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Hannant reveals passion for the racing industry ahead of TAB Origin Greyhound Series

nMw7oxog.jpegBy Jordan Gerrans

Ben Hannant’s life and passions have long been intertwined with the game of rugby league.

But a deeper look into the 36-year-old’s childhood and post-rugby league endeavours shows that the racing industry has been there almost every step of the way for the Origin champion.

The former prop was first introduced to the racing industry through his “Pa” in Sydney, his children are deeply involved in the show jumping and pony club world and Hannant himself will make his debut as Maroons coach for this week’s TAB Origin Greyhound Series at Albion Park.

The top dogs from Queensland and New South Wales will do battle at Albion Park on Thursday night with the home side aiming to win back the shield.

In a career that included 245 first grade games, 12 Origins for Queensland and six Tests for Australia, rugby league has always been front and centre for Hannant.

However he has revealed a love for the racing industry as well as the welfare of greyhounds and horses.

“What introduced me to racing was my Pa, he lived down in Bankstown in Sydney and he used to take us to the trots,” Hannant said.

“He used to give me a dollar for every race to see if we could pick a winner, that was a special occasion for me.

“Come this Thursday night, I will bring all my kids with me and we are going to be backing Queensland heavily.

“My girls love their horses, they do show jumping and pony club, we have seven horses of our own on the Gold Coast at our farm.

“A lot of the kids’ life lessons comes from animals and they help each other reach their potential.”

After taking on the role of coach of Queensland, Hannant says he will look into purchasing a few greyhounds in the near future.

Hannant, a premiership winner with both Brisbane and North Queensland, will be up against a long-time greyhound racing identity in Terry Hill, who will coach New South Wales.
 
Hannant will make his debut as Queensland coach, replacing Chris Walker who led Queensland to victory in 2018, while Hill will take the reins for a third term.

Smart Lilly

Ql1KEsTg.jpegThe colourful Hill believes the TAB Origin Greyhound Series at Albion Park is one of the most exciting concepts in the sport.

“I love it, it the best thing greyhounds have implemented in Australia and I have been in greyhounds since I was 13-years-old,” Hill said.

“The money put up by Racing Queensland is unbelievable, everyone gets look after – a sprint race, a staying race and a match race – it is full of action.

“You are getting the best dogs in Australia this year; it is getting bigger and stronger.

“I am quietly confident as we have every greyhound trainer in NSW wanting to be a part of the team, I have had dog trainers from all over the state ringing me and trying to get in the team.”

While Hannant will be cheering on all the greyhounds who represent Queensland on Thursday evening, he will save a little extra for Smart Lilly.

Selected in the Queensland stayers’ team to race over 710 metres, Smart Lilly is trained by Ray Burman at Park Ridge and is owned by Mary Burman.

Hannant knows the Burman family well through Steve Burman, who was a North Queensland Cowboys analyst during his time in Townsville.

Smart Lilly has not won in her last seven trips to the races but the Maroons skipper believes she can bounce back on the big stage.

“These dogs are just incredible, one of my close mates has Smart Lilly in the team, I am very excited to see her go around,” Hannant said.

“Her form at the moment may not exactly be where you want to be but it is typical Queensland spirit, it does not matter the form leading in, it is about standing up on the big occasions and on the big night.

“Steve has been a mate of mine for a while, he was with me at the Cowboys and he was our computer analyst and cut up all the footage in the year we won in 2015.

"He is a very, very smart man and his parents are just as smart, they know exactly how to get a greyhound right for the time to race.

“Smart Lilly will be bang on point for the final and alongside her team mates, they will be ready to lift the trophy come Thursday night.”

While Hannant is right at home in Brisbane, Hill makes a return to a track where he has claimed some of his biggest prizes as an owner.

nMw7oxog-1.jpegThe Tony Brett-trained and Hill-owned Fast Times claimed Group 1 glory twice in 2017 at Albion Park.

“It is a big passion of mine, I used to walk the streets of Newtown as a 10-year-old with greyhounds,” Hill said.

“I have followed the dogs my entire career, my main career was rugby league and I do not like to do anything else, I just love my greyhounds.

“I did not miss a Monday night at Wentworth Park for that long, unless I was playing, I just love the dogs, it is in me and I am passionate fan of the dogs.

“I have pups everywhere and race them in every state of Australia.”

After COVID-19 forced the abandonment of last year’s Series, it returns with two $60,000 Group 3 races – the Origin Sprint (520 metres) and Origin Distance (710 metres) – as well as the Listed Origin Match Race, Regional Origin Challenge and Queensland Emerging Origin Stars (all run over 520 metres).
 
Bragging rights still rest with NSW after Feral Franky broke the 2019 stalemate with a barnstorming victory in the Origin Match Race to send the shield south of the border, with Queensland’s victory in 2018’s inaugural series leaving it at one apiece heading into 2021.

 

Races

9
9

Albion Park | Brisbane Greyhound Racing Club | 9:11 PM

TAB Origin Greyhound Series Match Race F