Harry and his dogged determination

Greyhounds charge around the turn at Border Park Raceway, the track that Harry Pledger played a major role in establishing.
Greyhounds charge around the turn at Border Park Raceway, the track that Harry Pledger played a major role in establishing.

THEY said it would never happen. That greyhound racing on the Tweed was a non-starter.

But they didn’t account for Tweed’s Harry Pledger and his dogged determination.

Resolve that last Friday saw him become just the third recipient of the prestigious Allen Wheeler Medal at Greyhound Racing NSW’s (GRNSW) night of nights in Sydney.

A well-respected figure within Queensland racing circles, Pledger is widely recognised as having guided the sport through its formative stages and Tweed Heads Coursing Club (THCC) secretary Stephen McGrath believes his colleague deserves every accolade.

“People that have anything to do with greyhound racing in the Northern Rivers should have great gratitude towards Harry,” McGrath said.

“If it wasn’t for Harry’s foresight 40 years ago we wouldn’t have the facilities and assets we do going forward. We are one of the richest clubs in Australia owning our own club, course and building and that’s all thanks to Harry.

“He is most deserving of any award and I believe he is fully entitled to Australian Hall of Fame honours.”

Club secretary at Beenleigh Coursing Club since 1948, Pledger was on board to witness the first licensed mid-week race meet in the sunshine state.

He also introduced mechanical lure racing, converted the Beenleigh straight track into the state’s first circle facility and attracted some of the stars of greyhound racing to the Queensland Cup, while race calling at Beenleigh, Capalaba, Loganholme, Lawnton and Tweed, as well as handicapping at Loganholme and Beenleigh, and grading at Tweed.

The first person inducted into the GR Queensland’s Hall of Fame in 2007 for his efforts up north, it was Pledger’s push south of the border that attracted nation-wide praise and ultimately GRNSW’s top gong.

Having moved to Tweed in 1958, he is largely credited with purchasing the 12-hectare block of land from the Federal Government in 1963 where the Border Park facility now stands, despite popular belief that he would never be able to do so.

There was a time when Pledger himself thought the concept was in the dog house, but the ground-breaking purchase opened new doors within the industry and to this day THCC is one of only a handful of greyhound racing clubs that owns freehold the land where their facilities are sited.

Despite being past retirement age for nearly two decades, Pledger still serves as club president at Border Park, having at one stage stood as secretary of both Beenleigh and Tweed Heads CC.

“To this day Harry’s trackside for 95% of our meets,” McGrath said.

“He has his hand in what’s going on each and every day and you could not ask for a better administrator.

“As a bloke you will not find a better gentleman anywhere in this great country.”

In his acceptance speech, a humble Pledger said he was very grateful to win the Allen Wheeler Medal considering all the former administrators who had served the sport in NSW with such distinction.

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