Adam flicks the switch from tradie to trainer


When Adam Smithson became an electrician, it wasn’t the first apprenticeship he had served.

He had been an apprentice greyhound trainer to parents Ray and Belinda since he was a toddler.

“We had three or four dogs in the backyard and I was always following Dad around the kennels, giving him a hand and going to the track,” Adam said.

“I could not miss out. I just had to be around.

“From the age of five or six I was given the job of washing feeding bowls and changing water bowls. I was up about an hour before Dad in the morning, waiting to go.

“I was probably a pain in the neck.”

A white and brindle dog called Cool Tara Lad was a favourite childhood friend, who retired to the family backyard after racing.

“He was the dog I loved and I have a photo with him when he won which is still hanging in the office,” Adam said.

As a teenager, Adam wanted to be a dog trainer but his parents encouraged him to learn a trade.

After qualifying as an electrician, he started his own business and worked for several years as a tradie before pulling the plug.

Now set up with 20 kennels on a property near Mandurah, he has quickly become noticed as one of Western Australia’s most promising young greyhound trainers.

“One of the best things about being an electrician was doing something different every day, whether it was wiring up a house or working at a building in the city,” he said.

“Dogs are a complete 180. It’s one of the most repetitive jobs you can get but it’s something I’ve always loved.

“I’m up at 5am and finish cleaning, exercising and grooming at about 11.30. In the afternoon the dogs are let out again and there are trials or racing.

“It’s a passion – it doesn’t feel like work.

“The fact that I can make a living means there’s no way you could keep me out of it.”

One of the great benefits for Adam is a lifestyle that allows him to spend his days with partner Chontae and young daughter Kai.

Downsides include the unreliable income and responsibility which never allows for a day off.

“I had some nervous moments starting up but I have been lucky with the owners and people around me and getting good dogs into the kennels,” he said.

Among them is Vice Grip, who will be running in the $1.25 million Phoenix in Melbourne on Saturday.

“He’s the most placid dog at home. I have to wake him up in the morning to get him out,” Adam said.

“At the racetrack, he switches on and becomes a completely different dog.”

While the $750,000 first prize would be welcome, win or lose, Adam’s life goals are unlikely to change.

“I don’t think there’s anything to top the thrill of breeding your own litter and having the pups move through training to win races.”

“You look after the dogs and they’ll look after you.”