Young greyhound trainer Matthew Lanigan was born with a lead and muzzle in his hand.
Lanigan, 27, ‘cut his teeth’ in greyhound racing growing up on his parents’ property in Traralgon. In fact, his residence was just behind the town’s thoroughbred/greyhound dual complex.
And he hails from provincial greyhound racing royalty – his father, Gerald, is a Sale Trainer of the Year, and his late grandfather, Tom, is an icon of the sport in Gippsland. Tom is not only a life member of the club but has an annual memorial event named in his honour.
As you can see, greyhound racing flowed freely in Lanigan’s veins in his formative years. But it hasn’t always been that way.
Lanigan’s family moved to Swan Hill when he was eight years old, and at age 16 he moved to Melbourne after receiving a sports scholarship to Caulfield Grammar.
He went on to play Premier League cricket as a bowler for the Melbourne Cricket Club senior team. Not long after, he relocated to England to play high level cricket for one season in the “Old Dart”.
Unfortunately, knee and shoulder reconstructions cruelled his cricket career. But a country boy at heart, Lanigan returned from England, reunited with his family in Swan Hill and commenced work as a Telstra technician.
However, the sport’s mythical ‘Sirens’ – with their enchanting music and singing voices – have always resonated in his ears, attempting to lure him back into greyhound racing.
And thankfully, the ‘fire in his belly’ was still burning… He bought his first dog, Rylee’s Enforcer, as a 19-year-old, and around three years ago applied for a trainer’s licence.
Call it fate, but an impromptu chat with leading trainer Angela Langton during last year’s Group 1 Topgun meeting at The Meadows has certainly fast-tracked his greyhound racing aspirations.
“I had a dog contesting the Group 1 Topgun Stayers, and Angela asked me how I handled the four-hour drive from Swan Hill to occasionally race in the city,” Lanigan said.
“I told her I was contemplating moving closer to Melbourne and, on the spur of the moment, she offered me a position working for her and partner Jeff Britton at Anakie… It came out of nowhere, but I’m forever grateful.”
So, the country boy – tempted by the city greyhound racing spotlight – headed for the ‘big smoke’.
Lanigan now has a ‘shed’ of 58 greyhounds, including 26 currently racing.
“It’s fantastic exposure, and I’m learning a lot… Angela has been a great mentor.”
So much so, that she offered Lanigan to train potential staying star Weblec Eagle, who she part-owns with Neville Loechel.
On Boxing Day, Lanigan is chasing his own ‘37 seconds of fame’ when Weblec Eagle contests the $75,000-to-the-winner Group 1 Sale Cup (650m).
“I’m pretty happy with his draw (Box 2)… He rails pretty hard, and I was just praying he’d draw near the fence,” Lanigan said.
“I’m hoping he can position within the first few early as he’s such a strong dog.”
Lanigan added that Weblec Eagle, a finalist in this year’s G3 SA Derby, always gives 100 per cent.
“He’s a super traveller and has recovered extremely well after finishing second in his heat.”
Lanigan says he loved living in the country when he was younger as he had his own “bit of space”. “Anakie also has that country ambience, but the difference is I’m much closer to the metropolitan ‘action,” he added.
It seems you can take the ‘country boy’ out of Traralgon and Swan Hill, but you can’t take the Traralgon and Swan Hill out of the ‘country boy’. Lanigan is loyal to his roots!
In the lyrics of John Denver: “Life ain’t nothin’ but a funny, funny riddle”. And methinks Lanigan would say, “thank God I’m a country boy”.