Posted by Hopwood Wendy
Date: 11th March 2020
Peter Donegan is one of Australia’s most respected sports presenters and commentators with a career that has covered the full spectrum of world sport. But it is with athletics, and in particular the Stawell Gift, Peter has become synonymous. 2020 will be Peter’s 24th Stawell Gift and he shared some highlights with us from those years on the front line.
Why do you think the Stawell Gift is so special?
The fact that the event has been in existence since 1878, and hasn’t changed all that much over the journey is part of its appeal. There’s a certain charm about Central Park as well – those beautiful old gates, the wooden grandstand, the manicured grass. And the fact that it’s a handicap gives rise to the possibility of a dreamer still being able to beat a star.
What are your personal highlights from Stawell?
Anyone who was there in 2005 to see Josh Ross win from scratch will never forget it. The roar that went up as he crossed the line still gives me tingles when I see it again, 15 years on.
Which event has stood out for you and why?
My first trip to Stawell was back in 1987 when Russell Elliott won. It gave me a first-hand look at this event I’d heard so much about as a kid. And so then, I was hooked.
Top 3 moments from the time you have covered the Stawell Gift?
As I’ve said, Ross the Boss in ‘05 has to be top of the tree, but here are three others.
The story of Scott Antonich’s identical twin brother walking into the betting ring with a pie and a beer not long before the ‘88 Gift Final, prompting the bookies to push the odds out before they unleashed, and eventually cleaned up, is part of the folklore of the event.
The drama which followed the ‘89 gift that Simon McIntyre won remains vivid in my memory. There was a protest that went for I think close to 90 minutes. We were on BTV6, live throughout that time, and nothing was happening apart from the hearing, which was behind closed doors. I have no idea what we talked about, but somehow, we made it through to the announcement that the protest had been dismissed. The late Chris Perry, the ‘82 Gift winner, was beside me that day, and we miss him enormously.
And one of my other fond memories was seeing Anna Pasquali win the Lorraine Donnan 40m a couple of years ago, and finally secure a Stawell sash, after years of trying. Her interview with Richo after the race was just brilliant. It epitomised what Stawell means to so many people, it’s been a huge part of their lives.
What are you looking forward to this year?
The same as every year. Breakfast in the main street where the Gift winners are immortalised with footpath plaques in the Walk of Fame, then turning up to Central Park with Mel Gainsford-Taylor to watch another chapter unfold. And more often than not, the story behind the victory will have some sort of romanticism behind it.
How long have you been associated/working with the Stawell Gift?
2020 will be my 24th Stawell Gift, and my 23rd call (I hosted the coverage in 1988 when Scott Antonich won, but didn’t call that year). I did three in the 80’s and have now been there every year since Jarrem Pearce won as a 16-year-old in 2000.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Easter Monday every year at Stawell is without doubt the most lively three hours of television I’ve ever been involved with. Between 15 and 20 events, all in rapid succession, over distances ranging from 120 to 1600 metres (or a mile as the old timers know “the Herb”). It’s equal parts exhilarating and draining. And it’s always a privilege.
Posted by Hopwood Wendy
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