The Stawell Gift

Easter Monday and we are off to Stawell for the 4th consecutive year to watch my brother-in-law (my wife’s brother) compete at the Stawell Gift. The wife, kids, lunch and whatever remaining Easter eggs we have left are loaded into the car and we are off. The mother-in-law is picked up on the way as we continue our new Easter Monday tradition. Minimal traffic on the roads as we head through Camperdown and Mortlake then quiet is called for by the driver as the Coodabeen Champions begin at 10AM. It feels like going to the footy on a Saturday as Champs’ songs play through the speakers. We arrive at Central Park, Stawell, just as Pearl from the Peninsula calls in to the talkback segment and make our way into the famous oval just as the men’s 1600m final is about to start.

I’m a huge fan of Craig Mottram, the “Big Mazungo”, he’s a crowd favourite at Stawell and it’s great to get to see him run again. The handicapper is harsh on him as usual, Mottram starts off 10 and sadly he seems past his best, finishing 13th. Daniel Clark, off 45 metres, runs well to win.

The 1600 is followed by the semi finals of the Women’s Gift. Jade Bailey, who represented Barbados in the 2008 Olympics, storms home to win the first semi. 17 year old Hana Basic is impressive in her win in the 2nd semi. Tamsyn Manou (nee Lewis) is having her final run at Stawell.  While struggling at International level over her career Manou has been a consistent performer in Australia and is always a popular figure at Stawell. Despite a good run as the back marker Manou doesn’t progress. Front marker Davina Strauss wins well and will go into the final as favourite.

The men’s Gift semi’s are about to start and we can’t wait for the 5th semi where our brother-in-law/brother/uncle/son Adam Coote is ready to compete. My wife catches up with him and he is confident and feeling good. He’s done well up here, highlighted by winning the 800m in 2010 and finishing 3rd in last years Gift final. He was narrowly runner up to former Gift winner Aaron Stubbs in his heat on Saturday.

Front marker Ryan Camille win the first heat. The aforementioned Aaron Stubbs wins the second semi as the back marker in a dominant display. Tim Eschebach wins the 3rd semi off 9.5m. The Gift favourite Mitchell Williams-Swain sprints away to easily win semi-final 4. All of a sudden we hear over the speakers that Adam Coote has been scratched from the 5th semi. Our Adam. Who was confident and fit an hour ago. We are shocked. Surely a late injury? James Vine wins a very competitive semi containing 2003 and 2005 Stawell Gift winner Joshua Ross. Tasmanian Andrew Robinson wins the 6th and final semi to give us our 2013 Stawell Gift final field. He is the first Taswegian to make the final since 1999.

We catch up with Adam. Hamstring strain in his warm up for his semi-final. He is absolutely shattered, felt he had a couple of good runs in him today. He boundary umpired the Carlton v Richmond game on Thursday night, maybe that has taken it’s toll. He does well to mix AFL boundary umpiring with pro running. 190 odd games since making his debut in 2005. Grand Finals in 2006, 2008, 2009 and both GF’s in 2010. Most of us would love to have been able to have done just one of his two sporting careers.

Nic Cross wins the 400m Backmarkers final from an impressive 15 year old Liam Procaccino who finishes second. 23 year old Kendra Hubbard, the back marker, ran hard early and held on to win the Women’s 400m in an impressive effort after earlier running in the Women’s Gift semis. 14 year old Matthew Rizzo won the 400m Little Athletics Handicap. Adrian Phelan held on to win the men’s 800m final. In the best finish of the day, Matthew Hargreaves won the 200m final in a photo finish from Nick Magree. Both had times of 20.68, they didn’t show any definitive angle on the big screen at Central Park to show a winner and Magree didn’t seem happy with the judges decision. Former Jamaican bobsledder Khan Marr, who hopes to soon be an Australian resident, stormed home to win the Chris Perry Memorial Backmarkers Invitation Handicap. Before that race a moving tribute was played on the big screen in memory of Chris Perry, the 1982 Stawell Gift winner who sadly passed away last October. A nice touch to have this race named in his honour.

Davina Strauss wins the Women’s Gift with a time of 13.80, the 33 year old repeatedly praises Jesus for her strong win ahead of Hana Basic who runs 13.86 with Barbadian Jade Bailey running well as the back marker to finish 4th.

Now the event we came for and the favourite Mitchell Williams-Swain breaks and is penalised 1 metre. The Stawell Gift final for 2013 has a clean start the second time and Andrew Robinson finishes strongly to just defeat Williams-Swain 12.014 to 12.034. That metre would have been very handy. Followed by Vine, Camille, Stubbs and Escebach. There seems to be many Tasmanians in the crowd as the roar is loud for the Apple Isles first Gift winner in 72 years. Robinson’s win is well received, his coach Ray Quarell lost his house in the January bushfires and Robinson dedicates his win to his coach, who he describes as his second father, and to the Tasmanian athletic community.

A highlight for me is running into Graham Manou (husband of Tamsyn and played 1 Test match for Australia and captained South Australia for many years), we have a lot in common given that combined we played 1 Test match, I say G’day and ask whether he is still playing cricket (he’s not). Seems a nice guy.

We decide to hang around for the final event of the day to watch Adam’s good mate and fellow boundary umpire Ian “Buzz” Burrows compete in the 3200m. We have met Buzz quite a few times, great bloke, we hope he has recovered well from boundary umpiring the Bulldogs v Brisbane game on Saturday. For the first time all day we have someone to yell out and barrack for. Buzz is off 300m a starts steadily, gradually working his way through the field before hitting the front. He never looks like losing his lead and powers away during the last 3 laps, winning easily and looking like he had plenty of fuel left in the tank. Great run, we are thrilled for him.

Good trip home, still not much traffic on the trip back to Colac despite being the end of a long weekend. Good feed at the Lismore pub on the way home.

The Stawell Gift is a wonderful event, seems to get bigger and better every year. Should be on every sports fans bucket list to see at least once. Once again we enjoyed our day despite not being able to see Asafa Powell and Adam Coote run. Hope they both return next year. I know I’ll be back.

About Luke Reynolds

Cricket and Collingwood tragic. Twitter: @crackers134

Comments

  1. Luke – wish I knew you were there. I posted myself next to the grandstand as usual. A group of about 15 made the trip this year. Ripping Gift final.

  2. Planned to go this year to see the heats on Saturday but got sidetracked at a mates further south and on Monday we travelled back to SA
    However I will be there next year as I will stay closer to Stawell
    Dips and Luke – you had to feel for the runner up (he looked totally shattered after)

  3. Probably walked straight past you a couple of times Dips! We spent the first half of the day under the tree at the finish line then finished the day in front of the old scoreboard. Yes was a brilliant gift final. Oges, Williams-Swain did look totally shattered after the race, as you would be when you’ve just cost yourself $33000 for breaking!

  4. Daniel Clark says:

    Thanks heaps mate for saying I ran well. :-). And your right poor old buster had a tough job to do, mind you Brenton Rowe had me on my toes.

  5. Congratulations on your win Daniel, was a great race, you did well to keep Rowe out!

  6. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Great summary Luke have only been to Stawell once when we did the great ocean road as our honeymoon in 92 ( yep don’t get as long for murder ) and that was just to have a look around on the Sunday even then you could feel the atmosphere and history of Stawell def on my wish list to do properly .A huge percentage of boundary umpires are pro runners as the guys admit you have to be a bit different and addicted to running to be a boundary umpire . Is Adam having another crack this year ?
    Thanks Luke

  7. Luke Reynolds says:

    Thanks Malcolm. Think Adam is having a crack at a longer distance again at Stawell this year. He won the Burnie Gift in early January, one of his best wins. And still running the boundary in the AFL.
    Make sure you do experience the Stawell Gift properly at least once. It’s a wonderful, wonderful event.

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