Doug Phillips

Bob Watkins asked me if we could pay tribute to New South Wales administrator the late Doug Phillips. I turned to someone who knew him better than most doyen Hall of Fame Jounalist Jeff Collerson. Pigeon penned this fitting tribute to one of Greyhound Racing’s most influential figures. I found some pics related to the great man hope you enjoy them.
By Jeff Collerson.
GREYHOUND racing has been fortunate to have had several great administrators, but in my career in the sport, spanning from 1962 until the present day, there has been none better than the late Doug Phillips.
“Big Doug” as he was fondly known was vice-president of the NSW National Coursing Association, which conducted racing at Wentworth Park and Penrith.
During the sport’s boom years in the early 60s to mid 70s, crowds of over 10,000 regularly attended Wentworth Park and it was on a National Derby night, when the final, sponsored by Miller’s Brewery, drew over 13,000 fans, that the idea for a new grandstand was born.
I recall Ned Bailey, chairman of the NCA, pointing out: “We have done all this promotion and got all these people here but half of them can’t see the action because we don’t have the facilities.
“We need to build a big new grandstand.”
While Bailey, along with Jack Fell, the livewire NCA secretary and Doug’s fellow committeemen Mike Mulherin, Joe Maloney and Billy Ducker, were supportive, it was “Big Doug” who put the wheels in motion.
He travelled to the USA to examine facilities at the top American tracks and designed what is now the WP stand as a replica of the public viewing construction at Hollywood, the biggest and most profitable track in Miami, Florida.
In those days there was no live telecast of racing into living rooms as there is today and Doug was convinced that if greyhound racing was to flourish and compete with other codes it needed to get “bums on seats” as he was fond of saying.
During construction of the WP stand costs spiralled, in part because the track is built on reclaimed land and excavators kept striking water and having to dig deeper.
Doug Phillips had become close friends with the former champion athlete and rugby league star Michael Cleary, who at that stage had become the Minister for Sport in the NSW Labor government.
Thanks to Doug’s friendship with Cleary, greyhound racing continued to get financial and emotional support from the Government and the stand was completed.
Doug Phillips had a web of influential contacts that sports administrators dream about, among them the legendary racing writer Pat Farrell, who, as sporting editor of Rupert Murdoch’s afternoon tabloid the Daily Mirror, carried a lot of weight in Sydney.
When the Daily Mirror decided to “go big” on greyhound racing in the late 1960s, Pat Farrell “poached” yours truly from the Sir Frank Packer-owned Daily Telegraph in August, 1968, to join his paper.
Farrell constantly ran stories not only on the champions of the sport at the time, like the immortal Zoom Top, but also helped promote Doug Phillips’ innovative ideas.
These included the celebrity hurdle, where TV, radio and newspaper personalities raced around WP over the jumps, the annual Surf Lifesavers’ Night, where the boat crews of various Sydney surf clubs competed, and match races between leading rugby league players, such as Ken Irvine, Michael Cleary, Steve Morris and Steve Mortimer.
Phillips even managed to get “Bullet” Bob Hayes, the world’s fastest man, to come to Australia to run an exhibition race against a greyhound.
That was no mean feat as Hayes had won gold medals for the USA at the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics, winning the 100m in world record time of 10.06 and helping his compatriots to a gold medal, again in world record time, in the 4 x 100m relay.
But Doug Phillips’ kind heart and generosity also played a big part in his success as a promoter of the sport he loved.
When he learned that Pat Farrell lived alone in a flat in Sydney’s Kings Cross, big Doug drove every Christmas from Schofields, out near Richmond dog track, to bring the Mirror sports editor back to his home to enjoy the day with Phillips’ family, complete with gifts and a slap-up meal.
Doug Phillips was also a successful trainer, and his dog Arcadus was close to invincible up the Richmond straight track as well as being a prolific top-grade winner on the roomy Harold Park circuit.
He also dabbled in the stud business, bringing the import Witches Coven to Australia for a reasonably successful career as a sire.
I doubt we will ever see an administrator with such a flair for successful promotions as Big Doug.
Tony Cooper – Awesome story Jeff.
Garry Giles – Doug raced Arcadus on lease from me, I still have the Greyhound Recorder trophy in my office in Port Macquarie, which Arcadus won at Richmond. Arcadus then went to Melbourne to the Schofield kennels for his stud career.
Jeff Collerson – Garry Giles Didn’t know that Garry, thanks for filling us in. Gee he was a fast dog wasn’t he!
Sid Swain – I used to play cards on many nights at doug’s place at Schofield he was a Legend of the industry
Jeff Collerson – Sid Swain His son Ron was a big card player wasn’t he Sid? He became a bookie at the dogs for a while too.
Jeff Collerson – When I see you remind me to tell you the background story on Bob Hayes when he arrived in Sydney
Bob Watkins – Thanks Neil Brown and Jeff Collerson. That story goes a long way towards showing just how Douglas Charles Phillips devoted himself to the greyhound industry. His ability to raise awareness to the greyhound industry was unsurpassable. Way back in 1972 my wife Margaret and I first met Doug and his wife Pat at their farm at Schofields where we bought a Witches Coven pup. Doug quoted us a price for the pup and it was wrong. Pat pointed his error out to him but Doug being Doug honoured his word and stuck to his price. In the meantime we also liked another bitch in the litter and agreed to buy it also at the revised price. That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship with Doug and Pat. Many, many nights spent at Wentworth Park dogs and at their place or ours playing 500 or Canasta.
With his guidance I managed to train a few winners and become involved in greyhound administration as a betting supervisor and judge at the Penrith track. It eventually led to me becoming a steward for 13 years here in Queensland.
Just looking at the photos and seeing the likes of Paul Cauchi dressed in a suit handling a dog jogs the memory. Back then it was unthinkable to go to Wentworth Park not at least wearing a tie and more than likely wearing a “ bag of fruit” especially one made by Sweedex Suits.
The big man’s favourite saying if someone asked for his help in a matter was “ Leave it with me.”
His ability to resolve a situation Is legendary.
Rest In Peace Douglas Charles. We think of you often, wishing you were here nowadays to resolve and return the greyhound industry to its rightful pedestal
Jeff Collerson – Bob Watkins Like you I often think of him. Still miss him. His favourite movie was The Grasshopper with Jacqueline Bisset (a bit of useless info but remember him lobbing at The Clock Hotel in Surry Hills to have a drink with the Daily Mirror journos like Bill Mordey and raving about that movie he had just seen
Bob Watkins – Funnily enough Doug made mention of that movie to me more than once Jeff.
Once again, I’m sitting here thinking of him and just how much influence he had in how my life has evolved.
The nights at Schofields with him, Pat, Jimmy and Marie Badkin, my wife Margaret and myself, having a quiet feed, a drink or two with Pat and playing cards. Nothing can erase those memories.