In 1963 The Parkdale Football Club, which played in the Federal District League formed a Professional Athletic Club. The Parkdale Gift ran for two years from 1963-4.
On 6 April 1963 the first Parkdale Gift was held at the clubs still home ground of the Parkdale Vultures Football Club “Gerry Green Reserve” on Nepean Highway, Parkdale. Now playing in the VAFA Premier B competition, Parkdale Vultures Football Club is well on its way to becoming the biggest club in the City of Kingston. www.thevulturesnest.com
The feature event was the Parkdale Gift over 120 yards worth £65, mile – £50, 600 yards – £35, 75 yards – £25. The event was the last before the world famous Stawell Gift. Also included at the event was a relay between the Senior and Junior Federal District League Clubs.
The winner of the Gift was Graham Huggins of 7.25 yards in 11.4 seconds (his first Gift success in a long career). Huggins won the £50 first prize one foot from his close friend Bob Green also of the same mark and K. Whitford in third.
Details of the first ever Parkdale Gift provided drama that has not been seen before in VAL History and is likely never to occur again. Legendary VAL runner Bill Sutton (a winner of 42 races – including a third in the Stawell Gift of 1962 and winner of the Stawell Backmarkers and 200m in 1963 (ironically against Huggins) and now VAL official Bill Sutton recounts the final at Parkdale.
As race began the second gun rang out, the starter declared that that all runners apart from Green were being pulled a one yard for breaking. Bemused runners looked at each other and indicated that no-one broke. All protested their innocents – to no avail. The starter then begun again, with all runners hearing the the time long instructions “Get On”.
Bob Green looked the winner before Huggins managed to overhaul him in the last few strides. Huggins recalls ‘he was mighty hard to run down’ but when i realised i havd won, i was immensely proud.
Huggins did not incur a penalty for Stawell of that year.
The Gift of 1964 was won by local professional running legend Robert (Bob) Wishart. This was one of many prestigious races won by Bob over his professional running career that still continues today.
The gift field comprised of 72 of Victoria’s finest sprinters competing for the £65 prize money on offer.
The backmarker was Australian Professional Champion Terry Clarke (3 Yards). Clarke had just won the Oakleigh Gift and was going for his second win in two weeks. The red hot favourite was Max Ramage off (8.75 yards). Ramage had finished third in the prestigious Bendigo 1000 of that year and was favoured to take home the prize. Robert (Bob) Wishart (4.75 yards), Peter Possetti and Les Stock were other fancied athletes runners for the day.
After the heats – the three semi-finals were run with the first two proceeding to the final.
The final proved to be a dramatic affair with the now new favourite Les Stock breaking twice and being disqualified. In a closely fought finish Bob Wishart (4.75 yards) (1) prevailed from Walsh (6.25yards) (2nd) and Harrington (10.5yards) (3rd) in the slick time of 11.3. (these times were as listed in the newspapers of the day).