‘Tricky’ by name, not by nature

\"\"Caption: Mike Stephenson with his Townsville Cup winner Hara’s Panda. The popular trainer passed away suddenly on May 13. (Photo: Box 1 Photography)

By Paul Dolan

FOR many people, it won’t seem the same going to Albion Park, Capalaba and the Grafton July Carnival without seeing ‘Tricky’.

Well liked and successful trainer Mike Stephenson died on May 13, aged 73.

Just about everyone knew him as ‘Tricky’, not because of any misdoings but simply because it was typical Aussie rhyming slang for a good Aussie bloke – Tricky Micky.

Stephenson was galloping two of his team in straight runs at his north Brisbane property when he suffered a fatal heart attack.

The trainer won last year’s Brisbane (Albion Park) Strike Rate Award, a feat of which he was justifiably proud.

He had 15 wins from 37 starters for an impressive strike rate of 40.54 per cent. The headline performer was Hara’s Panda with 11 wins from 18 Albion Park starts.

Never a big noter, you could see Mike’s sense of pride when he received the trophy for that title at the Queensland Awards Night in March this year.

Stephenson won last year’s Group 3 Townsville Cup with Hara’s Panda, his first Group race winner. His long-time mate Tony Glover owns the dog. The ‘Hara’s’ tag is the backwards spelling of Glover’s daughter Sarah.

Stephenson’s involvement in the greyhound industry spanned 50 years. Among his successes were the 1988 Lawnton Greyhound of the Year Rangeview Boy and the Capalaba 2006 GOTY Smell the Money. Crail Tempest and Crail Spirit were two other outstanding performers for the kennel.

For last year’s Townsville Cup campaign, Stephenson stayed with his long-time mate David Church who runs, with his partner Debbie Jessup, the Fishery Falls Hotel, just south of Cairns. Debbie is Mike’s niece.

“We’re devastated by Mike’s passing, we spoke on the phone every day, sometimes two or three times a day,’’ Church said.

“Two days prior to his death was his 50th wedding anniversary with Annette. Those pups that he was working at home were going to be part of his Grafton July team. He loved going there, hardly missed a year over a long period of time.’’

When the Lawnton racetrack on Brisbane’s northside was closed in September, 1995, Stephenson and a band of helpers kept the adjacent straight training track open.

Church added: “Plenty of people helped but, really, Mike was the mainstay. He would do anything to help anyone. He scaled down his work at the Lawnton track about 18 months ago but still remained involved.’’

Away from the racetrack, Stephenson was a tradesman, in particular, he installed pebblecrete driveways. In 1988 he installed such a driveway at a Dolan family residence in Brisbane. I still visit that property occasionally and you would swear that the driveway is brand new, not 33 years old. Now that’s pretty tricky!!

We have all heard the words that most greyhound trainers don’t retire, they die with a collar and lead in their hands.

Sadly, such was literally the case with Mike Stephenson. He is survived by wife Annette and sons Jamie and Bradley.

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