Mitchell Williams poses with the trophy and support crew (from left) Sam Dick, Alee Whiteman, Ryan Schmidt and coach Brett Robinson after winning the 2011 Australia Post Stawell Gift in front of the historic grandstand at Central Park. Picture: Stephen Harman
Robinson tastes ultimate Gift success
By John Salvado
16:32 AEST Tue Apr 26 2011
It's hard to imagine a tougher Stawell Gift initiation than the one which confronted Brett Robinson back in 1999.
The Queenslander's opponents in his heat included 1992 Olympic 100m champion Linford Christie and eventual winner Rod Mathews.
Predictably, Robinson was eliminated in the first round.
But far from being disillusioned, Robinson was bitten hard by the Stawell Gift bug.
He has been returning to the western Victorian town for the last 13 years, with a best finish of second to Adrian Mott in the 2006 final.
And now, as coach of Mitch Williams, he has finally tasted the ultimate success.
"I remember my first heat down here, I drew Linford Christie and Rod Matthews, so I got my arse handed to me that day," Robinson said on Tuesday.
"But I remember standing over next to the stand and saying 'I'll win this Gift one day'.
"It nearly came true but this is probably better.
"Standing over there with all the other trainers I think I was going to vomit.
"It was much easier being an athlete and in control of the situation than being a coach where you are just a spectator for that last hour or so."
Williams became the latest in a long line of beach sprinters to perform above expectations on the famous grass track at Central Park.
Although the track was already soft, Robinson was praying in vain for more rain over the weekend.
"I knew he could run with everyone here and I was just hoping the track was going to be a bit slow - we knew he'd do well," said Robinson.
"He was at $26 on Friday night and I didn't put any money on then.
"I have been in the situation where you've been backed into ridiculous odds and I just let it roll into Saturday morning and right before the heat I put some on him."
It proved to be money well spent for a man who loves Stawell.