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‘It’s like coaching’: Ex AFL star on his greyhound racing success

Warrnambool breeder Noel Mugavin says having personal contact with your pups and working on building up confidence in them is critical to success.

Former AFL/VFL footballer Noel Mugavin has shared some of the secrets of his family’s success in greyhound racing, which has spanned the best part of four decades.

Mugavin, who currently has an exciting young litter racing by Barcia Bale out of his former superstar Born Ali, says focussing on one particular aspect of the sport – in his case breeding – is critical to achieving long-term success.

“I think you’ve got to specialise in areas, and training is not my forte. I like the breeding side of things. If you are haphazard with breeding you might get lucky, but more times than not you will find flaws in your breeding,” Mugavin told the Sporting Capital’s Jack Heverin.

Mugavin, of Warrnambool, bred and owns former star stayer Born Ali, a winner of 20 races including the 2014 Group 1 Galaxy in Perth, and more than $250,000 in prize money before being retired for breeding.

Born Ali’s first litter, who like their mum are trained by Robert Britton, includes city winners Benali (won 7 from 17) and Barcali (5 from 13), as well as other promising types Born Jamie, Janali and Menzali.

Mugavin, a teacher at Emmanuel College in Warrnambool, says having a common sense approach to breeding is imperative, and that a number of factors have to be considered to give your pups the best chance of growing up to be successful on the racetrack.

“First of all you’ve got to have the right breeding and then make sure they are well fed and that they have room to run to develop their muscle and bones. It’s also important to worm them out regularly and ensure they don’t have fleas.”

He added that regular interaction was also important, saying “you really need to spend a lot of time with your dogs as they’re growing up.”

“You’ve got to make they have room to run to develop their muscles and bones. It’s also important to worm them out regularly and ensure they don’t have fleas.”

Mugavin, who played 43 games for Fitzroy and Richmond before succumbing to a serious injury to his spleen, said breeding greyhounds has helped him “fill that void of competitiveness” that was missing when he retired from football in 1982. He added that caring for greyhounds has a lot of synergies with AFL football.

“It’s a little bit like coaching. I coached for a number of years (in the Hampton Football League) and you’ve got to look at them (your players) individually and see what makes them tick. It’s no different with greyhounds. You’ve got to have that personal contact with them, and work on building up that confidence in them.”

Mugavin credits much of his breeding success to Queensland’s David Brasch, a student of greyhound breeding who helps him select which sires to mate with his brood matrons, stating “I would recommend him to anyone who is looking for knowledge in the area of greyhound breeding.”

“I’m also very lucky to have (the likes of) Robbie Britton, who is probably the leading trainer in Australia, and has been a wonderful support to me. He educates our dogs very well and he looks after them when they’re racing.”

“The industry is so lucky to have the Robbie Brittons of this world and my brother Kevin (Mugavin Junior), who has been a wonderful trainer. Those sorts of people are just invaluable for their advice and they know what makes dogs tick.”

Among the champion greyhounds the Mugavin family have bred include Express Hazard (27 wins), Modern Express (29), Golden Currency (35), Poetic Reward (41) and Modern Assassin (40).

The family is also well known in football circles, with one of Mugavin’s nephews being Brisbane Lions triple premiership superstar, Jonathan Brown. Another of his nephews is Western Bulldogs star Liam Picken, son of former Collingwood champion Bill Picken. Bill married Mugavin’s other sister, Julie.

“My sister Mary (Mugavin-Brown), who is Jonathan Brown’s mum, had a wonderful dog called Modern Assassin who won nearly $400,000 in prize money,” he quipped.

Mugavin spent a short time at Richmond where he played two games before injury curtailed his 43-game career.

Mugavin spent a short time at Richmond where he played two games before injury curtailed his 43-game career.

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About Andrew Copley - Racing Communication Manager at Greyhound Racing Victoria with 20 years of experience working as a greyhound racing reporter with National Greyhound Form newspaper and GRV. Adopter of celebrity greyhound, Fred Basset.
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