William ‘Bill’ Howard

At just 20 years of age, Bill G Howard, an accountant from Wodonga had managed only five minor races, but here he was in 1966, on the blocks set to compete in the Stawell Easter Gift, with Toni Polinelli and Terry Clarke, the Australian sprint champion as his opponents. Despite a broken bone in his right foot, Howard won the race in a time of 11.9 from 8.75 yards. This injury put him out of action for some time, and he had just one run prior to making his second appearance in 1967, and also making history, by winning the Stawell Gift two years in a row. This year he was the backmarker, but he managed a time of 11.9 secs. In a little more than a half hour later, he lined up for the Backmarkers’ Invitation Handicap over 220 yards, off 5 yards, and won in 20.8 seconds.

The SAC in honour of the first runner to win two Easter Gifts in succession, renamed the 100 yards Parks Handicap, the Bill Howard Handicap in 1968.

Howard was unfortunate to sustain leg injuries which prevented him from participating in the 1967 Australian championships and the world championships in 1968. Howard was pitted against Robbie Hutchinson in a challenge race over 100 yards in 1969, and although Hutchinson got away to a great start, the long striding Howard edged away to hit the tape in a time of 9.6 seconds. In 1971 at the Australian Spring championships, injury forced Howard to scratch and it seemed injuries would force him to eventually retire from athletics.