Long-time greyhound racing participants Geoff Howell and Graeme Beattie have paid tribute to Ben Tournier, 29, who tragically lost his life in a car accident in the early hours of Australia Day.
Tournier and Beattie part-owned canine cult idol Rumour File – named after an iconic segment on 3AW’s award-winning Breakfast program, hosted by ‘king of radio’ Ross Stevenson and marketing guru Russel Howcroft.
Based at Pearcedale, Howell trains Rumour File (May ’18 Jarvis Bale x Deliverance) – a winner of four races, with nine seconds and seven thirds, from 32 starts.
An emotional Howell said he first met Tournier while trialling at Cranbourne.
“I really liked Ben the first time we met,” he said. “I just clicked with him straight away… He reminded me of a few guys I know that love the dogs and the footy.”
Howell said he knew Tournier for around 18 months and added he never got to see Rumour File race due to COVID-19.
A star footballer on the Mornington Peninsula, Tournier was a newcomer to the greyhound racing industry who embraced the sport with a passion.
“He was very keen on the dogs; it’s so heartbreaking for his family and all around him, including the Frankston Bombers football club,” Howell said. “And it’s also sad for our sport, as we need young vibrant people like Ben.”
And he added although Tournier couldn’t see Rumour File on race day, “he always got a kick out of watching him race on his mobile phone or Sky Channel”.
“When Rumour File won his first race on March 17 last year at Warragul, they replayed the audio around six times on 3AW Breakfast,” Howell said. “And Ben was ecstatic when Rumour File also recently won at Warragul on his 29th birthday (January 12).”
Tournier worked with Graeme Beattie for around five years at Lendlease, with both being contracted to South East Water. And Beattie became a “bit of a mentor” when Tournier lost his father in 2016.
“He was very keen on the dogs; it’s so heartbreaking for his family and all around him, including the Frankston Bombers football club.”
Beattie, who has raced dogs with Howell for many years, asked Tournier if he was interested in owning a then pup (Rumour File) in partnership.
“Ben was holidaying in America when Rumour File won his first race,” Beattie said. “He was a practical joker and always the centre of attention, and he’d always send me a message after Rumour File raced.”
Beattie recalled a hilarious incident when Rumour File was trialling at Sandown one Saturday morning.
“I rang Ben and asked if he wanted to come and watch… Not long after, I got a call from Ben saying, ‘I’m here, but there’s no one around’. And I said, ‘where are you? – to which he replied, ‘I’m in the carpark’.”
As it turned out, Tournier was in the Sandown Park Hotel carpark!
“He missed the trial and I told him ‘they don’t run around the bottle shop’.”
Beattie added that Tournier’s mum, Fiona, will now become involved with Rumour File.
“She went around to Ben’s unit in Mornington and looked at all the greyhound photos on the wall, and then she rang me and said, ‘I want to go on with it as a part-owner’,” he said.
Chart-topping musician Tones And I (real name Toni Watson) also paid tribute to Tournier in The Weekend Australian newspaper.
Watson, who rose to international fame through the mega-hit song ‘Dance Monkey’, shared a series of videos and an image of her friend, accompanied by a tragic message.
“I don’t really quite know what to say,” she said. “You were honestly, genuinely a really great friend/brother to me, and I will never forget you. I am heartbroken.”
She added: “You mean so much to so many people and cared for your mum like nothing else. “I don’t want to say Rest In Peace yet because I’m not quite ready to let you go.”
The Frankston Bombers also paid tribute to the 29-year-old.
“(We are) shocked by the tragic news that we had lost one of the greats,” a post from the club said.
“Benny T was a man of men – tough, honest and the life of the party. Loved by all, and lived life to the absolute max.
“A friend and teammate that would light up the room and leave a smile on anyone’s face.”
The funeral service for Benjamin Jake Tournier will be held in the Frankston Arts Centre on Tuesday, February 9 at 1pm. His service will also be webcast live (visit tobinbrothers.com.au and search Benjamin Jake Tournier in the webcasts/funeral notices search bar).
The funeral service for Benjamin Jake Tournier will be held in the Frankston Arts Centre on Tuesday, February 9 at 1pm and will be webcast live via the following link: https://tobinbrothers.com.au/tribute/details/19066/Benjamin-Tournier/obituary.html#tribute-start
WATCH: Rumour File (8) wins at Warragul on 12 January, which was Ben’s 29th birthday.
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