There is currently a lot of talk about some of the amazing achievements by the ‘youth’ of Victorian greyhound racing.
And rightly so, with wonderful group racing victories including G1 Silver Chief winner Lakeview Walter, trained by Monique Whelan; Correy Grenfell with Yozo Bale’s G2 Bendigo-Ballarat cups double; and Kayla Cottrell’s exciting run of success with littermates Fernando Bluey and Fernando Cazz.
What an extraordinary way for these young trainers, and more like them, to commence 2021 and look forward to an incredible year ahead!
But what of the stalwarts of greyhound racing, who continue to quietly go about their business without fuss, fanfare or media glare? In particular women, who joined the greyhound training ranks at a time when Australia was less accepting of those that wanted more than just the hefty responsibility of family, and today decades later, their achievements are still delivering plenty of success.
One such lady, at 83 years young, is greyhound trainer Joyce Condon. Currently ranked third on the Healesville trainers board that her training partner and son Dave Condon leads, the pair have certainly made an indelible mark on the picturesque straight track in the Yarra Valley.
However, the success of today reflects the main part of Joyce’s lifetime. A passage of time spent by Joyce enjoying her favourite animals’ love and affection, while simultaneously coaching her adored greyhounds to race, for well over half a century. A period that most animal lovers could only ever dream about turning into a reality.
In the same year that Melbourne staged the Olympics (1956), Joyce commenced her lifetime bond with greyhounds. Originally her father trained and raced greyhounds around the Leichhardt area in NSW, with Joyce attending the track at Richmond. But it wasn’t until 1986 that Joyce, at the age of 38, took out her own training licence and prepared a greyhound called Del’s Pride (Tempix x Dellarny), who would go on to be a finalist in the G1 Australian Cup. Joyce’s late husband, Bob, also trained greyhounds in the Gippsland area with Joyce, and the couple trained and raced in the Riverland region of South Australia for 15 years as well.
Celebrating a fabulous racing life, filled with the love and joy that greyhound racing has brought to Joyce and her relatives, 18 members of the Condon clan watched on trackside while Superior Wallis (Barcia Bale x Superior Zoe) won the Kings of Healesville title and littermate Superior Jessica was runner-up in the Queens of Healesville final, both over 350m on January 17.
With greyhounds being a near lifelong commitment for Joyce, I asked her what she believes is the key consideration when preparing greyhounds to race. “I treat them as individuals; treat them as you find them, never as a number, as they all have their own personalities and I love them,” she responded.
Given Joyce and Dave have such a great strike rate on the Healesville short course, I also asked her why she enjoys racing at Healesville so much. “I think the straight track at Healesville is fantastic for young dogs learning, it gives them all a chance and they are not getting any injuries, and you can go on with what their ability is,” she said. “Greyhound racing has kept me going, I don’t think I could live without it. I could not live without greyhound racing or my family.”
As Joyce’s large family gathered trackside at Healesville, I also had the chance to ask Monique Condon what greyhound has done for her broader family. “I think it keeps us all together, it is a really nice family affair. We have got mum, Dave and his two brothers here today all handling the dogs. I have a four-and-a-half-year-old that has a favourite from nanna’s kennel, Superior Bont, and my son now tells his father and nanna how to train him,” Monique quipped.
As the family continued to celebrate not only their kennel’s success but their matriarch’s indelible legacy and ability as a very active greyhound trainer into her eighties, I asked Joyce for one last piece of advice that she could offer anyone contemplating training greyhounds to which she replied: “Be patient with your dogs, look after them and treat them as your own, they will reward you in the end.”
Long may the reign continue, of Healesville’s greyhound racing Queen – Joyce Condon.
Photo credits Jason Mckeown Photography.
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