Thursday 18 April 2013

 Hansard of the Legislative Council




Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Madam President, today I want to talk about the oldest and richest short-distance running race in Australia. On Easter Monday it was won by one of my constituents. The Stawell Gift was won by Andrew Robinson, who will be 21 in December, and whom I have known almost since he was a toddler, rather than a lightning-fast sprinter. Andrew started at the age of five with the Launceston Little Athletics Club, an organisation close to my heart and the family's for many years. As an under-13 athlete he was awarded the Kerry Finch encouragement award, and he also won the Little Athletics male sportsperson award. Subsequently, Andrew was runner-up in the state male sportsperson of the year award.

Mr Wilkinson - He has done remarkably well with that legacy of yours, then.

Mr FINCH - Thank you very much. It was obvious by then that Andrew had extraordinary talent, as his parents, Cindy and Steve Robinson, certainly recognised. As an under-15 athlete Andrew was Tasmanian Little Athletics 100 metre and 200 metre champion. At year 12 at Launceston Scotch Oakburn College Andrew was captain of the school athletics team, and then went on to become the state independent schools 100 metre and 200 metre champion, which is a very impressive feat at that age. He impressed college teachers with his communications and leadership skills, and also his encouragement of other school athletes, and that was regardless of where they finished in their events or their own capabilities. For the past three seasons, he has been the Tasmanian athletic league male sprinter of the season, and last year he was named Australian Athletics Confederation Male Sprinter of the Year.

Apart from last month's Stawell Gift, recent victories have included the Latrobe, Keilor and the Devonport gifts, but of course the Stawell Gift is his greatest achievement. He dedicated that victory to his coach, Ray Quarrel, who lost his home in the January southern Tasmanian bushfires. Everybody's heart, particularly in the athletics world, went out to Ray and his family because he lost all his memorabilia and his trophies. It was a shocking thing to occur, but what a great moment this has been for Ray to have coached this young man to this victory.

Mr Valentine - I went to school with him.

Mr Finch - Is that right?

Until Andrew Robinson, the last Tasmanian to win the Stawell Gift was Ken Hutton in 1941, and he was also from my electorate of Rosevears, from Beaconsfield. A tragedy befell Ken Hutton; he was 20 years old, the same age as Andrew when he won, but he later died in a bomber over Europe.

The Stawell Gift began in 1878 as a foot race between miners in the Victorian gold mining town. The race was initially over 131 yards, which became 120 metres with decimalisation. It is 120 metres up a slight gradient, so it is hard to compare times with the 120 metre sprints elsewhere. But being a handicap race, tactics beforehand are very important. Contestants want to go fast enough in the heats to qualify, but try to hold back a little to get that good handicap and of course a good prize too. At one stage, I believe that Andrew was 80:1 to win the event. He picked up a good prize and the first prize is $40 000.

It is obvious that from an early age Andrew developed an ambition to be a top sprinter. I hope that winning the Kerry Finch encouragement award when he was 12 had plenty to do with his ambition, but his success can be particularly attributed to the competition framework that we have in Tasmania that has been available to him, especially the Launceston Little Athletics. I am sure that this win will be a tremendous fillip to Tasmanian athletics. At the age of 20 he has, hopefully, a long and fast career ahead of him. I wish him well.

Members - Hear, hear.