Jessica Payne and her squad are set for Stawell, but coach Shane believes it’s all about the mental preparation

Date: 31st March 2022

Dual Change our Game Women’s Gift Finalist Jessica Payne is finding her form and sprinting well leading into Easter, and her coach Shane McKenzie couldn’t be more pleased.  He talked us through what is so special about the Powercor Stawell Gift and what it would mean to win the coveted trophy.

“Stawell has so much history, and with that history there are loads of legends to go with it. Growing up, these legends were revered and to be associated with one was something special. Now I am grateful to be able to step on top of the hallowed turf to try my luck at producing a winner to become a legend of our sport,” said Shane.

“I think it would mean more to my athletes to win than to me. I would find it personally very satisfying as it means I got the peaking model right for my athlete and my craft was correct.

“It’s more about the process than the result for me. I enjoy the challenge and trying to overcome hurdles along the way. But for me, it’s about the athletes I coach and doing all I can to ensure they have better opportunities than I ever had.”

Shane believes it’s important to spend time preparing his athletes emotionally and making sure they know what to expect on the day, should they make a final.

“The physical preparation is pretty easy as it’s about looking and listening to how the athletes feel, but their mental state is the really hard one to help them prepare for, as it’s such a difficult skill to learn and even harder to navigate with some athletes.” 

While Jessica’s form is coming together now, it hasn’t been plain sailing all season for the 23-year-old personal trainer from Wonga Park, Melbourne.

“Jessica started the season well with a solid performance at the ACT Champs, then a local High Velocity Club meet, but dropped form for State Champs and only managed a bronze medal.

“Since then, however, Jessica began to find form, with a finals appearance at the Ballarat Gift and a win at the Geelong Gift and has really started to sprint well in the recent weeks.”

Stablemate Zoe Neale will have to cheer on the team from the sideline this year sadly as, while she was hoping to make her 2nd Women’s Gift final this year, “a Grade 2 Hamstring tear at the Bendigo Gift saw an end to her season.”

Another of Shane’s squad is VAL Executive Officer Taylah Perry has also made a string of finals this season. “Taylah will be at the pointy end of her semi-final on Easter Monday and might be a chance to make the final, but she has a very busy weekend with work and racing, so it might be asking too much of her to make her 2nd Stawell final in 2022.” 

Zoe Glassborow has had a big injection of confidence after her 2nd place at the Euroa Gift behind Winter Olympian Kiara Reddingius.

“Zoe should also be highly competitive in her semi-final,” said Shane.

“Alex Tzilantonis will be looking to make another Women’s 400m final this year, and we’ll see if her handicap is enough for her to sneak over the line. She had a big win earlier in the season winning Castlemaine in one of the fastest times we’ve seen.”

Main photo courtesy of Neil Jameson, Jamesons Photography.

Photos below: Jessica wins the fastest time at the Ballarat Gift; on the podium with Taylah Perry right; with the winning relay squad at Ballarat.



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