Stawell Gift marks

Stubbs ran 10.66 (0.0) in the heats and then 10.81 (+0.6) in the final, so he is either not in shape for multiple rounds or has more left in him but didn’t want to show it in order to not jeopardize his Stawell Gift mark.

Watt time will win Stawell?
By John Salvado
31st March 2010

Mitchell Watt competes in the long jump at the 2009 IAAF
Athletics World Championships in Berlin.
But this weekend he sprints at Stawell. Picture:AFP Source:

IT’S a question long-jumper Mitchell Watt is looking forward to having answered this weekend. Just how fast can he run?

On the available evidence, the answer is very fast indeed for the Queenslander, who won bronze in the long jump at last year’s world championships.

He will line-up against another non-specialist in the sprint - pole vault world champ Steve Hooker.

In a rare outing over 100m on the Gold Coast last year, Watt clocked a slick 10.37 seconds using a borrowed set of starting blocks and wearing long jump spikes.

That effort was enough for the Victorian Athletic League handicappers to give him a tough mark of 2.5m for his debut appearance in the 129th edition of the Stawell Gift.

"I think I can go quicker than that,’’ Watt said today.

"I want to do some more 100s this season just to get a bit of a grasp on how much I have improved.

"And I’m just excited about racing in the Gift.

"It’s a nice change of pace from the long jump, so I’ll be a bit less nervous than usual.’’

With Australia’s leading 100m sprinters Patrick Johnson, Aaron Rouge-Serret and Matt Davies all absent, much of the interest in Stawell will be on the performances of Watt and world and Olympic pole vault champion Steve Hooker.

The pair were roommates at the world indoor championships a couple of weeks ago in Doha and have been indulging in some good-natured ribbing ahead of their Gift debuts.

"We’ve been having a go at each other ever since,’’ Watt said.

"Steve called me the other day and tried to tell me he wasn’t feeling all that good.

"But it’ll be fun and I hope we both make it to the final.’’

Hooker will race off a mark of 5.5m, with Bola Lawal the backmarker off 0.5m in the 120m handicap event.

Watt has had to scale back his training in the last six weeks because of a groin complaint, but has been assured by his doctor and physio that it won’t affect his sprinting.

Coach Gary Bourne said the 22-year-old Watt was looking forward to having a crack at the specialist sprinters.

"I’ve done some hand-timing of Mitch in training, but often you’re standing at the end of the track in the evening,’’ said Bourne.
"I’m not prepared to say if those times I’m getting are spot on.

"But he looks pretty good.’’

Retired Australian long jumper David Culbert - himself a former Gift semi-finalist - said Watt’s run of 10.37 last year made him Australia’s fastest-ever long jumper, surpassing Olympic silver medallists Gary Honey and Jai Taurima.

Despite spending most of his life in Queensland, Watt was born in Ballarat - about an hour down the highway from Stawell.

And he still has a lot of relatives living in the area, meaning he will enjoy plenty of support at Central Park.

The heats of the Gift are on Saturday, with the semi-finals and final on Easter Monday.

Bookies wary of Stawell smokey
By Rod Nicholson
Herald Sun
April 01 2010

HUGE plunges are expected when TAB Sportsbet opens its Stawell Gift market at noon today.

While punters will be looking for the “smokey” who has beaten the handicapper, many with intimate knowledge of the professional sprinters’ training groups are poised to pounce.

At a past Gift winners’ breakfast yesterday, bookies and runner’s camps were anxiously awaiting the release of the market for the 129th running of the Easter Monday event.

Last year, supporters of New South Wales sprinter Chris Hickey orchestrated a well-organised plunge, backing him from his opening quote of $41 into $3.80 favourite to win $40,000.

But in a shock development, Hickey was re-handicapped by 1.5m after a marathon stewards’ inquiry. Officials determined that he had failed to declare a series of times he ran in 2005 on his entry form. He ran disappointingly and has not entered the Gift this year.

TAB Sportsbet’s Glenn Munsie said he expected betting on the Gift to surpass last year’s turnover.

“I’m expecting five days of action, but obviously the keen athletic people will be looking to get in first to snap up the odds,” he said.

The Gift handicapper has Nigerian international Bola Lawal off 0.5m and Australian world championships representative Anthony Alozie off 0.75m.

Defending champion Aaron Stubbs will jump from 4m, while world championship bronze medallist long jumper Mitchell Watt will run off 2.5m.

Olympic and world pole vault champion Steve Hooker will run off 5.5m, the same mark as Queensland teenager Tom Gamble, who ran 10.73 for 100m to claim bronze at the national junior titles in Sydney last month.

Betting commenced and within minutes significant punges have been made on Kevin Brittain and Adam Burbridge. Each are now paying $3.50 which is 5/2.

KEVIN BRITTAIN (running off 7.50) was narrowly beaten last year in his semi final by Brendan Matthews. Brittain ran 12.16 off 7.50m and has been allocated the same mark for this year’s Gift. He won the 120m Northcote Gift on debut three years ago (as a teenager) & the 70m Don Furness Classic in 2009 before running at Stawell. This year he has won a couple of non-penalty backmarker races. Watching him run, it’s been patently obvious he has been waiting for this. Not sure how he’s been able to retain the mark after running 12.16 last year - that should have put him back at least 0.25m if not a half metre. But that’s the way it goes and good luck to him - he will need to have improved at least 1 metre to be a serious threat. He is a member of the John Henry squad that is featured in a previous post. Henry has had a lot of success on the pro-running circuit but so far he hasn’t trained a Stawell Gift winner.

ADAM BURBRIDGE (7.25) ran 2nd in the 2001 Stawell Gift off 6.0m after he was unfairy pulled 1m by the handicapper of the day just before Stawell. For 9 years he has floated around the sport without ever seriously threatening any of the major Gifts. At times he has run out of shape and consequently run poorly. However since 2001 he has never really got much of a mark that gave him the incentive to compete as he was pulled back a fair way and stayed there for some time. He has been backwards & forwards to Jim Bradley over the last 10 years and decided over 12 months ago to go back to the 88 year old Bradley for one final crack at a major Gift. If he wins, Jim Bradley will surpass Ferg Speakman (who was 85 when he coached his fifth & final winner in 1985) as the oldest ever coach of a Stawell Gift winner. Bradley coached Steve Brimacombe (1991) and Glen Crawford (1995) to win the Stawell Gift. Both won in emphatic fashion with Crawford recording the fastest time by a winner (11.79) since electronic timing was introduced in 1982.

Well, the betting has been open for over 3 hours now and there have been some interesting fluctuations. Brittain is into $3 (2/1) and Burbridge has eased out to $5.

Others who have been well supported in the last 3 hours are

John Adams from $31 into $26.

Tom Burbidge from $31 to $21.

Doug Greenough $61 to $41

Ryan Hoffman from $101 to $51.

Mitchell Watt from $13 to $9

and the most interesting & possibly biggest mover in terms of money required to change the odds -
Ben Weaver from $34 into $17

Weaver is a young lad off the novice mark trained down on the Mornington Peninsula (Victoria) by Paul Bolton.

Burbidge is very interesting one because he has run as recently as Sunday at St Bernards, failing to show anything that would suggest he would do well over 120m at Stawell. He has had the biggest lift of any athlete this season going from 7.25m to 8.75m. He ran 12.33 in his heat last year off 7.25m so the 1.50m lift seems very generous but his recent form suggests he needs that and a lot more. he is trained by Matt Beckenham in Canberra who has 11 athletes going to Stawell.


Cool…I’m up to date here constantly…hope to watch on the internet.
In my mind…I was thinking…for a Usain Bolt, what would be a fair handicap? running 130m???:open_mouth:

Stawell Gift track three metres too long for heats
April 3, 2010 - 5:54PM

Stawell Gift officials measure the track.

Stawell Gift officials measure the track. Photo: Lachlan Bence

The 129th edition of the Stawell Gift was embroiled in controversy after the track was discovered to be more than three metres too long in today’s heats.

Canberra runner Tom Burbidge dominated the heats, clocking 12.48 seconds to rocket into favouritism on a day when no other runner broke 12.7-seconds.

But with the overall times much slower than expected, experienced observers raised concerns midway through the heats that the finish gates had been placed in the wrong spot.

After the completion of the 20 heats, officials from the Stawell Athletic Club and the Victorian Athletic League measured the track - which should have been 120m - and discovered it was actually 123.2m long.

Despite the embarrassing error, none of the 42 runners who advanced to the semis were eliminated.

The track was to be re-surveyed before the semi-finals and final on Monday.


:slight_smile: Totally professional pros! Totally! :cool:

Stawell Gift track found to be long

April 3, 2010 - 6:39PM


The Stawell Gift was embroiled in controversy on Saturday after the track for Australia’s most famous footrace was discovered to be more than three metres too long.

Canberra runner Tom Burbidge dominated the heats, clocking 12.48 seconds to rocket into favouritism on a cool, blustery day when no other runner broke 12.7-seconds.

But with the overall times much slower than expected, experienced observers raised concerns that the finish gates had been placed in the wrong spot.

Victorian Athletic League (VAL) chief steward Bill Sutton realised something was amiss after the first few heats.

“But I couldn’t stop the meeting, we were five heats into the men and I thought ‘this is going to cause more problems’,” he said, after it was revealed that the grass track at Central Park this year was actually 123.2m long, rather than 120m.

"So I decided to let it run because everyone is going to have to run the same time on the same track and we can adjust it later.

"… This is the worst (case of mis-measuring a track) I’ve come across, but it’s just one of those things.

“We couldn’t stop the meeting - it just had to go on.”

Sutton said he always double-checked the tracks at other VAL meets, but did not do so for the VAL’s jewel in the crown at Stawell.

The job is done every year by a registered surveyor, who is also a member of the Stawell Athletic Club (SAC) committee.

“He’s made a genuine error,” said SAC committee member Robert Irvine.

"We don’t want to crucify him because he’s been doing such a good job for us for a long time.

“As you can imagine, he’s not feeling really flash at the moment.”

Despite the error, none of the 42 runners who qualified for the semis would be omitted.

But three more competitors who narrowly missed out were later added to the field for Monday’s semis, where the man to beat will be Burbidge.

Also impressive were Douglas Greenough (12.73), Dale Woodhams (12.75), Josh Tiu (12.76), Kevin Brittain (12.77) and defending champion Aaron Stubbs (12.77).

World championships long jump bronze medallist Mitchell Watt eased into the semis in 12.89 seconds off a tough 2.5m mark.

But reigning Olympic and world pole vault champion Steve Hooker did it tougher, being eliminated after fading in the last 40m of his heat to finish third in 13.34.

After quitting his job at the Australian Institute of Sport three months ago, Burbidge has benefited from being able to focus fulltime on his running.

“It felt good so that was the main thing,” said Burbidge, who turned 25 on Friday.

"The times are a little bit irrelevant, given the wind and how gusty it is.

“I’m just happy to be up there with the times.”

Burbidge made it to the semis of last year’s Gift, but back then he was focusing more on the 400m.

Queenslander Stubbs is aiming to join Bill Howard (1966 and 1967) and become only the second man to win back-to-back Gifts.

Despite having his handicap wound in 3.25m to 4m this year, he won his heat in impressive style in 12.77.

“It’d be cool (to win again), but I’ve just got to treat it like any other race,” said Stubbs.

“Because when it comes down to it, I’m not racing to win back-to-back, I’m racing to win and this is a whole new year.”

Loneliness of a long distance sprinter at Stawell DAN SILKSTONE
April 4, 2010

STEVE Hooker is no champion sprinter, but he knew one thing: the 120-metre Stawell Gift heat he ran yesterday felt very, very long. Mitchell Watt, a champion long jumper, is no Stawell Gift regular, but he felt it too. It hurt.

As runner after runner posted unusually slow times yesterday, with the quickest about a second slower than last year’s winner, a rumour took hold at Central Park in Stawell: the track was too long.

In the stands, veterans of 40 years or more could not help but notice something different about the 129th running of the famous Stawell Gift. They were sitting in the same seat they had every year but, for some reason, the finish line had moved.

Photographers found competitors running over them.

By mid-afternoon, chief steward Bill Sutton had a sinking feeling. It was his job to check and measure the track on behalf of the Victorian Athletic League. He had not … umm, done it.

‘‘I measure every other track when I go around Victoria,’’ he said afterwards. ‘‘I didn’t do it this time because I knew that Stawell has always been on the ball. I didn’t do it and this has come back to bite me on the backside.’’

Shortly after 5pm the track was measured properly. It was 3.2 metres too long.

As club spokesman Robert Irvine hypothesised with a gravity not entirely in keeping with a multimillion-dollar major event: ‘‘Someone’s measured it and then whacked the peg in the wrong place.’’

Officials were frantically reviewing videotape from all 20 heats of the men’s gift as well as the women’s race last night to determine if any runners had been disadvantaged.

Three or four sprinters are expected to be added to tomorrow’s finals.

The track will be modified with the start gates moved forward.

[b]For the record, such as it is, Watt made it through to Monday’s semi-finals. Hooker did not. The Olympic champion ran strongly but got the staggers, finishing third. ‘‘It was longer than I expected,’’ he said. ‘‘When the longest track event you’ve done is the 100, that extra 20 really hurts.’’

Little did he know.[/b]

Source: The Age

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Hooker out of Stawell’s six-semi shootout

Despite being added to the semi finals, world and Olympic pole vault champion Steve Hooker has withdrawn from the field of the 2010 Australia Post Stawell Gift as the sensational start to the 2010 Easter carnival continues.

At the conclusion of a dramatic opening day at Central Park where Canberra sprinter Tom Burbidge, starting off 8.75m, burst into favouritism on a track that was 3.2m too long, Victorian Athletic League officials reviewed video footage of the Gift semi-finals and concluded that three athletes were disadvantaged by the over-distance track. A final review of footage from the heats yesterday determined that two further runners, including Hooker, were added.

Hooker informed Stawell Athletic Club officials this afternoon of his decision saying an inflamed groin would keep him out of Australia richest footrace.

“Obviously I was a bit surprised to learn that I had been added to the semi final draw. When I woke up this morning my groin was inflamed and after what happened at the world championships and with the national titles just two weeks away, it’s not a risk I can afford to take,” Hooker said.

“At the end of the day, I haven’t got that much hope either so I will be happy to sit in the stands and watch the real sprinters fight it out.”

Pascoe Vale South’s Craig Foley (10m), who was second in heat one behind the Matt Beckenham-trained Luke Storta (6m) will progress to Monday’s semi-finals with a time of 13.32 seconds, as will Edward Ware (8.5m) from New South Wales who placed fourth in heat twelve behind Lavington’s John Adams (6.75m) in 13.07s.

In heat fourteen, another Beckenham-trained athlete, Grant Billingham running off 7m, placed second to Taylor’s Lakes Lachlan Taylor (8.5m) in 13.23s and will join five of his training partners in Monday’s semis.

Beckenham’s six semi-finalists include 25-year-old Burbidge, who blasted his heat in 12.48s to the become the red-hot $1.25 favourite for Monday’s decider. He will first have to negotiate a six-semi shoot-out where the winners will back-up just under two hours later for a chance to become the 129th winner of the prestigious event.

The final review this morning by Victorian Athletic League officials confirmed the addition of two more athletes – Hooker and Stawell veteran Ryan Hoffman.

In Taylor’s heat, Hooker starting off 5.5m and wearing the red silks of the backmarker could do no better than 3rd in 13.24s but progressed after an early morning review of the 20 heats confirmed that he was one of the additional two athletes that were disadvantaged by the extra 3.2m.

In heat 19, Queenslander Hoffman (10m), the coach of 2009 Australia Post Stawell Gift winner Aaron Stubbs, was second to Nick Magree in 13.36s but it was enough to join his charge in tomorrow’s penultimate round.

Stawell Athletic Club officials re-adjusted the track before the start of today’s proceedings to correct the 3.2m anomaly, with a 20cm reduction at the finish line and a start mark that has now moved 3m closer to the iconic finish frame.

The draw for Monday’s semi-finals will be released later today and will include the defending champion Stubbs, world championships long jump bronze medallist Mitchell Watt, early favourite Doncaster’s 20-year-old Josh Tiu, 2009 finalist Brendan Matthews and South Australian Dale Woodhams who will be keen to make amends after a disappointing showing in his semi-final last year.

Semi-finals will start from 12.10pm tomorrow with the final to be run at 1:44pm. Network Ten and One will cover the event live between 12 noon and 2pm.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Dramatic 2010 Australia Post Stawell Gift to reach conclusion tomorrow

The dramatic finale to the 2010 Australia Post Stawell Gift looks set to play out in front of a big crowd at Central Park, with 25-year-old Canberra athlete Tom Burbidge the strong fancy to take out Australia’s richest footrace.

Burbidge will enter tomorrow’s semi-finals as the $1.25 favourite after a sensational victory in the final heat of the 2010 Australia Post Stawell Gift on Saturday.

Defending Australia Post Stawell Gift winner Aaron Stubbs, world championships long jump bronze medallist Mitchell Watt and early favourite Josh Tiu will be out to challenge the injury-prone Burbidge.
South Australian Dale Woodhams and East Bentleigh’s Doug Greenough both looked impressive in their heat and will be hard to beat in their respective semi finals.
However the 129th edition has not been without controversy, adding to the rich and colourful history of Australia’s most famous footrace. The track on Saturday measured 3.20m long, and has since been rectified by Stawell Athletic Club officials.
The first of six semi finals will kick off at 12.10pm tomorrow, with winners only proceeding to the final, timed to start at 1.44pm.
The event will be broadcast live on Network Ten and One and live audio is available at

Punter’s Pal Prognostications for the 2010 Australia Post Stawell Gift

Our prognosticator, Punter’s Pal, has his ear to the ground and gives his tips for the 129th running of the Easter Gift.

Semi-final 1 – 12:10pm

The first and most open of the six Australia Post Stawell Gift semi-finals will be tight and any of the eight runners can win with only four one-hundredths separating them after the running of Saturday’s heats.

Punters Pal will be cheering for Gift backmarker and world championships bronze medallist Mitchell Watt. Wearing the red-silk and running off 2.5m, the Queenslander has plenty of room for improvement following his heat run of 12.89s.

Canberra-flyer Brendan Matthews (5.75m), the 18-year-old who could not take his place in last year’s final after breaking down when winning his semi-final, is a threat again and must be respected.

For more sentimental value, Ballarat’s P.F.(Peter) O’Dywer (10m) in his 23rd appearance at Central Park is searching for his third final appearance after a fourth and third in 1988 and 1989 respectively and will have plenty of local support.


Mitchell WATT







Matthew EDDY

Semi-final 2 – 12:15pm

It’s hard to think Kevin Brittain (7.5m) can run as bad as he did in the heats again. He would have copped a massive spray from his coach John Henry which would be enough to petrify the most hardened of hard men. The former Northcote Gift winner may be walking home to Geelong if he does the same thing in the semis.

On times the main danger is former Commonwealth Games hurdler Greg Eyears, but Punters Pal likes this year’s Commonwealth Games aspirant Jacob Groth. Ignore the New South Wales sprinters’ sluggish time of 13.07s in the heats. He was jogging.










Semi-final 3 – 12:20pm

Only two chances here - the defending champion Aaron Stubbs running off the backmark of 4m, and the Nick Fiedler-trained Josh Tiu (10m).

Beach sprint champion Stubbs lacks nothing in self-belief and after storming to victory in 11.87s last year, watch the red silk eat up the 6 metre deficit on Saturday’s early favourite and frontmarker Tiu. Stubbs will attempt to join legend Bill Howard as the Gift’s only other back-to-back victor.

It would be a major boil-over if Brighton’s James Lobley gets through, but the 4th place-getter in 12.87s from Saturday’s red-hot 20th heat could surprise.







Edward WARE

Nathan FOX

Josh TIU

Semi-final 4 – 12:30pm

If you have more money than you know what to do with then punt it all on South Australian Dale Woodhams. Trained by former Gift winner Paul Young, he is two-metres faster than anyone else in this semi and cannot lose.

Having said that, the 22-year-old was in exactly the same place last year and did. Youngster Ben Weaver from Mt Eliza, in his first appearance at Stawell is the likely winner should Woodhams once again tighten up around the neck-line.



Andrew CLARK

Benjamin WEAVER



Lachlan TAYLOR

Simon MENZ


Semi-final 5 – 12:35pm

The withdrawal of Olympic and world pole vault champion Steve Hooker has zero effect here as he had no chance. Bookies will favour East Bentleigh’s Douglas Greenough off the front-mark of 9.75m.

However Punters Pal gives some chance to rangy youngster Tom Gamble (5.5m).

Greenough should emerge victorious over the precocious Queenslander though, much to the pleasure of the Todd Ireland stable.



Richard HANKIN






Semi-final 6 – 12:40pm

If Burbidge’s broken back, bunions and bulging biceps hold together for somewhere around 12.2 seconds he will make it through to the 129th running of Australia’s richest footrace.

Should the $1.25 favourite’s body bail on him during the trip down the 120m grass track, then look for Doncaster’s former Stawell Backmarkers winner John Adams and 2009 Bay Sheffield winner Russell Scott to emerge.

But the Matt Beckenham-trained Burbidge (8.75m) should bolt it home - but may require a stretcher come Monday afternoon.


Russell SCOTT


Sean LAW





Fight to keep Gift running DAN SILKSTONE
April 3, 2010

IF THE 129-year-old Stawell Gift is about anything, it is about tall stories and history. Some of the tall stories are even true.

There’s the one about Olympic 100 metres bronze medallist Obadele Thompson arriving in 2002 to take on the 120-metre handicap, believing he had been brought to Australia to run against handicapped people.

There’s Linford Christie, a huge race attraction in 1999 who got bored halfway through the weekend and asked to be taken back to Melbourne.

Or Valerie Brisco-Hooks, the triple Olympic champion who came out to contest the men’s race in 1987, the first woman to attempt the feat. Except she didn’t. So unimpressed was Brisco-Hooks with her six-metre handicap she got back in the car, drove to the airport and flew straight home to LA.

Then there’s the one - heard pretty loudly a year or so ago - about the legendary old race moving to Ballarat. Officially, that city put a $1.25 million offer to the organisers.

The threat to relocate was a media stunt of sorts but it was not entirely fanciful and masked a broader truth: the Gift was in big trouble. The Ballarat scare rattled some money out of the state government - an additional $70,000 a year for three years - as it was intended to do, but it also lit a fire under the town of Stawell.

Dozens of local businesses have come on board as sponsors this year, a larger crowd is expected and Olympic champion Steve Hooker has been persuaded to lend star power - for as long as he can stay in the race.

It was all badly needed.

Australia’s oldest sprint handicap has, for some time, faced several handicaps of its own. On the eve of the race last year the state government came through with $50,000 in funding. Had it not done so the event would have lost at least that much. This was a blessed relief but came with a kicker. It would be the last time the Stawell Gift received state government largesse, the message went. The Stawell Athletics Club would be required to complete a study into the event’s viability and then to find a way to stand on its own feet.

That 2009 Gift again produced another fabulous tale as Aaron Stubbs - an unheralded beach sprinter - won the final, wearing shoes given to him as a child by his then-idol Matt Shirvington. But when the dust settled and the study was carried out it showed one glaring thing: the event was not viable.

‘‘The Gift was simply not sustainable in its current form,’’ says former Olympian David Culbert, who has worked to promote and improve this year’s event. ‘‘Without at least $70,000 in government money, they were going to lose at least that much every year. They could scale back and run a picnic meeting or they could go out with one last bang and that would be it.’’

In its 1940s heyday the Gift had attracted crowds of 30,000. By last year that had dropped to more like 6000. In 1969, Ted Whitten played his 300th game on Easter Monday while the Gift was run. Then, the running carnival was shown live on Channel Seven and broadcast live on ABC radio. Whitten’s 300th was not on TV at all. The world has changed dramatically since then and will not be changing back.

This, then, is a crunch period. Modernise or die, while maintaining the historical charm that makes the Gift special. ‘‘We are not out of the woods,’’ Culbert says. ‘‘It’s really difficult to grow the event on its current budget but it is hanging in.’’

For those who make the journey and sample the charms of this institution, the attraction is undeniable. The challenge is convincing people to make the journey. For an event that specialises in tall stories, it is one tall order.

By John Salvado
STAWELL, Vic, April 4 AAP - A dodgy back or an unlikely meltdown look to be the only things standing between red-hot favourite Tom Burbidge and the 2010 Stawell Gift crown.

The Canberra sprinter is the odds-on $1.25 favourite after clocking 12.48 seconds off a generous 8.75m mark in the heats on a day when no-one else could break the 12.7-second mark.

Those times are sure to come down in Monday’s semis and final, especially after the track was re-surveyed to the regulation 120m on Sunday morning.

Race officials were left red-faced after it was discovered that Saturday’s heats had been run over a distance of 123.2m.

Burbidge, 25, is one of six runners in the Gift semis trained by former Olympic 400m hurdler Matt Beckenham.

He was targeting the 400m event at last year’s Gift carnival, only for his back to give out in the semis of the premier sprint event.

The back started playing up again a couple of weeks ago, but the stars seem to have aligned for him this year at the crucial time.

``The focus had always been on the 400 with Tom but I am big on speed, I think it’s the key to all events,’’ said Beckenham.

``If you don’t have it, that just compounds everything.

``If you can’t run 11 seconds for 100, you can’t run 22 seconds for 200, or 46 for 400 - I’m always trying to get my athletes as fast as I possibly can.

``Tom just showed me a few glimpses and he is good on grass as well, when his back is fine.’’

Beckenham believes Burbidge - who has also had hip problems - will draw inspiration from having five other members of his close-knit squad in the semis.

``They’ll all be pumped off the map,’’ said Beckenham.

``Luke Storta won the opening heat and that creates a confidence for each other that they can go out and mix it.

``They’re all staying at Ararat, Tom organised the accommodation, they’ve got his mum and dad cooking breakfast and they’re out there having a good time.’’

Burbidge has drawn a favourable semi-final and is expected to advance comfortably to the final later on Monday.

Dale Woodhams and world championships long jump bronze medallist Mitchell Watt also look well placed to win their semis.

The toughest of the six semis includes defending champion Aaron Stubbs, pre-event favourite Josh Tiu and Adam Burbridge.

Tiu is the second favourite at TABSportsbet at $7, ahead of Woodhams ($8) and Douglas Greenough ($13).

In a postscript to the track mis-measuring fiasco, Olympic and world pole vault champ Steve Hooker was reinstated to the semi-final field after race stewards decided he was in a winning position at the 120m of his heat before fading to third.

[b]But Hooker declined the offer due to an inflamed groin.

``After what happened at the world championships and with the national titles just two weeks away, it’s not a risk I can afford to take,’’ he said.

``At the end of the day, I haven’t got that much hope either so I will be happy to sit in the stands and watch the real sprinters fight it out.’’ [/b]

The winner of the 129th Stawell Gift will pocket $40,000.

Who is coaching


He has been coached by Emil Risk, perhaps that remains the situation.

Smartest guys in Stawell - when they figured out the reason times were so slow was because the race distance was 123.2m long - 3.2m too long. Doh!

This is a fine example of “running dead” before a big race with intention of obtaining a better mark. In other words, in pro running, planning and periodisation have a different meaning all together!

It has always been like that and it will always be the same.

Stewards fine ‘inconsistent’ Stawell Gift winner Tom Burbidge
April 5, 2010 - 4:06PM

Tom Burbidge celebrates his strong win in today’s Stawell Gift.

Minutes after punching the air as he crossed the finish line first in the illustrious Stawell Gift today, stewards fined Tom Burbidge for “inconsistent performances”.

And Burbidge has reportedly accepted the fine.

The Canberra sprinter Tom Burbidge had raced to victory in the 129th Stawell Gift.

The odds-on favourite had the race in his keeping well before the finish line, clocking a winning time of 12.01 seconds.

Dale Woodhams was second and Douglas Greenough was third.

Racing off a handicap of 8.75 metres 25-year-old Burbidge was backed into odds-on favouritism after the semi-finals on Saturday.

But after crossing the finish line today to pocket the $40,000, winner’s cheque, Victorian Athletic League stewards imposed the fine.

Only eight days ago Burbidge was eliminated in the semi-finals of the St Bernards Gift in Melbourne, after clocking a time of 13.13 into a stiff headwind.

Coach Matt Beckenham said Burbidge would accept the fine. But he said Burbidge’s long history of back injuries meant his performances were always going to fluctuate.

Mark Howard, CEO of the Victorian Athletic League, said Burbidge was fined for deliberately underperforming in the semi-finals of the St Bernards Gift in Melbourne eight days ago.

Mr Howard said that performance, which was inconsistent with his run today, gave Burbidge an improved handicap position during the Stawell event.

‘‘At our St Bernard’s meeting last Sunday, he ran a 13 second 120 metres, and he’s come out and won the Stawell Gift with a low-12-second time,’’ said Mr Howard.

‘‘The St Bernard’s track is a lot slower than this track, so he was fined $5000 dollars by the stewards and he paid the fine.’’
Mr Howard said if Burbidge had won the earlier event he would have received a handicap penalty.

It’s not the only controversy the historic event has drawn in recent years.

In 2008, Australian sprinter and Stawell Gift winner Nathan Allen was banned for two years by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) for possession of a banned substance.

Allen won the Stawell Gift in 2007 and was arrested at the media launch of the 2008 event for allegedly importing steroids from Thailand.

Allen was banned from competition until March this year.

Pro running is shit. Beating the handicapper is what the whole game is all about. Nothing else. Burbidge would more than cop it sweet that the VAL will take back their $5000 tax. Just another snip. Almost every year something ridiculous has happened at Stawell…

An old mate of mine, sadly now deceased, wrote me the following note in 2006:

"How could you say such things about an iconic event like the Stawell Gift,
fancy you referring to the pro circuit a “Backwater of handicap prize
money” and “Colourful but low - key Australian bush Circuit”.

You should never, never, ever have said that!!! 'Cos I wanted to say

What is it they say about great minds thinking alike? Great stuff Mate.

Cheers & Beers
Peter Norman

Pro running is shit


You should never, never, ever have said that!!! 'Cos I wanted to say it. :cool:

Back when I was a starter in the Newcastle area some athletes asked if it was ok to set up the blocks behind the line, there is nothing in the rulebook so we just let them set up where they wanted, I can remember at least 3m behind the line at times. i was told later they were pro runners.

I was informed a few of weeks back an athlete tried the same thing at a Sydney interclub and the starters would not allow him to do so. Don’t think the rules have changed just some get followed and some made up on the day.