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Pro Track Team of the Century - 20 athletes to be selected (Updated 13/08/10)

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Recently I have spent some time reading about the history of the sport and the many genuinely great runners that have graced professional running tracks all over Australia for the last 110 years.

A lot of great runners have been forgotten about over the years so it’s time to give them the due recognition they deserve.

I thought about putting together a team of the century for the hundred years between 1st January 1900 and 31st December 1999.

So starting in August, over a 10-week period I’ll name my Australian Pro-Track team of the century. This team will be chosen as if I had to select a team to represent Australia in a country of origin pro-running meet against the Rest of the World.

It will consist of 20 athletes and 2 coaches.

The 20 athletes will be made up of the following:

2 athletes per each of the 8 categories below:

75yds / 70 mtrs
130yds / 120 mtrs
220 yds / 200 mtrs
440 yds / 400 mtrs
600 yds / 550 mtrs
880 yds / 800 mtrs
1 mile / 1600 mtrs
2 miles / 3200 mtrs

The remaining four athletes will be first reserves and be known for their versatility, ability to rise for the big occasion and those one can turn to if one of the ‘first sixteen’ became ill or injured.

The coaches will be one for sprints and one for middle distance.

I did think a lot about having a female contingent but that makes it difficult as women pro running events were not held on a regular basis until the amateurs and pro’s got together in 1985. There were a few women’s pro running races back in the 1920’s but little evidence of regular organised pro-running races for the women until the 1980’s.

At a later date I may look at a list of the best women pro-runners of the last 25 years.

This is how the team will take shape -
Wed 4th August: 75yds / 70 mtrs & 2 miles / 3200 mtrs
Wed 11th August: 220 yds / 200 mtrs & 600 yds / 550 mtrs
Wed 18th August: 880 yds / 800 mtrs
Wed 25th August: 440 yds / 400 mtrs
Wed 1st September: 1 mile / 1600 mtrs
Wed 8th September: 120m / 130 yards
Wed 15th September: 2 Reserves (400m to 1600m)
Wed 22nd September: 2 Reserves (Scr to 400m)
Wed 29th September: Coaches: 2 - 1 for Sprints & 1 for Distance
Wed 6th October: Captain & Pro-Track Athlete of the Century.

Period: 1st January 1900 and 31st December 1999.

If anyone has some ideas on who should be nominated, by all means post an opinion or comment.

Each weekend preceding the Wednesday, the 12 nominations for the event coming up will be announced.

Last edited by youngy on Thu Sep 02, 2010 4:49 pm; edited 1 time in total



John DeCoite
Rick Dunbar
Bill Howard
Robert Ballard



Postle, Donaldson n McManus from pre WW1

Frank Banner from the 20s

Len Sprague from the 30's n 40s

Terry Clarke from the 50s

Bill Howard & Ken Irvine from the 60s

McGregor & Dave Irvine from the 70s

Dinan & Perry from the 80s

Capo & Brima from the 90's



Downes & McCracken



A contender for a 70m/75yd spot?

The Argus Friday 7 January 1949,

Arthur Martin, 1947 Stawell Gift winner, will attempt to lower the 75 yards track record at Maribyrnong running ground on Tuesday night.

The record, 7 10-16sec, is held by Eddie Tolan (USA).

Frank Banner failed in an attempt to lower the record on December 21.

Banner, Martin, Len Sprague and Eric Cumming will compete in the 100 yards handicap at the meeting.



Other contenders..........

The Brisbane Courier, Monday 7 April 1930.


MELBOURNE, April 6 1930.

Winning the 75 yards and the 130 yards professional sprint championships in fine style, Austin Robertson, formerly a Victorian public schools' champion sprinter and runner-up In the last year's world's sprint championships, placed himself in a strong position in the competition for the world title which began at the Motordrome yesterday afternoon.

From a good start, Hunter was first in front. At 50 yards, however, Parker led, with inches only separating the runners. Robertson's final burst of speed was a great effort, and carried him to the tape several inches ahead of Parker, with Hunter, Cooper, Wilhelm, and Banner followed in that order. Robertson's time was 7 8/l6sec, which is 5/16th of a second better than that of Tom Miles (of Queensland), who won the same race last year.

In the 130 yards championship the runners, after another good start, were together at 25 yards. Parker was the first to come to the front, but Robertson, Hunter. Cooper, and Wilhelm crossed the ahead of
him in that order. Robertson had half a yard to spare, but the rest of the runners were separated by inches.

A. P. Robertson (Victoria) 1.
L. C. Parker (Qld.)2,
J. A. Hunter (S.A.) 3,
L Cooper (V.) 4.
H. P. Wilhelm (S.A.I 5,
T. Banner (N.S.W.). 6.

Won hy inches, with inches between second and third. Time: 7 8/16 sec.

A. P. Robertson (Vic.) 1.
J. A. Hunter (S.A.) 2,
L. Cooper (Vic ) 3,
R. P. Wilhelm (S.A.) 4.
L. C. Parker (Qld.) 5,
T. Banner (N.S.W.) 6.
Won by half a yard, with inches between second and third.
Time: 12 3/8 sec. equals Victorian record.



The Hobart Mercury, Monday 8 February 1954

A 26-year-old Adelaide clerk, Keith Aiston, won the national professional all-round, sprint title yesterday, and became Australia's No. 1 representative in the world professional sprint series at Geelong on Friday.

On January 15, he won the national 220yds. title at Geelong, and was runner-up to Victorian Gerald Hutchinson in the Australian 100yds championship at Footscray on Friday night.

With 12 points, Aiston beat Hutchinson (8.), Baldwin (5½), Frank Banner (5), and Bob Stringer (1½).

Banner, who broke down in a semi-final of the Kyneton Gift last Monday, did not start in the 75yds.

The president of the Victorian Athletic League (Mr. Ken McCracken) announced after Aiston's win that Australia would be represented by Aiston, Baldwin, and Hutchinson in the world titles on Friday and Friday week at Kardinia Park, Geelong.

Frank Banner, all-round sprint champion of Australia last year, will be invited to be a fourth Australian representative.

8Pro Track Team of the Century - 20 athletes to be selected (Updated 13/08/10) Empty Jack Marsh Tue Aug 03, 2010 9:00 am



Uncovered: the tragedy of the first great Aboriginal sprinter

By Philip Derriman
May 31 2003

Patrick Johnson, who broke 10 seconds for 100 metres earlier this month, is not, as many assumed, the first world-class male sprinter of Aboriginal extraction. According to a new book, an Aboriginal named Jack Marsh did even better than Johnson a century ago: he equalled the world record for 100 yards.

Marsh is well known to cricket historians as a controversial fast bowler in the early 1900s, who was accused of chucking. He played for NSW over three seasons, and died in miserable circumstances in 1916, killed in a brawl outside a pub in Orange.

It was also known he had previously been a professional sprinter, although until Max Bonnell, lawyer and sports historian, began researching a biography of him nobody realised just how fast he was.

Now, on the basis of Bonnell's findings, Marsh deserves to be included near the top of the list of Australia's best male sprinters.

In Melbourne in 1894, when he was probably in his late teens or early 20s, Marsh started from scratch in a handicap race and ran 9.8s for 100 yards, equalling the world record set by an American, John Owen, in 1890. It was no fluke: Marsh had run 9.9s in Sydney the year before.

Marsh's record time was reported in Australia's most authoritative sports journal of the day, The Referee, but went virtually unnoticed. "Marsh's feat has never been included in the record books since," Bonnell writes in How Many More Are Coming? The Short Life of Jack Marsh, which is about to be published.

"The only published acknowledgment of his exceptional time was a throwaway line in the Town and Country Journal eight years later, to the effect that it had set an Australian record."

How come? According to Bonnell, times and records did not count for much in professional athletics then. Most races were handicaps, so times were irrelevant unless a sprinter was running off scratch. Moreover, while amateur runners valued their own times and records, they ignored what professionals like Marsh did.

During his research, Bonnell had a special problem to overcome. He writes, "As an Aboriginal, Jack was excluded not only from citizenship, but also from the quotidian acts of record by which the state keeps track of its people. His name appears on no electoral roll, nor in any postal directory. Because he was illiterate, he produced no correspondence, and no one wrote to him. This lack of paperwork makes him a difficult man to track."

Marsh, who came from the Grafton area, was a shortish (170 centimetres) man of muscular build, who was renowned on the track for his explosive starts. Over shorter distances such as 75 yards, it seems nobody in Australia could match him, because nobody could catch him.

He switched from athletics to cricket in the late 1890s and bowled for NSW with so much success that arguably he should have made the Test side. After that, he performed in a travelling circus, bowling in a net to people who were prepared to bet that he couldn't hit their stumps.

He made one belated return to athletics. In 1906 the entrepreneur John Wren organised an athletics carnival in Melbourne, with big prizemoney. A 100-yard event was staged to give the most famous Australian sprinter of the day, Arthur Postle, a chance of breaking the world record. Marsh also competed.

Postle was on scratch and Marsh, by this time in his 30s and not in peak condition, had a two-yard start. Watched by a crowd of 12,000, the sprinters ran on a wet, heavy track into a headwind.

"At the sound of the starter's pistol, Jack bolted from his line with all the power of his younger days," Bonnell writes. "Within a few strides, he had claimed a clear lead and, for sixty yards, Postle could do nothing to close the gap. But the younger man was stronger over the last third of the race. He caught Jack with his last stride before the tape."

Postle was officially declared the winner in 10s flat, although several reports had it a dead heat. It was Marsh's last appearance as a celebrity sportsman.

"Jack's sporting career was over," writes Bonnell. "And as soon as it ended, the privileges that he had been allowed for more than 10 years were immediately withdrawn. He had no job, no income, no lodgings and, worst of all, no respect. As a runner and cricketer, Jack had been permitted to live among white men, almost like a white man, and his talents were admired and appreciated. As an ex-sportsman, he was just another Aboriginal."

Marsh became a drifter, drinking heavily and periodically getting into trouble with the police. He was camping outside Orange with other swagmen when he was killed. The awful irony of his death was that the former world record-holder died while trying, but failing, to run away from his attackers.

How Many More Are Coming? The Short Life of Jack Marsh (Walla Walla Press) $27.45

my state


Good concept with the ProTrack team of the Century but I think if we had done the individual States Pro Track Teams first then finished it off with the overall Protrack team it would have created even more interest and drawn more athletes to this site.



Not hard to do. Can be the next team. What state r u from?

My State


Im from SA.I guess theres quite a few runners I think have been quality over a period of time in SA but havent made it into the final selections ,such is the strength of the Team



SA athletes have the Bay Sheffield Hall of Fame, so theres a few there worth looking at for SA Team of the Century.

70m Aiston and J Brown?
120m, probably Ralph and ??
400m maybe Hassell?
1600m Abbot and ??

Coach Patching & Neil?

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