2023 was a spectacular season for Len and Rick Drew, one of Australia’s most dynamic father and son pigeon racing partnerships.

They finished second in the South Australian Homing Pigeon Association Aggregate Points – beaten by just two points by Ian Durrant and Tony Cornish

Jim Marafiote and the other two top lofts had the chance to win the points going into the last race of the season from Byrock, but all failed to get a bird in the top 30

Durrant and Cornish won the aggregate with 236 points, from Len and Rick Drew on 234, and Marafiote on 214.

The Drew’s recorded one of the biggest wins of their racing career in 2022 when they won Alice Springs – one of the ultimate challenges in Australian long distance racing. (Alice winner pictured)

They also won last year’s Tasmania to Adelaide race, getting six birds home, and finishing half an hour in front of the second placed flyer – with only three lofts clocking birds

But 2023 was even more stellar for the Len and Rick Drew, flying in partnership with Joe Halligan

They finished 5th Association in the Glendambo Young Bird Classic, 5th Association in the Little Topar Derby, 23rd Alice Springs, 25th Association Wirraminna Open, 12th Little Topar Open, 16th Association Maree Open, 16th Maree Sires Produce , 14th Association The Twins, 24th Association Marla, 1st Association Wilcannia 5-bird Special, 10th Association Wilcannia Open, 14th Associaiton Emmdale, 4th Association Coober Pedy, 5th Association Coober Pedy Cock Bird Special, and 6th Association Cobar (5 birds in the top 27)

Joe Halligan is a Melbourne truck driver, who has been racing a small team of birds from the Drew’s Loft.

They took him under their wing when he first became interested in pigeons

He joined their club and raced from his house in Northern Adelaide before transferring to Melbourne with work.

And being on the Drew’s flying list … he’s been able to also race birds – and their success has also been his

The Drew’s have their own training and feeding regimes, and don’t put their birds on the SAHPA training unit.

Len Drew, who’s 63, had pigeons as a boy, and young man, and flew with the Elizabeth Club for 10 to 12 years

His birds were Wickhams, Matthews, Eitzens and Barkers

When he moved out to Angle Vale he hel[ped set up the Gawler River Club and also flew with the Elizabeth Club – competing against flyers in those days including Ken Walters, Normie Moore and Jimmy Barker.

He won his fare share of races before taking along break from the sport – but says the racing and training methods of those days simply wouldn’t succeed today …. they didn’t have the birds diseases that exist now … and its a totally different landscape

Len started his work life as a slaughterman, before becoming a builder and buying and selling properties. During his busy career he’s also leased and managed five pubs – at Maree, Barrow Creek, Price, Mintaro, and Lobethal

He bought his current 30 acre property bordering on a main road as an investment, but he built a house there and subsequently became a talented vigneron, developing the surrounding land into a prized vineyard that produces grenache and chiraz grapes for labels including 19 chimneys, Pepperjack and Grandfather Port

Grapes are either Ying or Yang – the Barossa has Ying, and Drew has Yang – making his yeast highly sought after for the famed Grange Wine.

Len wasn’t really looking to get back into pigeon racing after such a long lay off, but it happened by chance just under 5 years ago

His cousin. Glen Groose, lived between West Lakes and Port Adelaide, and had to significantly reduce his large colony of racing pigeons … and they ended up domiciled in a shed on Len’s property

Rick Drew didn’t initally know the pigeons were there … but after he discovered the new arrivals he asked his dad if they were going to race pigeons … and it was a NO

But Rick had other ideas, and within a week – he’d built a loft.

Len isn’t one to do things by halves so he went out and bought around 150 birds from various squeaker sales, gaining access to bloodlines from many top owners.

He’s not a fan of imports, and doesn’t go by pedigrees … he prefers apple bodied birds that look the goods … and its put the Drews on the path to SAHPA success.

Rick Drew shares many of his Dad’s qualities and they are both highly supportive of new flyers, breeding them birds, giving them space on their training trips, or financing club barbecues

Their generosity also extends to Port Augusta where they buy and then fly squeakers with a local flyer every year .. AND those birds have bought even more success in regional major races

Rick says encouraging and supporting young flyers is the future of the sport – and if owners just look after their own interests – pigeon racing will continue to struggle

The Drews breed around 200 youngsters each year under Rick’s keen breeding eye, and supplement the race team with weanling sale purchases and race teams from key flyers including Jeff Cawte

It hasn’t been without drama or setback for the Drew’s including Len’s his first year back in the sport four years ago – when he tossed 400 birds from Port Gawler, near the Mushroom Tower

The birds left perfectly … but it was three and a half hours before his first pigeon arrived home

There was one … then 40 … and then another 40 … BUT eventually, only 300

It was a tough re-entry to the sport, but it taught him and the birds some valuable lessons, and the Drew’s had a really good year winning 14 races as well as the Club points

Points wins followed in each of the following years, before they joined the Kingsford Club for their history making 2023

The two Drew boys are builders like their dad, and the two daughters are nurses.

Len doesn’t like breeding, hence his passion for buying birds, AND he claims Rick is the “keen one” in their partnership.

They are both heavily involved in their training – which is rigorous and unique.

Rick looks after everything to do with the clock and Benzing live and his father says Rick is very good with the birds and he’s very proud of him

Len says he’s had to change a number of things over the years – and he’s amazed that some flyers are stuck in their ways and prepared to put up with indifferent results

He says the best bird is the winning one that puts its arse through the traps first on race day

This year he has bought thirty birds from interstate to try and he says he’ll be interested to see how they perform in South Australian conditions

One secret to their success is that the Drew’s feeding never changes

They feed 14 types of grain year round

The loft is heavily based on Wickham and Len has purchased them from successful flyers across Australia including champion Adelaide long distance flyer Chris Mav

He says many flyers make the mistake of buying one bird to breed around, where his scattergun approach or buy what he believes are the best birds increases the chances of the Drew loft winning.

Len believes established flyers should do more to help younger and newer flyers in the sport, and in keeping with this he allows some of these future champions send their birds on some of their training tosses.

He says you get out of a sport what you put into it.