Welcome to our Question and Answer column which now runs every Tuesday and Friday on thedogs.com.au and GRNSW websites.

We are now seven weeks into dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and I want to commend all participants, race club staff, GWIC and GRNSW staff for their work during these difficult times in keeping everyone safe and the industry still racing.

As I have repeatedly said, while we do not know when the current situation will end, with each day we are one day closer to coming out the other side.

I also want to reiterate that our first and foremost concern is for the health and safety of our participants and staff.

I hope that this Q & A column has been beneficial to all participants, not just those who have emailed questions.

These Q & As began because I believe it was crucial to keep all participants up to date on all news involving the industry, and I encourage everyone to keep sending in their questions pertaining to the COVID-19 situation.

If you have any questions, please email them to the following address: update@grnsw.com.au

As the case has been with any important announcements or developments, we will publish those across our GRNSW network as required.

Here’s the latest round of questions sent in to GRNSW.

1. Q: With the State Government announcement this week of the slight relaxation of COVID restrictions, does this now mean catchers will be allowed back on course?

A: While the Government has eased some restrictions, for the time being, our restrictions won’t be changing. You are allowed a catcher if you have 4 or more runners at a race meeting only.

2: Q: Hi Tony, there is no reason that I can see, that we can't start conducting more meetings in regional towns. Victoria (GRV) and Queensland conduct meetings at their city tracks.  We have flattened the curve and regional towns have been less susceptible to coronavirus than cities, so what is the delay?  As long as you keep some of the restrictions, the only thing stopping more racing and giving dogs a chance to race, is GRNSW.

A: One of the main reasons behind the restrictions was to limit travel for participants as the Government had recommended and hence the regional zoning which we were the first in the country to put in place. This Government restriction hasn’t changed. Yes the curve is flattening and some restrictions have been eased, but as we saw with beaches, if think everything is back to normal and are not careful, you can do yourself, and in this instance, your industry, great damage. As far as conducting more meetings in regional towns, we are currently conducting 21 or 22 TAB meetings a week, which exceeds even what we would normally schedule outside of COVID-19.

3. Q: Tony what is doing with Wentworth Park? We keep hearing how everything is improving, surely a return to Wenty is coming soon.

A: We are looking closely at a return to racing at Wentworth Park, and need to make certain everything is in place to do so. You can expect an announcement will come in the near future regarding racing at Wentworth Park.

4. Q: Hi Tony, I was just wondering with some of the COVID-19 restrictions being lifted this Friday would it be possible say from this Saturday's meetings onwards to box 4 dogs at the same time eg: odds then evens which still keeps 1.5m rule apart, so we can reduce the time the dogs are in the boxes .

A: At this stage we are still taking the stringent biosecurity measures we implemented many weeks ago when it comes to social distancing. I understand the new boxing sequence takes longer but it is really important that we maintain these measures for the safety of our participants. If Government restrictions are lifted, we will be able to go back to the previous boxing sequence.

5. Q: Tony, I believe that reducing the number of TAB tracks racing because of the Coronavirus has caused more harm and frustration to industry, than what you realise. You only have to look at the number of complaints re Grading, last start winners not being able to get a run, low grade or sprint dogs not getting a fair go. Get about around the tracks and listen to the complaints and whinging from the participants. You can’t tell me that the clubs who you stopped racing could not conform to all of the protocols in place that the clubs racing adhere to. 

A: The purpose of this column was to give everyone an opportunity to ask questions, understand answers, and voice their opinion, and I respect yours. It has also given everyone a place to voice their – as you put it – “complaints and whinging”, so while I obviously can’t get out to the tracks, believe me I do hear the participants’ “feedback”. It would have been foolish and irresponsible to think we could have continued on like nothing had happened when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the Government and health authorities were putting measures in place around the state and country. We needed to make a move so that we could continue to race at all, and lessen the risk of being shut down completely, and I can guarantee you, that was what we all thought would be the case at some point when everything else – industry and sport – ground to a halt. The key thing was reducing travel, and as our industry sees people travel around the state every day, we needed to quarantine that, hence the introduction of zones. We selected specific tracks which we felt were best able to fit the needs of participants, and like we have said, we have introduced more as we have gone along. We have continued to tinker with all things we have put in place to get the best possible results for our participants in unprecedented times, and when and where we could, we have added a little more – a track here or there, additional meetings, specific low grade and maiden meetings, more prizemoney, the Ladbrokes series’. I do realise not everyone is happy about certain things, but this is a unique time, we are doing everything we can to keep the industry going, because let’s not forget what the alternative was, and it wasn’t good for anyone.

6. Q: Whilst you say everything is being done to accommodate all participants, there are a lot of dogs being nominated and still not getting a run. There are many fifth grade dogs repeatedly racing while dogs on low hundred and below points not being considered. Discussion around the tracks is being dominated by this topic. We are continually hearing commentary/rumours regarding the Taree track. Could you please confirm that there will/will not be racing at Taree in the near future. A grass track would be an excellent alternative. Even if it was C prize money.

A: We have added Pathway races and specific meetings catering for only 5th grade and maiden greyhounds. I understand it is hard to please everyone but we are trying to please as many as we can, and we are looking at the nomination process. As for Taree, the track is being brought up to TAB track standard and will stage TAB racing in the future. It was scheduled to open with TAB racing last month, but unfortunately COVID-19 hit us, and that was naturally delayed, but I can confirm that Taree will be racing in the near future, as to when exactly that is, I will keep everyone updated.

7. Q: What is happening with Maitland?

A: Following the incident at the Maitland track on Monday night, we have launched an investigation and engaged an independent expert to look into the track. When those results are available, we will then make decisions on racing at Maitland. Until then, we have transferred Monday’s race meeting to Gosford. We only did so after our GM of tracks went to the venue to assess that it was ready to race on, having been in hiatus for a number of weeks since the COVID-19 restrictions were put in place.

Congratulations to those who had success today at Goulburn and I wish everyone racing at Ladbrokes Gardens, Bathurst and Richmond today the very best of luck.

I have regularly mentioned in this column these are tough times and we are as an industry all in it together, so I urge you to pick up the phone and call a fellow participant to make sure they are doing ok as well.

Do not forget if there is anyone who may be struggling at the moment and wanting somebody to talk to, you can do something about that. If you do feel the need to talk to someone about your situation, please do not hesitate to call. You can speak with a qualified counsellor at any time by calling 1300 687 327.

Keep yourselves and your families safe, and importantly be vigilant in these difficult times.

Tony Mestrov.