By Isaac Murphy
Three years ago, Rodney Newell was enduring a seven-hour round trip to work in the Sydney CBD, fast-forward to 2019 and the trainer is living out his dream training greyhounds including Group Two Bogie Leigh Futurity contender Kamikaze Cowlick at his Googong residence on the outskirts of Canberra and loving every minute of it.
Newell was taken by the sport in the nineties, but with a family to support was never able to have a real crack at things until his hardworking Father left him everything he had when cancer took him three-years-ago encouraging his to use the money to follow his passion.
“When my Dad passed away, I not only lost my father, but also my best mate,” Newell said.
“We had a lot of things in common a love for thoroughbred racing, rugby league, test cricket, it was very hard when I lost him and it took me a long time to readjust and restart life, I couldn’t go and talk to him on a Monday morning about how good is was to see Parramatta win a game.”
“We never had much growing up, but Dad worked on the rail road for thirty-eight years and it was in his last days he gave me everything he had saved and told me to go out and chase my dreams.”
After seven months in limbo Newell bit the bullet and set out to honour his Dads wishes and hit a home run with Kamikaze Cowlick the first greyhound he ever bought.
“She’s the first dog I bought with the money my Dad left behind and even in the breaking in process there were pretty big raps on her and I received a number of offers, but we were never going to sell the bitch,” Newell said.
“She was purchased with the intention to breed so we didn’t have to continually go back into the market and purchase pups and we hope the Barcia Bale/Tifi For Me combination can take us a long way.”
Twenty starts later the bitch boasts eleven wins and ran a brave second first up over the track and trip at Albion Park in last weeks heats with plenty against her, Newell hoping she’ll only come on from the run.
“I think what was most impressive was we knew the quality of the heats and particularly hers were very good and with a bad box (7) and not an ideal preparation without 520 meters run in eight weeks I was throwing her in the deep end, and she responded,” he said.
“Not many gave her a chance when she came up tending to look at the exposed form of some more high profile New South Wales dogs and now we’re the one people are giving a real shot in the final.”
Newell said he’s been hard at work trying to work out Kamikaze’s speed map from box three on Thursday night and all in all is quite happy with a couple of slow beginners each side.
“I’ve looked at the replay countless times and she can’t afford to come out of the boxes the way she did again, she usually jumps and runs and I’m hoping she gets a much easier time of it from box three,” he said.
“I’m quite happy with Sequana being drawn on our outside and Zipping Cosmo to our inside, they’re both not flash beginners and gives her every chance to get on the bunny where she goes to another level.”
It was a big decision for Newell to make the thirteen-and-a-half-hour drive to Brisbane for a crack at the Futurity, but past form and the hunger for that big win won out.
“It was her experience at the Youngstar where she flew home for third that gave me the impetus to come up here and have a go against the top dogs and trainers,” Newell said.
“I’ve always wanted to come to Albion Park and win a race, I fell in love with the sport in the nineties watching dogs like Fly Amy and Bogie Leigh, so it’s a real honour just to be a part of a race named in Bogie Leigh’s honour.”
There wasn’t a happier trainer to run second last week than Newell, he knew his “little girl” was up against it passed the test and has bigger plans in mind next preparation.
“Regardless of how things go tomorrow night she’s passed the litmus test and shown me she’s up to this level of racing, she’s done some amazing things winning by thirteen lengths at Goulbourn, but this is her future and it’s pretty exciting,” Newell said.
“Tomorrow serves as her Grand Final this preparation, she’s come on in leaps and bounds and deserves a bit of a break over the Christmas period before I bring her back, it’d be magical to go out with a win.”
Newell is refreshingly open about the struggles of losing his Dad and felt as if even though he wasn’t present he was on the ride with him the whole way.
“It took my about seven months to come to terms with the fact he was gone and I was ready to start doing what I wanted to do, every little bit of success I get I attribute to him and I can’t tell you how emotional I’ll be if we can win Thursday,” He said.
“I’m still just a hobby trainer out of my backyard at Googong on the outskirts of Canberra, we’ve been down here since April when my wife was offered a new role and it’s been the perfect move for us to get out of Sydney.”
“It comes with it’s pitfalls there’s plenty of travel with not too many local tracks and it was a long drive to any of the big tracks, but you do it in a heartbeat when you love it.”
Still being relatively new to the training ranks Newell said he was learning something new every day, with great respect for his fellow trainers and the backing of his family that make it all possible.
“Ups and downs are part of it she could have easily been smashed at the first turn last week and it’s a long lonely drive back home,” Newell said.
“I’ve learned pretty quickly in this sport you’ve got to be gracious in defeat and victory because the seven other trainers you’re up against are putting in just as much work as you.”
“In the end it all comes down to family, that’s where it started for me with my Dad telling me to go out and get involved in the industry and then I have my wife Michelle and my boys at home, who are always there to deal with me win or lose.”