Finn is the real leader of pack
FROM inside his little corrugated iron shack, Jimmy Finn sees the green light and turns the toggle.
The greyhounds are away.
Chasing, and getting closer, Finn cranks up the speed on his rabbit.
Better not let the pack catch it.
It's happened before.
“Once, when we had a power failure,” Finn laughs.
“Occasionally you let them get a little too close to the lure.
“You know from experience if a dog is getting too close.
“Normally the aim is to stay about five metres in front, which is about the distance of the light poles.”
For more than 20 years this has been Finn's job in Grafton.
Ten hours a week, 10 races a meet, leading a rabbit around the track, luring the greyhounds.
“It's very basic,” the 64-year-old says.
“I just enjoy it. I'm the only one in town trained to do it.”
Finn's iron dwelling, perched about 4m above the track and once a beacon of heat, earlier this year had the creature comforts of air-conditioning and, for health and safety reasons, stairs added.
No more sliding down the lure driver's sole access point, a ladder, in between races to seek the shade of the nearby trees.
Or, thanks to a new awning, popping on the poncho even when inside the shed.
“When it rained it came in during the races,” Finn laughs.
“And I was glad to get out of here and into the open air on hot days.
“I was waiting for the day that I slipped and broke a leg but it never happened.
“This is pleasant in here now.”
The additions, Finn says, continue the Grafton Greyhound Club's surge into a new professional era.
The sites have changed since the Casino-born Finn came to town in 1982.
“In those days it was a grass track and was very basic,” the retired railway worker says.
“Things slowed down a lot at one point and we (the club) were close to closing in 2004.
“But now we are looking really good and things are only going to get better.”
Gone are the days when a handful of keen punters attended Grafton's sporadic meets.
Gone, too, the “old tram controller” Finn used to send the rabbit around the track.
In their places, money-spinning TAB meets and Finn's easy-to-use toggle.
“This is all a lot easier,” Finn says of his new controls.
“It's all hand-eye skills and getting to know the feel of it.”
That feel is being passed on to Grafton secretary Brad Ellis, labelled “a natural” by Finn, to ensure there are locals to call upon at rabbit controls when needed.
In January, a Sydney lure driver was summoned to town when Finn was unavailable for duty.
Just don't tell the dogs if Finn opts to give the rabbit a rest.
“They will still chase anyway, even if the lure doesn't run. They are silly,” he laughs.
A life-long greyhound fan, and one-time owner and trainer, Finn now enjoys solitude in his air-conditioned shack.
“You are away from the hubbub. And no one can fight with you up here,” he said.