In September 2013, legendary athlete and athletics coach Tom Kelly was tragically killed in a horrific traffic accident. His memory lives on today thanks in part to a competitive female racing greyhound named Come On Lassy.
Born in Ireland before making the move to Australia in 1956, Tom made an undeniable mark on the athletics scene, becoming the first Australian to win an international marathon (1961). As a coach Tom mentored several Olympians, but would take on anybody, no matter their age or ability, and he never charged for his coaching.
Such was his standing in the community that over 1,000 people attended his funeral, and little over 12 months following his passing the following occurred:
- In November 2014, the Manningham Council saw it fitting to rename the Doncaster Athletics Track the ‘Tom Kelly Athletics Track’.
- At the same time, Tom’s family, in conjunction with the Doncaster Athletics Club, created the ‘Tom Kelly Development Scholarship’. The idea of the scholarship was to provide financial assistance to support developing athletes and coaches. This was launched at the ‘Tom Kelly Celebratory Ball’.
- Members of the Doncaster Athletics Track formed the ‘Kelly Running Gang’ Syndicate and purchased a greyhound for $5,500 at GRV’s Ready 2 Race Sales. They later named her Come On Lassy, with prize money being donated to the Tom Kelly Development Scholarship.
Eddie Viking, a member of the Kelly Running Gang Syndicate, perhaps summed Kelly up best when saying “Tom gave everything and expected nothing.”
The syndicate had originally planned to buy a male greyhound at the Sales and call him Come On Laddy – one of Tom’s famous catchcries – however when they purchased a female they settled on the name Come On Lassie instead.
Trainer James Stavropoulos of Craigieburn purchased Come On Lassy on the Syndicate’s behalf, and he has guided the greyhound to a respectable four wins and eight minor placings from 22 starts, while she has earned just over $7,000 in prize money.
Watching Come On Lassy’s racing career unfold has brought plenty of joy – not just to Kelly Running Gang Syndicate members – but also Tom’s friends and family who miss his kind-hearted nature and generosity no end.WATCH: Come On Lassy (3) makes it a hat-trick of wins when scoring at Shepparton in September.
PICTURED TOP (From left): Adrian Patti, (Doncaster Athletics Club President), Siobhan Long (Tom’s daughter), Michael Kelly (Tom’s son (back row)), Patrick Long (Tom Kelly’s Grandson), Ed Weekes (Kelly Running Gang co-manager), Xavier Long (Tom Kelly’s Grandson), Come On Lassy, Trainer James Stavropoulos, Dave Gallacher (Kelly Running Gang co-manager), Colleen Murphy (Tom’s daughter), James Murphy (Tom’s Grandson) at the Tom Kelly Athletics Track in Doncaster. INSET: The late Tom Kelly.