By Jordan Gerrans
Queensland qualifier Deck Fifty Two will have one extra proud fan and keen follower cheering him on this Sunday in the National Straight Track Championship Final at Capalaba.
Trained by Group 1-winning dog man Darren Russell, Deck Fifty Two is apart of a kennel that is essentially run as a small family business.
Darren’s parents Barry and Maureen – as well as his brother – have all pitched in to prepare and breed the dogs over the decades, all sharing in the success and hard work that is required.
Well into their 80s now, Barry and Maureen are not as active as they once were, with Barry battling a number of ailments in hospital recently.
While he has his health struggles on his hands, Barry is still as committed as ever to the team of dogs, regularly asking his family how they are running.
Maureen thinks the kennel claiming the Group 3 National Straight Track Championship Final at Capalaba this Sunday would give the 86-year-old Barry a real buzz and lift his mood through his tough times.
“He is not going real good at the moment, he has Alzheimer’s and a few problems with his legs, they are all swollen and infected,” Maureen said of her husband.
“We are not sure if he will be able to come home from hospital just yet.
“He still loves the dogs and when I was at the hospital the other day, we were talking about which ones Darren had in that day and he was keen to watch them.”
Before Barry headed into hospital, he and Maureen would watch the dogs on TV at home and cheer them home.
Known for his training exploits with Group 1 stayer Bago Bye Bye, Darren and his kennel have long been guided by his parents.
When he was away racing dogs interstate or just generally from day to day travelling around Queensland and NSW, Barry and Maureen would pick up the slack at home.
They had three kennels at Balmain and were keen to expand their operation with more space for the animals and become full-time trainers, which they did in 1996 and it has just grown from there.
At 82 years of age, Maureen was not long ago driving the lure and catching the dogs, but has had to give that up recently.
After coming up from Balmain all those years ago, the entire Russell clan are proud of what they have built – going from a few dogs to regular winning big races across the country.
They prepare their chasers on 60 acres at Innisplain, which is south of Beaudesert towards the NSW border, while includes a big paddock for pups, a straight track to work on and 16 spacious all conditioned kennels for the race dogs in work.
After claiming the Queensland state Final last Sunday, the experienced trainer thinks the Sunshine State greyhounds - Deck Fifty Two and Impact – should be very hard to hold out against the interstate visitors.