. I love the Cup and try to win it every year. I think I’ve run seven or eight placings away from the win.
I’ve also won in Sydney with a nice dog. It was called Smooth Blend (named after the rum – but I’m a beer drinker) and it won a Canberra Cup and five or six at Wentworth Park.
Chase: Given your record what is the most number of wins you’ve had on a program?
RB: I’ve trained four winners about three times and I’ve had plenty of trebles. But it’s getting harder to get a winner these days with the improved quality.
Chase: Can we go back to your days as a tearaway teenager and your sporting prowess in a number of arenas.
RB: I played league and union and repped the Darling Downs in rugby union under-19s as a 17-year-old. I also played cricket and soccer.
Chase: We understand you were pretty handy as a goalkeeper in soccer but you hold a record as a wicket-taker in cricket.
RB: As an under-13 soccer keeper I played for the Harlaxton club and one year I never let a goal in.
But in cricket I still hold a record playing under-13s for the Railways club. This was back in the days of eight-ball overs and once I took six wickets for three runs from 2.3 overs. I took five in a row (a triple hat-trick), I was dropped on my sixth ball and I took another wicket with the seventh. I’m still looking for the bloke who dropped that catch.
Chase: We’ll come back to earth again and ask you about things that most disappointed you in the greyhounds.
RB: It is incredibly sad that we lost Beenleigh and Lawnton, and Toowoomba and Parklands were brand new tracks so it was tragic to see them go.
It’s a fanciful wish but I’d love to see another track in central Queensland somewhere, like Gladstone, Maryborough, somewhere like that.
Chase: So what is on Ron Brooks’ bucket list. What lies ahead?
RB: As a 67-year-old I’d just like to stay healthy. Maybe put the property on the market next few years and I don’t even know if I’ll have a dog by then.
Chase: How have you and your charges handled the hot weather lately?
RB: It has been tough. Right now I have a litter of 10 pups and I’ve been going in every hour with a tray of water putting their paws in it and wetting their backs. That is the first time I’ve ever had to do that.

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