By Chase editor Pat McLeod
One of the greyhound industry’s most articulate advocates, David Simonette, has stepped out of the national spotlight, but not away from the sport.
The inaugural CEO of the Greyhound Clubs Australia (GCA) has resigned from that role to take up a board membership with Racing and Wagering WA (RWWA).
“I loved what I was doing with GCA and am very happy with what we were able to achieve since that entity began in 2017,” the Perth-based Simonette said.
“However, the travel was arduous and there was still so much I wanted to achieve in WA. I felt I had unfinished business here.
“I could not do both roles, so opted for the one that is five minutes down the road instead of having to travel across the country.”
Simonette was a major player in Greyhounds WA for many years, including being CEO for eight years before having to step down because of ill-health in 2013. He then re-emerged as point guard for the then-new GCA in May, 2017.
Greyhound Clubs Australia was the brainchild of highly respected Victorian sporting innovator Greg Miller.
Before GCA, greyhound clubland was represented by the Australian Greyhound Racing Association (AGRA) – an amalgam of the major clubs in Australia.
However, in the wake of the live baiting scandal in 2015 Miller pushed for a revamping of AGRA to be a body that represented all clubs.
GCA was born and after a nation-wide search Simonette was handed the reins.
“I was given carte blanche,” says Simonette.
“But early suggestions that GCA could or should be a major powerbroker, were soon put to rest. What we did realise we could do, and what became our charter, was to bring this largely fragmented industry together – to make a positive difference.
“In the time GCA has been around we have been able to make positive change. We have been a voice for all clubs, and especially the smaller ones. We became like a co-op, sharing ideas and infrastructure.
“We fought hard for clubs like Cairns and Canberra to stay alive. Ultimately those battles were not successful, but they did send out a clear message that clubs did not stand alone. There was someone to stand with them in dark times.
“We were able to not only grow the Nationals carnival, but also incorporate the National Symposium, which I believe was one of GCA’s greatest achievements.
“The symposium really spread its wings at the Perth Nationals in 2018. It showed just how professional this industry can be. It showcased innovation and new faces, but most importantly it brought all aspects of the industry together under the one roof – something greyhound racing needs a lot more of.”
Then Covid arrived.
“Covid really robbed GCA of so much momentum,” Simonette said.
“But the foundations are set, we are established. We took a while to understand what we are about and we are constantly evolving as new issues crop up.”
Simonette’s ‘parting gift’ is GCA’s current major project – Greyhound Facts.
This website-based initiative gives all greyhound clubs – and anyone seeking the actual facts – easy access to the latest data and information on greyhound racing.
Simonette says Greyhound Facts is a result of the urgent need for more engagement by the greyhound industry across the digital world.
“If we don’t participate in the narrative that is occurring, and all the talk is one direction than there is the real danger that mainstream Australia will start heading in that direction as well,” he said.
“Greyhound supporters are just as passionate, if not more-so, than those opposing the sport, and that passion and what is so great about this industry needs to be shared more with the wider public.
“We are a much better industry than we were pre-2015. That was the massive wake-up call that we needed. But the messaging on how the industry has changed, how the culture has changed and what is happening now needs to go out further than what it is.”
Filling Simonette’s sizeable shoes will be long-time Bendigo club GM Troy Harley.
“Troy is a fantastic choice,” said Simonette.
“He has a wide skill-set and great, current knowledge around running a club. He is down to earth enough to really gel with the participants and the clubs at their level. He knows that space.
“I have also seen him at a more executive level and he is very comfortable in the corporate arena. He can more than hold his own in any conversation.
“Troy is a straight shooter, level-headed, but no shrinking violet. He is well known, respected and well connected.
“He is an ideal choice.”