The First New Zealand Gift

The First New Zealand Gift


Hurdles and Triumphs: My Coaching and Life Adventures

By Stuart Dempster

THE NEW ZEALAND GIFT-First time ever!

A few months after my national coach role in Africa ended i was invited to be Director of Coaching, Sport Whanganui,NZ. This blew my socks off. This is a clever little sporting nation make no mistake! I was given a portfolio of sports to specifically assist, coach education as well as draw up a strategic plan for coaching.

It was whilst engaged in my role of Director of Coaching in NZ that I had the idea of setting up a New Zealand Gift - as in Stawell Gift - based at the famous (in New Zealand) Cooks Gardens Athletics Stadium, Wanganui. Peter Snell broke the world mile record here on his way to Olympic glory. Our office was at this stadium, which also housed a cycling velodrome.

I was invited to present at the 2006 Commonwealth Games Conference in Melbourne 2006, so I decided to call the CEO of the Victorian Athletic League, Mr Mark Howard. We met for a coffee in the middle of Melbourne and came away with a basic “yes let’s do this”. Mark said the VAL has never organised a gift outside of the borders of the state of Victoria-it’s never been done before so he had to persuade the VAL Board. They agreed to hold a gift in New Zealand and off we went on this incredible journey. The Victorian Athletic League, who are the organisers of The Stawell Gift and 26 other pro meets, was going international!

After three and a half years in my role I was itching to get back to coaching full-time. So my CEO agreed to let me focus on the New Zealand Gift project after which I was at liberty to leave as my daughter Natasha was scheduled to pop into the world a few weeks after the Gift.

I had to sell dinner packages for sponsors and the public. Go to the radio and promote the Gift concept, which was alien to New Zealanders. I walked around all the shops and businesses selling small, medium and large corporate packages, asking companies to sponsor events.-we had a corporate dining room at the stadium overlooking the track. I had gathered around me a small group of helpers from an appeal I put out in the newspaper and radio station. The radio station asked if they could do all the commentary work and they even sponsored an event. Joining the VAL were the city council, The Mayor, Wanganui Chamber of Commerce, Wanganui Inc, Athletics Wanganui, The Cooks Gardens Trust and my employers Sport Wanganui.

We managed to get Kiwi Olympic legends Rod Dixon, Dick Taylor and Dick Quax to fly in to do public speaking and meet the public sessions at a local restaurant. Their stories and thoughts were amazing-especially the one they told about the 1972 terrorist raid in Munich. The New Zealanders were adjacent to the Israelis and the famous

Dick Quax’ account of his battle with Flying Finn Lasse Viren had the whole place in silence

We also got Peter Snell to do the voice overs for the radio ads-Peter is based in Texas so that was a challenge. Our little group raised $30,000 NZ Dollars for the inaugural NZ Gift making it one of the largest purses in the world at that time with 10,000 NZD for the winner of the 110m male gift. The population of Wanganui is 40,000! Great people from a great little country.

Back to blog