Stawell Gift

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The Stawell Gift is Australia's oldest and richest short distance running race. It is run over every Easter weekend by the Stawell Athletic Club, with the main race finals on the holiday Monday, at Central Park, Stawell in the Grampian Mountains district of western Victoria.

The race is run on grass over 120 metres up a slight gradient. Competitors are handicapped according to their form, with each competitor "marked" by between 0 m and 10 m to theoretically reach the finish line at the same time.[1] This process is administered by the Victorian Athletic League (VAL). Due to the relatively short handicap limit, the class of runners that can potentially win the event is limited compared to other Gifts in Australia.

The winner is, hypothetically, the runner who can best "rise to the occasion" and perform better than their previous form, although the key can often be to perform slightly below their best in lead-up events and thus receive a favourable handicap.

Central Park, Stawell, site of the Stawell Gift, with the historic grandstand in centre frame; the Gift is run diagonally across the oval, finishing to the right of the grandstand near the large tree

History[edit]

The Stawell Gift began in 1878 at the end of the gold rush, as the "Easter Gift" of ₤24 (several thousands in today's dollars) conducted by the Stawell Athletic Club in a program of seven races, most run in multiple heats.[2] It has been raced every year since, except for four years during the Second World War. Originally it was the townspeople putting together an entertainment package to happen over Easter, complete with 'special trains' to the event. Today it is the most prestigious footrace in Australia, with a $40,000AUD first prize. The finals are televised live around Australia.

The event was historically run over 130 yards (118.9 m).[3] In 1973 the race converted to the metric system, and the distance was altered to 120 metres (131.2 yd), essentially an identical distance. Electronic timing was introduced in 1982 thus allowing higher precision in race results.[4]

In 2010 the Gift track was found to be around 3 metres too long, with times much slower than expected during the heats.[5]

Format[edit]

On Easter Saturday the heats are conducted, with the winner of each heat going through to the semi-finals along with the next best fastest times. On Easter Monday the six semi-finals are run approximately 2 hours before the final, with only semi-final winners advancing to the final. (Six semi-finals were first run in 1988, before which there were only five semi-finals.)

The Gift is run on a 120 m grass track in front of the 100-year-old Stawell Grandstand, and the athletes run in lanes that are separated by lane ropes rather than painted lines.[1]

The idea of the handicap system is that all runners should theoretically cross the line at the same time. The handicapper works out what mark or handicap the runner will have according to their previous performances in sprint events. Currently the most a runner may be handicapped is 10 metres, although this is occasionally increased to 11. Each metre in handicap denotes approximately a tenth of a second in time. Race winners are often those that are able to "beat the handicapper", in that they need to perform well enough to qualify for the event and the finals, but below what they are truly capable of, so that they receive a handicap that gives them the best chance of a victory.[1] The handicapping system often ends up pitting local runners against international professionals.

Gambling is allowed in the venue, and there is an extensive bookmaker's compound.

While the Stawell Gift is the feature race, the meeting also includes many other races, with more than sixty events taking place over the three-day meeting.[4] The Women's Gift has run since 1989.[4] In 2015 the Women's Gift had equal prizemoney with the men's for the first time.

Records[edit]

Winners[edit]

Winners of the Stawell Gift have been:[4]

Year Runner From Handicap (yd or m) Time (s)
1878 William Millard Condah, Victoria 3 12.75
1879 E.S. Grose Creswick, Victoria 6.5 13
1880 C.G. Witney Brighton, Victoria 7.5 12.7
1881 J. Rodgers Avoca, Victoria 9 12
1882 A.B. Parkinson Sale, Victoria 11 12.75
1883 Bobby Kinnear Dimboola, Victoria 14 12.5
1884 W. Smith Melbourne, Victoria 7.5 12
1885 W. Mummery Bowman's Forest, Victoria 10 12.25
1886 W.B Clarke England 7 11.75
1887 J. Brown Balmoral, Victoria 12 11.75
1888 Charles Bingham Fitzroy, Victoria 10.5 11.75
1889 E.S Skinner United States of America 9 12
1890 J. Midson Eaglehawk, Victoria 11 11.875
1891 H. Martin Maryborough, Victoria 13 11.75
1892 A. Heppner Port Melbourne, Victoria 12 12
1893 E.J. Hough Mudgee, New South Wales 12.5 11.5
1894 P.J. Breen Gippsland, Victoria 11 11.75
1895 W.E. Joy Dunolly, Victoria 5 12.25
1896 R.G. Nesbitt Adelaide, South Australia 11.5 12.5
1897 George Stuckey North Melbourne, Victoria 12 12.2
1898 J.S. Lewis Euroa, Victoria 14 11.8
1899 Norm Clark Roseberry, South Australia 14.5 11.8
1900 Dave Strickland Menzies, Western Australia 10 12
1901 E.T. Kenny Woodend, Victoria 14 12
1902 Alf Tredinnick Malvern, Victoria 11.5 12.2
1903 H. Dew Adelaide, South Australia 12 12.O
1904 J.F. Flanagan East Melbourne, Victoria 12 12.2
1905 C.N. McKenzie Mount Gambier, South Australia 10.5 12
1906 E.W. Thompson Abbotsford, Victoria 10 12.2
1907 C.W. Knox Numurkah, Victoria 12.5 12.4
1908 Chris King Rutherglen, Victoria 12 11.8
1909 Harold Franklin Rigby Burnie, Tasmania[6] 11.5 11.8
1910 Tom Dancey Dirranbandi, Queensland 13 11.6
1911 D.H Devine Stawell, Victoria 13 11.4
1912 E.E. Carter Kew, Victoria 11.5 12.2
1913 Ernest George North Melbourne, Victoria 12.5 12.2
1914 Billy Robinson Maldon, Victoria 12 11.8
1915 E. Fleming Elphinstone, Victoria 10 11.4
1916 C.P. Cassidy South Melbourne, Victoria 13.25 12
1917 F.C Swindells Moonee Ponds, Victoria 11.75 12.2
1918 A. Roach Melbourne, Victoria 14 12.6
1919 H.W. Evans Abbotsford, Victoria 10.5 12.2
1920 A.G. Cashmore Balliang, Victoria 7 12.4
1921 L.J. Jennings Parkville, Victoria 10.25 12.4
1922 P.L. Till Cobden, Victoria 10.5 11.7
1923 J.E. Curran Stawell, Victoria 9 12
1924 Bill Twomey, Sr. Stawell, Victoria 8.5 12.1
1925 T. Banner Carthcart, Victoria 5 12.15625
1926 W.G. Allen Coburg, Victoria 9.5 12 4/16
1927 T.J. Miles Bundaberg, Queensland 10 12.0625
1928 Lynch Cooper Jeparit, Victoria 8 11.9375
1929 Clarrie Hearn Tocumwal, New South Wales 10 11.9375
1930 R.K. Hodge Lakes Entrance, Victoria 11.75 11.8125
1931 F.J. Ralph Richmond, South Australia 9.5 11 14/16
1932 R.L. Barker Essendon, Victoria 11.75 12 2/16
1933 C.G. Heath Baileston East, Victoria 11 11 10/16
1934 T.L. Roberts Mulwala, New South Wales 9.75 11 9/16
1935 M.M. Bishop Port Pirie, South Australia 7.5 12
1936 Ron McCann Castlemaine, Victoria 6.5 12 4/16
1937 F.A. Bradley Coolamon, New South Wales 10 12
1938 Jack Grant Geelong, Victoria 11.5 11 11/16
1939 L.W. Sprague Ballarat, Victoria 9.5 11 14/16
1940 A.J. Reid Port Augusta, South Australia 8.5 12 3/16
1941 Ken Hutton Devonport, Tasmania 7.25 12 6/16
1942–1945 No race (World War II)
1946 Tommy Deane Wahring, Victoria 7 11 14/16
1947 Arthur Martin Ballarat, Victoria 4.5 11 14/16
1948 Tom Brudenall Ballarat, Victoria 8 12 3/16
1949 J.E. Cann Broken Hill, New South Wales 8.25 11 15/16
1950 Ken Trewick Brisbane, Queensland 10 11 15/16
1951 Gerald Hutchinson Brighton, Victoria 8 11 13/16
1952 Lance Mann Albury, New South Wales 7.25 11 14/16
1953 Roy Hart Chelsea, Victoria 5.75 12
1954 Jack Hayes Rutherglen, Victoria 9 11 8/10
1955 John O'Donnell Preston, Victoria 8.75 12
1956 Bill Williams Altona, Victoria 12 11 8/10
1957 Jack Carr Bacchus Marsh, Victoria 10.5 11 8/10
1958 Malcolm Durant Ascot Vale, Victoria 8.5 11 8/10
1959 George Treacey Northcote, Victoria 11.25 11 8/10
1960 Bill McCann Dimboola, Victoria 6.75 11 8/10
1961 Colin Savage Nunawading, Victoria 6.25 12 2/10
1962 Noel Beachley Rosanna, Victoria 8.25 12 1/10
1963 A.J (John) Bell Moonee Ponds, Victoria 12 12
1964 Noel Hussey Echuca, Victoria 8.5 12.1
1965 Bruce Cox Brighton, Victoria 7.5 12
1966 Bill Howard Wodonga, Victoria 8.75 11.9
1967 Bill Howard Wodonga, Victoria 5.75 11.6
1968 Ian Miller Surrey Hills, Victoria 9.75 11.6
1969 Barry McLeod Braybrook, Victoria 7.75 12
1970 Barry Foley Ascot Vale, Victoria 11 11.8
1971 Treva McGregor Templestowe, Victoria 7.25 11.7
1972 Barry Foley Ascot Vale, Victoria 7.5 11.8
1973# Bernie Moss Croydon, Victoria 10.75 12.1
1974 Peter Durham Ripponlea, Victoria 7.25 12.0
1975 Jean-Louis Ravelomanantsoa Madagascar Scratch 12.0
1976 Allen Pollock Heidelberg, Victoria 8.5 12.1
1977 Warren Edmonson United States of America 1.25 12.0
1978 Steve Proudlock Gunnedah, New South Wales 8 11.9
1979 Noel McMahon Ivanhoe, Victoria 8.25 12.0
1980 John Dinan Viewbank, Victoria 5.5 12.3
1981 George McNeill Scotland 4 11.9
1982* Chris Perry Malvern, Victoria 7 12.19
1983 Dallas O'Brien Bentleigh, Victoria 6 12.22
1984 Paul Singleton Jilliby, New South Wales 5 11.95
1985 Paul Young Essendon, Victoria 10.75 12.07
1986 Glen Chapman Albury, New South Wales 7 12.01
1987 Russell Elliott Preston, Victoria 8.25 12.13
1988 Scott Antonitch Roselands, New South Wales 6 12.28
1989 Simon McIntyre Wagga Wagga, New South Wales 6 12.14
1990 Dean Capobianco Kalamunda, Western Australia 2.25 12.29
1991 Steve Brimacombe Eltham, Victoria 6.75 11.93
1992 Andrew McManus Essendon, Victoria 7 12.03
1993 Jason Richardson Caulfield South, Victoria 7.5 11.94
1994 Rod Lewis Ringwood, Victoria 7.5 12.05
1995 Glenn Crawford Katamatite, Victoria 6.5 11.79
1996 Steve Hutton Alberton, South Australia 6 12.26
1997 Daniel Millard Mount Gambier, South Australia 10.75 11.98
1998 Dale Seers Edithvale, Victoria 7.75 12.04
1999 Rodney Matthews Buninyong, Victoria 9.5 11.91
2000 Jarram Pearce Wodonga, Victoria 8 12.01
2001 Andrew Pym South Riverview, New South Wales 7.75 11.97
2002 Stuart Uhlmann Cedar Grove, Queensland 6.75 11.98
2003 Josh Ross North Lambton, New South Wales 7 11.92
2004 Jason Hunte Barbados 4.25 12.07
2005 Josh Ross Gillieston, New South Wales Scratch 12.36
2006 Adrian Mott Essendon, Victoria 7.25 11.98
2007 Nathan Allen Toowoomba, Queensland 5.25 12.35
2008 Sam Jamieson Williamstown, Victoria 6.00 12.09
2009 Aaron Stubbs Lismore, New South Wales 7.25 11.87
2010 Tom Burbidge Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 8.75 12.01
2011 Mitchell Williams Gold Coast, Queensland 6.50 12.18
2012 Matthew Wiltshire Ballarat, Victoria 8.00 12.22
2013 Andrew Robinson Launceston, Tasmania 7.25 12.01
2014 Luke Versace Bayside, Victoria 10.0 12.33
2015 Murray Goodwin Gold Coast, Queensland 6.5 12.10
2016 Isaac Dunmall Brisbane, Queensland 6.75 12.17
2017 Matthew Rizzo Langwarrin, Victoria 7.5 12.10
2018 Jacob Despard Lalor, Victoria (formerly Tasmanian) 4.5 12.12

Notes:
# Converted to metric distances in 1973.
* Commenced electronic timing in 1982.[4]

1878: First winner[edit]

The inaugural winner was William J. "Bill" Millard (1855–1939), a farmer from Condah, Victoria,[7] who reputedly trained by chasing kangaroos. Millard, running off 3 yards, won the race when the leading runner, W.J. Lambell, of Birregurra, running off 11 yards,[8] fell two yards before the finish of the race.[9] In 1889, aged 34, he won the 220 yards handicap at Stawell, running off 18 yards; and, at the same meeting, having been run out in the Gift's heats, he came third (off 11 yards) in the consolation race, the 120 yard Jubilee Handicap.[10] Millard married twice, had 22 children, and died in 1939.[11][12] His great-grandson, Daniel Millard, won the Stawell Gift in 1997.[1]

Winners from scratch[edit]

Only two people have ever won the men's race running from scratch (0 m handicap):

Multiple winners[edit]

Three sprinters have won the race more than once:

  • Bill Howard (1966, 1967) (the only back-to-back winner);[3]
  • Barry Foley (1970, 1972);
  • Joshua Ross (2003, 2005).

Stawell Gift Olympians[edit]

Four Australian Olympians have won the Stawell Gift:

VFL winners[edit]

The following Gift winners also played senior VFL football:

Given the nature of the modern game, it is highly unlikely that any further AFL players would win a Stawell Gift.

Relocation[edit]

On a number of occasions there has been discussions about relocating the Stawell Gift for economic reasons.

On 14 February 2001, after much discussion about moving the event to Docklands Stadium in Melbourne, Premier Steve Bracks announced on ABC Local Radio that the Gift would be staying in Stawell and the State Government's $40,000 contribution would continue.[24]

On 14 July 2009, it was announced that Ballarat had offered the Stawell Athletic Club more than $1 million in cash and incentives, including a $20,000 grant to the Stawell Gift Hall of Fame, to relocate the Gift from Central Park in Stawell to Ballarat City Oval for five years. The Club released a statement through Secretary Ian Lawrie stating they were considering the offer but the "decision is, without question, the most difficult ever undertaken by the Committee of the Stawell Athletic Club". He said the Club would investigate and exhaust all other options to ensure the survival of Australia's most famous footrace.[25]

On 16 September 2009 Victorian Premier John Brumby announced more than $300,000 State Government funding to keep the Stawell Gift in Stawell.[26]

Womens Gift[edit]

  • Race was 100m from 1989 to 2005. Since 2006 it has been held over the traditional gift distance of 120m.
  • Victorian unless noted.
Year Runner Handicap (m) Time (s)
1989 Ruth Taylor SA 8.5 11.55
1990 Bernadette Marantelli 8.75 11.67
1991 Sue Carr 12.75 11.52
1992 J. O'Donell 13 11.39
1993 Andrea Benton 11.5 11.42
1994 Karen Parkes 10.5 11.21
1995 Sue Carr 13 11.57
1996 Karen Simpson SA 11 11.58
1997 Melissa De Jong 4.75 12.05
1998 Narelle Harris 9.25 11.7
1999 Vanessa Cowling SA 18.75 11.51
2000 Tamsyn Lewis 5 11.70
2001 Jennifer McGibbon 4 11.76
2002 Snezana Ivisic 9 11.67
2003 Kimberley Meagher 14.5 11.15
2004 Rebecca Foster 14.75 11.57
2005 Alison Fairweather NSW 13 11.64
2006 Samantha Brailey 14.5 14.25
2007 Bronwyn Anderson 10.5 14.03
2008 Catherine Brennan 4.75 13.88
2009 Trisha Greaves NSW 6 13.60
2010 Jacqueline Watt 12.25 14.06
2011 Melissa Howard QLD 9.5 13.90
2012 Melissa Breen ACT Scratch 13.95
2013 Davina Strauss NSW 10 13.98
2014 Holly Dobbyn 11.5 13.13
2015 Grace O'Dwyer 10.25 13.40
2016 Talia Martin 13.0 13.70
2017 Liv Ryan 11.0 13.74
2018 Elizabeth Forsyth QLD 7.0 13.69

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "Stawell Gift: Top Ten Trivia". Official Website. Stawell Gift 2010. Retrieved 15 January 2011. 
  2. ^ "Town Talk". Geelong Advertiser. Vic. 27 March 1878. p. 2. Retrieved 24 July 2014 – via National Library of Australia. 
  3. ^ a b "Bill Howard's Stawell Gift, 1966". theage.com.au. The Age Company Ltd. 15 April 2006. Retrieved 15 January 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "Stawell Gift Results". Official Website. Stawell Athletic Club. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  5. ^ Brehaut, David (4 April 2010). "Stawell Gift: track distance error the worst mis-measure". Ballarat: The Courier. Retrieved 15 July 2014. 
  6. ^ The Stawell Gift: Burnie Man's Fine Win, The North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, (Saturday, 17 April 1909), p.3.
  7. ^ Stawell Gift website. "History" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-10-17. 
  8. ^ Town Talk, The Geelong Advertiser, (Wednesday, 3 April 1878), p.2.
  9. ^ Stawell, The Geelong Advertiser, (Tuesday, 23 April 1878), p.2; Notes, The Colac Herald, (Tuesday, 23 April 1878), p.3.
  10. ^ The Stawell Athletic Club Sports, The Bendigo Advertiser, (Tuesday, 23 April 1889), p.2.
  11. ^ Obituary: Millard, The Horsham Times, (Tuesday, 2 May 1939), p.2;
  12. ^ "WON FIRST GIFT". The Argus (28,918). Melbourne. 29 April 1939. p. 13. Retrieved 27 August 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  13. ^ AFL Tables: George Stuckey
  14. ^ AFL Tables: Norman Clark
  15. ^ AFL Tables: Dave Strickland
  16. ^ Athletics, Kalgoorlie Western Argus, (Tuesday, 15 April 1902), p.38; AFL Tables: Alf Tredinnick.
  17. ^ Stawell Easter Gift, (Broken Hill) Barrier Miner, (Thursday, 16 April 1914), p.2; AFL Tables: Billy Robinson.
  18. ^ AFL Tables: Bill Twomey, Sr.
  19. ^ AFL Tables: Clarrie Hearn
  20. ^ AFL Tables: Ron McCann
  21. ^ AFL Tables: Jack Grant
  22. ^ AFL Tables: Lance Mann
  23. ^ "Tigers of all sports". 3 January 2015. 
  24. ^ ABC The World Today. "The World Today Archive: Stawell Gift to stay put". Retrieved 2009-07-14 
  25. ^ ABC Sport. "Ballarat looks to poach Stawell Gift". Retrieved 2009-07-14 
  26. ^ Premier announces funding for Stawell Gift. "Premier announces funding for Stawell Gift". Retrieved 2009-09-16 

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Media related to Stawell Gift at Wikimedia Commons