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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Queanbeyan Gift's 80 per cent prize money drop puts race in danger

Queanbeyan Gift's 80 per cent prize money drop puts race in danger

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I know it's three weeks ago, but I'm just catching up on some news. Sad to see the slow demise of Queanbeyan, but the Queaneyan Gift is and never has been in the same league in terms of prestige and history as Stawell, the Bay Sheffield or Burnie.

Queanbeyan Gift's 80 per cent prize money drop puts race in danger

By Chris Dutton
Canberra times
16 November 2018

Talking points
•Queanbeyan Gift total prize money has dropped from $40,000 to $9000.
•The race is in its 18th year, but a lack of funding may mean this is the last.
•The female winner will pocket $1000 compared to the men's $5000 prize.
•Women will be eligible to enter the men's marquee race.

The Queanbeyan Gift is fighting for survival after organisers warned a dramatic $31,000 drop in prize money in three years threatens to kill the what was one of Australia's premier races.

The Gift will have a prize pool of just $9000 when the races are run at Brad Haddin Oval next weekend. It's a 35 per cent drop from the event 12 months ago and a massive reduction from the $40,000 on offer in 2015.

The changes are set to affect entry numbers again, which has prompted officials to change the prize money structure to accommodate the number of male and female entries.

Women will race for $1000 in the marquee race over 120 metres, while the winner of the men's feature race will pocket $5000. It's a huge shift from prize-money parity in previous years.

But women will be eligible to enter the men's handicap event and it's understood at least one Canberra athlete has already submitted her entry for both races.

A lack of funding from the Queanbeyan-Palerang Council has been attributed to the drop in prize money in recent years, going from $40,000 three years ago to $14,000 last year and $9000 this year.

NSW Athletic League president Bill Edwards fears for the Queanbeyan Gift's future beyond its 18th year despite previously being one of the top three richest gift races in Australia.

"I'd be damned if I could just let it go and have [the race stop]. Every little bit of funding counts, and we're hoping once we get over this hurdle that we can move forward," Edwards said.

"Without the Queanbeyan Leagues Club, the Gift wouldn't be on this year. I can't thank them enough.

"I'm just sad that since the change over in the council structure from Queanbeyan Council to Queanbeyan Palerang, it seems like we're just out of favour. But the race is important to the region.

"Two years ago we were getting runners coming from Western Australia and the top of Queensland. It was one of the races on the calendar. You'd speak about the Stawell Gift and the Bay Sheffield, then there was Queanbeyan.

"It was a big thing ... maybe the people in the council may not have realised how Queanbeyan was recognised nationally. It's a shame now, I just don't understand what the new policy is."

The Queanbeyan Leagues Club has increased its funding by $2500 to help cover losses, NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro has chipped in to save the event and Edwards hopes to sell naming rights to ensure it survives beyond this year.

The men's and women's winners have previously taken home $12,000 for winning their respective races, luring some of the top competitors from around the country.

But there were just nine entrants in the women's field competing for $3500 last year and Edwards said the lack of female competitors made it hard to justify equal prize money.

"I'd love to have parity, but I can't justify it when there are nine women and 40 or 50 men competing. That's why the men's is an 'open' race and women can enter that as well," Edwards said.

"It's like the race just isn't wanted [by the council] any more. Unless someone puts their hand up and wants the naming rights of either the NSW Athletic League or Queanbeyan, it might not [survive]."

Canberra junior Andrea Thompson and Michael Hanna won the men's and women's events last year.

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