Contenders Emerge as 2024 Powercor Stawell Gift Handicaps Announced 

Date: 19th March 2024

Handicaps for nearly 900 athletes competing in 27 events over the 2024 Powercor Stawell Gift Easter weekend have been declared by the Victorian Athletic League.

The 142nd edition of Australia’s richest footrace will be held at Central Park, Stawell from Saturday March 30 to Monday April 1.

Last year’s winners Bella Pasquali and Ryan Tarrant are both back to defend their titles, with Bella being pulled back to 2.5m and Ryan off the prestigious scratch mark this year.

Despite hoping for a mark of 1-2m Ryan says he feels “pretty good” with his zero handicap and will “enjoy being furthest back.”

According to Adam Larcom, Ryan’s coach: “Ryan is preparing well for Stawell. It’s exciting to be back and it’s an honour as coach and athlete to be the defending champion. We are incredibly respectful of the history of the Stawell Gift and to now be part of the history of the past 142 years of the event. While Ryan is off scratch, we are really focused on executing race mechanics while chasing those ahead on good marks.”

Australian sprinter Mia Gross will be the backmarker in the Change Our Game Womens Gift running off a handicap of 1m. The 2022 Womens Gift finalist won the 200m at the NSW State Championships at the weekend.

“I’m honoured to be the backmarker for 2024!” said Mia. “It’s a tough mark and I was expecting something a little more generous but I’m very keen to get out there and have a crack. Gotta be in it to win it!”

Another experienced Australian representative Maddie Coates has been given 2.25m. Three runners are on 3.5m – Olivia Matzer who ran in the Backmarkers Invitation last year; runner up for 2023 Grace O’Dwyer; and in-form Jessica Payne. 2023 finalist Olivia Hastings and Ellie Whittingham will run off 3.75m with Cebile Mpofu has 4m and highly favoured Chloe Mannix-Power from the Gold Coast has a handicap of 4.25m. 

Athletes in the Powercor Stawell Gift Gift who have been given low handicaps include Cooper Sherman with 0.5m, Saye Morris who made the 2023 final but withdrew due to injury with 1.25m, Michael Hanna 1.75m, 2017 Stawell Gift winner Matt Rizzo with 2.5m, as well as Andrew Clare, 2022 winner Harrison Kerr and Nathan Riali all running off 3m.

Saye Morris won the Burnie Gift in Tasmania so his handicap of 1.25m is tight, says coach Scott Rowsell. “We are looking for a competitive effort, and a possible semi-final will be a win in our eyes.”

Several athletes with higher handicaps have been picked to perform well on their current form with their marks. Lawson Power from Melbourne has been given 5m, Brad Hunt from Burleigh Heads is at 6.75m, and Hugh Hoffman from Ballarat will run from the front mark of 10m.

Matt Rizzo, while content with his own handicap, offered his tips for who to watch this year. “I’m pleased with my 2.5m handicap for this year’s Stawell Gift. Competing from a back mark is always a test, particularly with the added challenge of an uphill grass track,” said Matt.

“Hugh Hoffman, coming off a commanding win at Waverley, is poised to be a formidable competitor this Easter. Meanwhile, Brad Hunt from the Vikings group has shown remarkable form all season and is pegged as a leading favourite for this year’s Stawell Gift. Additionally, two under-the-radar athletes I’m keeping an eye on are Preston Degarnham (5m) and Maki Loukeris (7.75m). I believe both have the capacity to deliver impressive performances on Easter Monday.”

Dhruv Rodrigues Chico, Powercor Stawell Gift winner 2019 and currently at the Australian Relay Team camp believes Hunt and Power will be competitive: “Brad Hunt from the Vikings should be in the mix, and Lawson Power should make a final,” predicted Dhruv.

2018 champion Jacob Despard agreed that Hoffman, Power, Hunt and Loukeris will be hard to beat, and added Tapasu Paea (7.25m) to that list.

Murray Goodwin, 2015 Powercor Stawell Gift winner, and member of the Vikings squad travelling to Stawell from the Gold Coast believes the ‘lift’ system where Gift winners throughout the season are given a bonus, provides many athletes with “fantastic opportunities and those winners should be fighting it out.”

“I think recent history would tell you if you haven’t got the lift or you’re not a national level sprinter it’s probably time to start planning for next year. Apart from our Vikings I’d really like to see an old 400m competitor Lawson Power do well and sticking with the 400m bias Cooper Sherman would be a crowd favourite to see get up. And in the Women’s, away from the Vikings hopefuls, I’ll go with Olivia May (10m).

“Sentimental favourites would be Maddie Coates and Mia Gross, both fantastic role models and ambassadors but they do have tight marks,” said Murray.

Harrison Kerr, 2022 Powercor Stawell Gift winner, believes he will be competitive over the Easter weekend off 3m. “It looks quite open this year. Being an Olympic year, a large portion of the top guys and girls will be saving themselves for Nationals. 

“So it should come down to the winners throughout the year from the different squads – Endale Mekonnen (7m) from the Fast Squad; Brad Hunt from Vikings; Maki Loukeris from Nesp Squad; Jerome Lugo (9.25m) or Jack Lacey (9.5m) from my Team Fieldler; Hugh Hoffman or Jake Ireland (5.5m) from Team Ireland; and Lawson Power or Tapasu Paea should also be there towards the pointy end. It should be a fantastic event,” said Harrison.

Newcastle based coach Tim Eschebach believes his athletes Grace Hewitt and 400m specialist Jemma Pollard will be competitive on their marks which were increased from earlier Gift wins.  Grace is on 5.5m after winning the Terang Gift and Jemma was pushed forward to 8.75m for winning at Keilor.

“The handicapping system definitely supports people who are in shape and out racing at the moment. Grace and Jemma pick up a bonus lift for Stawell so their marks have been locked in for a while. Grace’s goal is to make the Women’s Gift final. The others might need to find a few metres on their own, including myself,” Tim added.

Other Change Our Game Women’s Gift contenders following recent wins include Miriam Suares-Jury from Williamstown at 7.75m, Ebony Newton from Wallalong, NSW running off 7.5m, Layla Watson from Grassmere, also running off a handicap of 7.5m and frontmarkers Chloe Kinnersly from Lucas on 9.25m and Jennifer King from Armadale who will start at 11m.

Vikings coach Brett Robinson already has an impressive group of five Stawell Gift winners to his name and hopes to go one or even two more this year.

“Chloe (Mannix-Power) and Brad (Hunt) appear to have been given handicaps that are close to what we believe they require to be competitive on Easter Monday. Experience tells us that they will need to perform at their absolute best to win the Stawell Gift, so we are not looking beyond preparing for a good heat run,” said Brett cautiously. 

Jack Lacey from Team Fiedler is another highly favoured athlete to make the final and will run off 9.5m after his win at the Wangaratta Gift. He was pipped in the semis by Keiran Mundine and Leonard King in 2023.

“I am in good form now and ready to do better than last year! Training is going perfect! I have a great squad pushing me all year,” said Jack. 

Jessica Payne is pleased with her 3.5m handicap and feels she can be competitive over the 120m. “On Monday, it is the athlete who can best execute their race who will make the final. So it’s anyone’s race but definitely would be nice to final,” said Jess. 

The 2024 Powercor Stawell Gift will take place from March 30 to April 1. Alongside a weekend of continuous professional running events, a host of family friendly activities feature in the entertainment. Easter Saturday is Fashion’s Day and Easter Sunday is Family Day with the finals of the Powercor Stawell Gift and Change Our Game Women’s Gift taking place on Easter Monday. The event will be broadcast live and free on all three days on 7Plus, and live on main channel Seven from 11:30 am AEST on Monday, April 1. Tickets are now on sale at Ticketek.

For further information, please contact Jane Owen on 0407936005 or at


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