STAWELL GIFT VETERAN REMEMBERS – by 1964 winner Noel Hussey

Date: 23rd February 2024

Former editor of the Shepparton News, 1964 Stawell Gift winner Noel Hussey writes about his victory 60 years ago.

Sixty years ago, Noel Hussey wasn’t going to Stawell, it was the Wednesday before Easter and the 21-year-old cadet journalist had just run a trial over the Stawell Gift distance of 130 yards (120m) from his Gift mark of 8 1/2 yards.

His time of 12.5 seconds didn’t impress him or his trainer George Nelson, the Echuca aboriginal athlete who had already won the 880 yards and 220 yards at Stawell and Maryborough Gift and sprint.

Hussey told Nelson he was wasting his time going to Stawell to try and win the Gift, Nelson who was also entered in the Gift, said they could head for Stawell the next day via Bendigo and run a trial over the Gift distance on the fast Bendigo 1000 track, which was much faster than the Echuca Gift track on which Wednesday’s trial was run.

Before the Bendigo trial Nelson told Hussey if he didn’t want to win the Gift, he would win it instead which fired up the former schoolboy middle distance star. Hussey won the trial in 12 seconds and was a lot more confident about his chances at Stawell.

The Murray River duo arranged to camp at the Stawell Caravan Park for Easter which that year was in early April with the VFL football starting the next week. Parked beside Nelson and Hussey was former Fitzroy star Noel Price and his bookmaker mates who played cards into the early hours of Easter Sunday. The van they had hired was that day taken to the backyard of a Stawell Athletic Club committee man, so a good night’s sleep was had for the rest of the weekend.

Hussey had given his last 60 pounds ($120) to put on himself to win the Gift and was determined to put time on the board, knowing he didn’t have to find time for the semi-final. He ran 12.1 seconds to win his heat into a head wind while the next fastest time was 12.3.

On Sunday Nelson and Hussey and some mates from Echuca who had trained with him over the summer went for a drive in the Grampians to get out of Stawell and get away from Gift talk.

In Monday’s semi-final, Hussey just about blew his chances when he over-balanced on “get set” and was coming back onto his blocks when the gun fired, he was surrounded by potential semi-final winners, with 30 yards to go he relaxed as practised for months and kicked home to win in 12.3 seconds.

Dual finalist Don Currie tried to get Hussey to break in the final, but the tactics didn’t work and the field of five were asked to stand up. Hussey made an excellent start at the next attempt to get the race away and soon had local sprinter Lindsay Kent off 9 yards collared and the rest is history with the Echuca footballer and boxer winning by half a yard.

Hussey and Nelson headed back to Echuca with 750 pounds ($1500) in prize money and 600 pounds ($1200) in punt money where the green and white football colours of Echuca were waiting for him to play the next Saturday with the Murray Bombers. The footy club colours were similar colours he had raced in on Easter Monday to win the 1964 Stawell Gift.

The Melbourne Cup of professional foot running was his along with a sash, gold medal, silver tea service and prize money.

















Above: Noel with George Nelson preparing for the 1964 Stawell Gift (image supplied)

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