Legendary greyhound trainer Joe Hili has died of kidney failure, aged 83. He passed away peacefully at his Narre Warren South home, as was his dying wish, last Friday.
Based in Keysborough during his training heyday, Hili was associated with a myriad of the sport’s luminaries – including Tangaloa, a GRV Hall of Fame inductee who won the 1978 Melbourne Cup and 1980 Australian Cup.
He also prepared greyhounds the ilk of High Intensity (1988 National Distance Champion), Dallas Duo (1992 Melbourne Cup runner-up), Club Edition, Rich Return and Black Smoothie.
In 1956, Hili emigrated to Australia as a 19-year-old and gained employment as a factory worker.
But in his mid-20s, Hili experienced a life-changing event. He came across a lost greyhound eating rubbish from a bin in Richmond and took her home before finding the owners.
Subsequently, they gave Hili the greyhound’s registration papers and that was the catalyst for his incredible journey in the sport.
“He had a love for animals of all description,” his wife, Sophie, said. “And his little hobby was fishing; he had his own boat and would regularly fish the inlets of Kilcunda and Tooradin.”
The Hilis sold their Keysborough greyhound training complex around 11 years ago and Joe resumed racing pigeons, which was also a passion.
“But he still watched every greyhound race, every night… He was a greyhound racing fanatic,” Sophie added.
Hili is also survived by his son, Paul, daughter Lou-Anne, and three grandchildren, Zoe, 18, Ty, 16, and Olivia, 14.
PHOTO: Joe Hili with GRV Hall of Fame inductee, Tangaloa.