Date: 19th March 2019



  • Last year’s winners back to attempt the historic double
  • “I am definitely coming back to race this year,” EJ Forsyth
  • “I’ve done the work and I have improved since last season,” Jacob Despard
  • Both comment on restoration of prizemoney for Australia’s richest footrace


Stawell, VIC, March 19, 2019: Stawell Gift 2018 champions Elizabeth (EJ) Forsyth and Jacob Despard have confirmed they will return to defend their titles at the historic Easter event this year.

Hosted by the Stawell Athletic Club, the 138th Stawell Gift Carnival will be broadcast live on the Seven Network on Easter Monday April 22.

Last year’s favourite to take the famous 120m Open Gift, Jacob Despard described his win as “pretty unbelievable” and something he has wanted since his first visit to the iconic event at Central Park, Stawell in 2013.

“I’m looking forward to coming back and experiencing my favourite meeting for the year as defending champion,” said a confident Jacob. “Training is the best it’s ever been and I’m tracking to really turn the heat up on Easter Monday and defend my title.” 

Despard, who recorded a personal best time of 10.40 over 100m at the Sydney Track Classic last month, said he wants to show that he, and 2017 Stawell Gift winner Matt Rizzo, as professional runners can mix it with the best of Australia’s current track stars.

“I’m expecting my handicap to be a difficult ask to win from, but I believe I’ve done the work and I have definitely improved a lot since last season,” admitted the Tasmanian. 

“One advantage I’ll have over most of the field is having won before, I’ll be starting behind them and they all have to run scared knowing I’ll be coming at the end. So, I’m already in front mentally.” 

Both Jacob and EJ will be attempting to do what only one athlete has achieved in the 137-year history of the Stawell Gift, when the great Bill Howard took consecutive wins in 1966 and 1967.

“Going back to back is something most winners would dream of, it would be unreal,” said Jacob.

EJ Forsyth, who took the Women’s Gift last year in only her second visit to Stawell and after a near-miss in the heats, is more used to running on sand in her home town of the Gold Coast than grass.  The current World Surf Lifesaving sprint champion (beach flags) said: “My training has been going really well lately. It has been a pretty long season for me but I’m super excited to be heading back down to Stawell again this year. I made some very special memories that Easter Monday and winning the Stawell Gift was such an incredible feeling that I will hold with me forever. I love the atmosphere at Central Park and I can’t wait to experience it again come April.”

Stawell Athletic Club President Darryle Harrison said: “Only one person has ever achieved back to back wins at the Stawell Gift open finals and no woman in the history of the iconic races. Both EJ and Jacob have been in excellent form so far this season so maybe 2019 could be the year of the double.”

The defending champions responded to the announcement in February that Stawell Gift prize money levels have been restored through a new agreement between the state government, Northern Grampians Shire Council and the Stawell Athletic Club.

“The Stawell Gift is incredibly historic and for most athletes I believe their desire to win the Gift goes far beyond the prize money – it’s about writing their name in the history books. I believe Stawell would still attract a lot of very talented athletes regardless of the prize money.  However, it is amazing of the government and council to step in and restore the prize money to reward the athletes for their efforts,” said EJ. 

“The restoration of the $40,000 first prize for both the Open Gift and Women’s Gift is a really positive step in the right direction for the future of the Stawell Gift. I’m sure a lot of runners who are gunning for the sash got a big smile on their faces when they heard the news,” said Jacob.

Three days of activities and entertainment make up the Stawell Gift Carnival.  Fashions on the Field will once again take centre stage on Easter Saturday (April 20, 2019) with cash prize money and gifts up for grabs.

Easter Sunday is Family Day at Stawell with The Cadbury®Easter Egg Hunt headlining a fantastic schedule of child-friendly activities including an athletics clinic and plenty of other organised fun for the kids.

Athletes have until March 13 to register to compete at

Tickets can be purchased online in advance of the Stawell Gift here. Adult concession tickets start from just $15, while Child tickets are free on Family Day.

For further information, please contact Jane Owen at 360 Sport and Entertainment on 0407936005 or at

About the Stawell Gift

The Stawell Gift Carnival is in its 138thyear and is one of Australia’s most iconic sporting events, which incorporates the famous 120 metre handicap foot race known as the Stawell Gift. Run on grass, athletes are handicapped according to form and ability, and start off varying marks accordingly. Competitors in the 120 Metre Open Gift and Women’s Gift compete for $40,000 first prize each as well as a place in Australian sporting folklore. The Stawell Gift is conducted each Easter in Stawell, Victoria. The 2019 carnival will take place from Saturday April 20 – Monday April 22, 2019. More information is available at



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