By Isaac Murphy
League legend Tommy Raudonikis hopes his beloved Blues can harness the same fighting qualities his talented greyhound Restless Emotion has displayed in recent weeks when they tackle the Maroons in Wednesday’s Origin decider.
Raudonikis and his Cattle Dog Syndicate will have the Jamie McHugh-trained Restless Emotion lining up in Saturday’s Ipswich Young Guns Final.
Restless Emotion will turn two next month but has already won seven of her first eleven starts.
In that time, she has displayed similar traits to her famous part-owner and rugby league legend, who was proud of her gritty heat win.
“She’s a winner she wants to win, that heat the other night any other normal greyhound would have given up, but she kept coming right to the end,” he said.
“The Blues are a big chance, but you’ve got to remember you’re only as good as your last win, so they could use a little bit of her spirit.
“There have been a few occasions where she’s looked every chance of getting rolled, but she’s relentless, no mercy, and that’s what we need Wednesday night and that’s what she’ll bring Saturday as well.”
McHugh believes Restless Emotion has what it takes to win come Saturday.
“If she can nail the start this week I have no doubt she can certainly run the time the other heat winners won in, given her first two sections were hampered by other dogs,” McHugh said.
“Considering her less than impressive start from the two last start I’d much prefer her from an outside draw, she’s only young with the eleven starts, so to have her out wide out of the hustle and bustle would certainly be beneficial.”
The Heat start saw Restless Emotion take a sharp right out of box two, bouncing off several dogs early, before enduring more mid-race contact.
McHugh believes if she can avoid similar trouble this week she could go considerably faster.
“She surprised me a little bit when she veered right out of the lids, she’d had inside draws before and ran fairly straight,” he said.
“She managed to balance up and get going down the back before the eight-dog jumped all over her and put her sideways, she was entitled to be beaten three or four times in the run, yet her run home time was just as good as when she went 30.40 her last time out there.”
Despite being the slowest Heat winner McHugh was rapt with the performance, the bitch showing she wasn’t just raw ability, she had some fight too.
“Although it was a much tougher watch than some of her other wins it was really pleasing as a trainer to see her resilience to still run a race when things didn’t go her way,” he said.
“In my experience a lot of dogs when they take a few hits like that at a young age they can lose a bit of confidence, but to see her take it in her stride and chase really hard home, she’s got guts.”
“It’s happened a few times in her run home, dogs have loomed and it’s looked like she’ll be lucky to run a place, but she’s found hat extra gear and hung on, they are the kind of traits you can’t teach.”
Restless Emotion isn’t the only Jamie McHugh/Cattle Dog Syndicate runner to look out for.
“It’s exciting times for the kennel I’ve got her brother Big Nose Johnny lining up in the final of the Grafton Series on Wednesday,” McHugh said.
“I bought the two of them off Frank Hancock when they were three months old, I liked the Kinloch Brae/Anja breed and made the phone call and I’m bloody glad I did.
“Her brother is slightly behind her in terms of race starts and runs on the board, but I think he’s got just as much ability and we could see them racing each other down the track.”
McHugh has been sure to nurture the talent he’s been gifted and crafted a plan for Restless Emotion as her potential grew.
“As soon as she started to show ability I got her up over the 520, those corner starts at a lot of tracks can be fairly treacherous, I wanted to keep her away from them and she’s exceeded expectations over the longer trip,” he said.
“The plan for her will be to go through her grades until the Albion Park Young Guns in November, I’ll start her off in her fifth grades on a Monday night where she still has a couple of wins before she has to line up on a Thursday night.
“If everything goes to plan the timing of the Young Guns is perfect, she’ll be familiar with Albion Park and have the benefit of a few months experience and hopefully her brother will be there too.”
Known as one of the great characters of Rugby League former Western Suburbs, New South Wales and Australian representative Raudonikis has taken a keen interest in the greyhound industry post-football and has teamed up with McHugh in the last decade.
“Tommy and I met about seven years ago through the building industry and struck up a bit of a friendship over the dogs, so when Tommy bought a dog called Barefoot Boy he brought him to me to train and that was the beginning of our partnership in dogs,” McHugh said.
“We’ve had a few dogs and a bit of success since and when I bought these two he was itching to be a part of it again, along with the Cattle Dog Syndicate, which contains four other mates I have from the building industry.
“A couple of them are owning a dog for the first time, so bringing new people into the industry is what it’s all about.”
Raudonikis said he and McHugh were cut from the same cloth and gave full credit to the trainer for getting everything out of Restless Emotion.
“We started off doing a bit of business together outside the dogs and once I bought one I went straight to him, we had a fair bit in common but mostly just liked a beer,” Raudonikis said.
“I can’t speak more highly of Jamie whether it’s a greyhound or a person he’s the type of bloke who gets the best out of you.”
With his beloved Blues playing the Origin decider on Wednesday and Restless Emotion running Saturday night it’s a big week for Raudonikis.