Years involved in industry: 60
Tatura Coursing Club Secretary 16 years
Sandown Greyhound racing Club secretary 35 years
Negotiated purchase of land on which the Sandown GRC exists today
When greyhound people hear the name ‘McKenna’ they think of the Sandown Greyhound Racing Club’s prestigious Group 2 distance event, the McKenna Memorial. However, precious few these days know a lot about the man after which the race is named, the great John McKenna, who was a big advocate for distance racing in his heyday.
Born in 1901, McKenna was a country boy turned staunch Sandown GRC administrator who was not only a hero of the Sandown club, but in the community at large. An outstanding country footballer who captained Tatura as a feared ruckman, McKenna’s leadership qualities were apparent throughout his entire lifetime.
His involvement in the administration of greyhound racing began when he was only 18 as Secretary of the Tatura Coursing Club, a position he held until he was 34 when he moved to Melbourne. It was at this point, in 1935, that he was appointed the Secretary of the Sandown GRC, and he stayed in that role until 1970.
The Sandown club experienced some interesting times during McKenna’s reign, particularly in the 1950s when the club was confronted with some major issues. One of those included the club’s move from its current location to a site on the other side of the nearby railway line. Also, Sandown was abolished as a proprietary club in 1955 only to get a new license under the sport’s controlling body, the National Coursing Association [NCA] in 1956. A few years later, in 1959, an infamous split occurred between Sandown and the NCA which created significant turbulence.