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Fred Abel – a ‘people’s champion’

Fred Abel – a champion for Victorian greyhound racing’s rank-and-file – has died, aged 95.

Abel passed away peacefully on New Year’s Eve (December 31, 2021).

A GRV Hall of Fame inductee, Abel was revered for having a ‘fanfare for the common man’ in the sport and was held in the highest esteem by all and sundry in the industry.

Born on January 28, 1926, Abel joined the air force as an 18-year-old and served the RAAF with distinction for 27 years.

Abel was also a dab hand with the lead and collar, training 1970 Laurels winner La Rate.

But as a greyhound racing administrator, he came into his own.

“We (MGRA committee) copped plenty of flak, but Fred stuck to his principles.”

From 1965-86, Abel was an executive committee of the GOTBA and became its president in the late ’70s.

Abel was a foundation member of the Cranbourne GRC. He was also appointed to the Racing Appeals Tribunal advisory panel in 1982 and served until he resigned in 2008.

In 1982, Abel became a director of the MGRA and was appointed its chairman in 1984. He enjoyed a lengthy tenure, retiring from the position in 2000.

Incumbent MGRA chairman Eddie Caruana offered a glowing tribute on a “man’s man, who had a great sense of humour”.

“He was a stalwart. He was a powerful advocate who put the industry at the forefront. Everything was about improving greyhound racing.”

Fred Abel (left) and then Minister for Sport, Tom Reynolds officially open the new greyhound track at The Meadows in 1999.

Caruana said Abel’s ‘GOTBA days’ were before his time in the sport, and he’s a little sketchy on Abel’s tenure as a Cranbourne GRC committee member.

However, Caruana vividly recalls Abel’s long reign as MGRA chairman.

“He played an instrumental role in the MGRA’s initial move from Olympic Park to Sandown Park in 1996 for three years and then to The Meadows (Broadmeadows) in 1999.

“It was a long search for a ‘new home’, with more than 70 potential sites inspected.

“He was staunch against the criticism. But, to his credit, he never wavered from finding the best location; it was his priority.

“We (MGRA committee) copped plenty of flak, but Fred stuck to his principles.

“He stood by what he believed in. He was the instigator, and he’s shaped the MGRA as it is today.”

Caruana added that Abel was “very big on protocol”. “The directors did the right thing and dressed accordingly. But he had everyone’s respect.

“He deserved to be the MGRA chairman on opening night at The Meadows.”

Abel was appointed a life member of the MGRA in 2000. He’s also a life member of the Cranbourne GRC and GOTBA.

In 2005, Abel was a joint recipient of the Ken Carr Medal – the highest award for excellence within the Victorian greyhound racing industry

“It was an honour he thoroughly deserved for his devoted service to the industry,” Caruana said. The whole club – and industry – was proud of Fred.

“I still kept in touch with Fred until around 18 months ago… You wouldn’t meet a nicer person.

“He was very gentle, but strong in his convictions… He was extremely likeable.”

Pawnote: Fred Abel’s funeral service will be conducted at the Blair Chapel, Springvale Botanical Cemetery, at 1.30pm on Tuesday, January 11. The funeral service will also be live streamed, and the link can be found on the Springvale Botanical Cemetery website – https://smct.org.au/our-locations/about-springvale-botanical-cemetery.

Abel’s second wife, Evelyn, passed away in 2011. They were married in 1991. He leaves behind four children, four grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

An emotional Fred Abel accepts his GRV Hall of Fame award.

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About Peter Quilty - Peter QUilty has more than three decades of experience as assistant editor of Victorian Greyhound Weekly. He was editor of GRV monthly magazine The Adviser (2001-09) and owner/publisher of Australian Greyhound Monthly. He also served on the selection panel for the inaugural GRV ‘Hall of Fame’ inductees and for several years was an adjudicator on the Victorian GOTY. He’s also published greyhound racing yearbooks and wrote the ‘Bold Trease’ video script.
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