‘BRINGING HOME THE BACON IN THE LOCAL GIFT………’

Wally Pasquali occasionally harks back to the most memorable night of his sporting career……

He was feeling the weight of expectation pressing down upon his slightly-built frame, as he stepped onto the blocks for the Final of the 1995 Wangaratta Gift.

Moments earlier, under the glare of the floodlights, the second back-marker had sauntered down the 120-metre track whilst being introduced by the ground announcer .

The accompanying applause from the locals sent a tingle down his spine.img_3924

Wal was 27, and already an accomplished pro performer. He’d contested a Stawell Gift Final, won two Broadford Gifts, finished fourth in South Australia’s prestigious Bay Sheffield, fourth in a Bendigo 1000 – and two weeks prior, had taken out the Rye Gift.

But this one would give him special satisfaction.

He got away to a flier and breasted the tape in 12.21 seconds, a metre clear of his nearest opponent – Peter Harloff of North Albury – to whom he’d conceded five metres.img_3925

It was a dream run. With hands held aloft, he commenced probably the longest celebratory journey in Gift history. He completed his ‘lap of honour’ by acknowledging the roar of the crowd in the Richardson Stand…………..
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Twenty-four years on, the prestigious Wangaratta Carnival still means the world to Wally Pasquali. He plays a key role in its organisation. His company – Optus – heavily promotes the event.

He regards that as his duty, just as he did when the Wangaratta City Soccer Club – and his old footy team, the Wangaratta Rovers – both asked him to be their President.

Wal has a keen eye for history, and he’s proud of the fact that he’s one of only seven locals to have taken out the Carnival’s ‘Blue Ribbon’ event in its 97-year history……..
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Mick Maroney was the first, in 1930.

Maroney stood just 5’4”, was beautifully proportioned, and was handled by a wise old coach, Marty Bean, who had a number of Wangaratta runners in his ‘stable’.

Bean was only an average runner himself, but had a terrific influence on the careers of several champions.

Marty, who was born in 1896, had played in Wangaratta Football Club’s 1920 premiership, and acted as Head Trainer for the Pies for 17 years. It was whilst performing this role that he recognised the talent of the elusive, courageous, determined Maroney, who was a star winger.img_3930

The bookies adjudged the 18 year-old a 7/4 favourite for the Gift. Given a liberal handicap of 12 metres, he cruised home in style, and completed the double, by taking out the Warby Sprint.

The following year, Mick continued his good form, despite being handed a much stricter mark from the handicapper. He ran impressively to win the Shepparton Gift, and pocket the accompanying purse of 130 pounds.

He moved to Melbourne soon after, but would make the annual pilgrimage home to compete at the Carnival each Australia Day week-end. In 1937, his final success at Wang, he won the Ovens Handicap and Warby Sprint………..

 

Alf Whittaker had gained employment locally, with the Railways, when he prevailed in 1938 . After winning a re-run of the 100 yard sprint in effortless fashion on the Saturday night, and effortlessly winning the twelfth Gift heat , he stormed into contention.

The Final proved a thriller, as front-markers Stevens, McCorkell and the Echuca sprinter C.R.Collins were locked together nearing the end of the 130 yard journey.

But Whittaker lunged at the line to take out the 100 pounds prize-money, finishing six inches in front of the fancied Stevens, with McCorkell a further six inches away in third place……….

 

When Frank Seymour bobbed up, the town was in raptures.

Seymour’s adolescent years co-incided with the advent of World War II. He was an ardent footballer and played his first senior games with Wangaratta in the Murray Valley Association.

The cessation of hostilities saw O & M football resume and Frank, at the tender age of 17, was selected for his share of senior matches with the Pies. Wangaratta went on to win the 1946 premiership, with the youngster in their line-up.

By now, Marty Bean had convinced Seymour that he possessed the wherewithal to make his mark in the world of pro-running. He gave him the advice that he no doubt passed on to all up-and-comers:

“Son, you have to be dead keen, not just to run, but to listen to what I tell you. If you’re half-hearted I’m not interested in you.”

After experiencing success at a few unregistered athletic meetings, Seymour reasoned that he’d like to give it a go in pro ranks

‘Old Marty’ decided to set him him for the Silver Jubilee Gift of 1947.

A blistering-hot January day reduced the afternoon attendance, but when dusk fell, the crowd had swelled to almost-capacity.

When Seymour registered the fastest time of the day in his semi, he was installed as warm favourite for the final.img_3929

Running off seven yards, he scorched to the tape, to edge out Sydney taxi-driver J.C.King, who was also well-fancied. A large contingent of Wangaratta footballers could hardly contain their glee, having backed their team-mate for a considerable sum…………

 

The Doolan family moved to Wangaratta in 1950, and young Jim, who had attended Assumption College, soon made his mark in local sport.

He came under the influence of the ageing Bean, who was sure that he had the talent to go a fair way as a professional athlete.

Doolan’s big moment came in 1958, but it was not without its share of drama. He dead-heated with W.Dinsdale in the semi, but won his way through to the Final on a soggy Monday evening.

He ran the race of his life to take out the Gift, then completed the double with a win in the Ovens Sprint…………..

 

Greg O’Keeffe was jogging around the Galen College Oval, trying to maintain some fitness after an exhausting 1980 football season with the Wangaratta Rovers, when a car pulled up and a voice called out: “……Ow ya goin….”.

It was Bernie Grealy, a local running legend and two-time Stawell finalist.
He told the panting O’Keeffe that he’d seen him on the footy field, and reckoned he could do all right as an athlete.

He must have sold the message okay, as, within months, Greg had his first run, in the Carnegie Gift. He was unplaced, but the adrenalin had started to flow. He ran in his first Wangaratta Gift in 1983. The next year he finished second in the Final.

He was to reach his home-town Final five times, but in 1985 ‘ran the house down’. Off a mark of 7.5 metres he clocked 12.23 to narrowly defeat Murray Dineen in a famous Gift Final.img_3931

Greg continued to compete with considerable success all over the state, and is renowned as an icon of pro running. He has been inducted into the prestigious Stawell Athletic Club Hall of Fame, in recognition of  his devotion to the sport over nearly 40 years.

He’s another stalwart who decided to put his shoulder to the wheel when the Wangaratta Carnival faced the threat of extinction several years ago.

He was President for 13 years and will be floating around in some administrative capacity this week-end, besides keeping an eye on a couple of the runners he now coaches…….

 

Jason Boulton was one of Wangaratta’s up-and-comers in the early nineties. He showed his potential by figuring prominently in many meets around the state. But there was a bullet beside his name when he finished runner-up in the 1996 Gift – pipped by Scottish-born Kevin Hanlon.

The following year he turned the tables with a strong performance, outlasting Hanlon in a tight finish.img_3926

By now, Jason had re-located to Melbourne, but he continued to return for the Carnival week-end. In 2006, nine years after his initial triumph, he coasted to victory in 12.36 seconds, off the handy mark of 11.5m, to become one of only four dual Gift winners.

Boulton had overcome some niggling injuries, including three shoulder reconstructions emanating from his football career. But he kept persevering. He made the Gift Final four times, won the 70 metre event twice and also took out the 400m handicap in 1998.img_3927
These days he keeps a close eye on his four kids, who are keen Little Athletes and shaping as stars of the future…………
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One of the host of great Wangaratta Gift stories concerns, not a local winner, but probably the most famous runner to have contested the event…….

American negro Barney Ewell ( a 1948 Olympic Gold Medallist ) won his heat and semi-Final of the 1950 Gift, then came up against Carlton footballer Laurie Kerr, who was favourite to win the Final.img_3922

Ewell badly wanted the prize-money.

At the start he walked across the track and saluted each finalist. When he came to Kerr he said: “Hiya Laurie, see you at the tape……but you’ll be looking at my back.”
Vintage gamesmanship indeed !

There was a sensation, and the hushed crowd sighed as Ewell and Frank Banner appeared to break. It was revealed that the fault was caused by a ‘snapped cap’ from the starter’s gun…..

Ewell later said: “I went and Frank followed. I gave that goddam starter the raspberry when I went back to the blocks.”
Ewell burned up the track to set an all-time record of 12.1, beating Laurie Kerr into second place.

In presenting Ewell with his sash, long-time Carnival President Arthur Callander said: “ Great run, Barney. You have done so much to put this town on the map…………”img_3928

‘THIS RUNNING LIFE……..’

Bernie Grealy was just 8 years old when his dad Frank, drove he and his brother Laurie in from Eldorado to watch their first Wangaratta Carnival.

It was Australia Day, 1950; and like the thousands of other fans who had jammed into the Showgrounds that night, he was excited about the prospect of watching the American sprinter, Barney Ewell.

The reigning Olympic Gold Medallist, was dubbed ‘The Ebony Flash’, and had been heavily promoted as the Carnival’s feature attraction. As the unbackable favourite, off scratch, for the Gift Final, all eyes were trained on him when the lights dimmed and the runners crouched to await the starter’s pistol.

Barney, and another champion, Frank Banner,  appeared to break, but the field was recalled…which only added to the dripping suspense of the occasion.

He got away perfectly in the re-run, to edge out Carlton footballer Laurie Kerr by a matter of inches, in a run timed as one of the quickest and most memorable-ever on the Wangaratta track…………..
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If Bernie still needed any convincing that athletics was to be his chosen sport, it was pretty much decided for him that night.

And over the next forty years or so, he was to place his own stamp on Carnivals such as his beloved Wangaratta – and beyond……….
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“I was no great shakes at footy or cricket at school – even though I liked them both. But I found out I could leave most of the kids for dead when the running events were held at the school sports. So that’s the path I chose,” he recalls.

A few years later, when he was about 16, and working at the Woollen Mills, he set himself for the Mill Gift, which was held as part of their Christmas break-up. He won, and a couple of months later, went out to Easter Saturday’s Milawa Sports, and took out that Gift as well.

His dad advised him: “If you’re going to run, you ought to be fair dinkum about it.”

So he measured out a sprint track on the Eldorado sports ground and spent hours honing his talent.

“There were about 30 or 40 blokes who used to run at the unregistered Meetings which were held in February-March each year during the early sixties. Places like Whorouly, Moyhu, Tatong, Hansonville and Thoona, “ Bernie says.

“Then the Harriers started up in Wang and a fellah called Bill Eaton got onto me about turning amateur. I’d won something like 10 pounds as a pro, which seemed to be a bit of an obstacle, but he managed to get me re-instated.”

“After about two years – and competing in country championships and the like, I discovered there were a few blokes a fair bit better than me. I thought, gee, I might as well see if I can earn a few quid. “

That’s when he decided to turn professional, aged 18.

Not that prize money was ever his sole objective.

“I think the largest purse I ever got was $1,500 for winning the Oakleigh Gift. There wasn’t that much dough around.”

The biggest plus you get out of the running game, he says, is the friendships you cultivate.

Although, on the face of it, running appears to be an individual sport, there’s a unique camaraderie among the athletes.

It’s what inspired Bernie to keep going for all those years…………
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That – and the support of Robyn, his wife and greatest fan.

Bernie’s got an affectionate country drawl, which adds a bit of flavour to the stories he tells. He loves a yarn about sport. So does Robyn.

She used to follow him around the circuit and sit up in the stands, jotting down every race result – the times, scratchings and any other incidentals. When the runners gathered around the camp-fire of a night to chew over the day’s happenings, they’d refer to Robyn for the finer details.

Bernie’s always had a fascination for Stawell. He first went there in 1963. He and Robyn have hardly missed a meeting since.

He won his Gift heat for seven successive years and reached two finals – which still sit indelibly in his mind.

In the first of them – 1967 – in front of a crowd of nearly 14,000, he came up against the great Bill Howard, who stormed to his second successive win. Bernie ran strongly to finish third.

“People were coming up to congratulate me and say how well I’d run. To tell you the truth, I was shitty…Thought I could have done better…….”

Four years later, when Fitzroy footballer Treva McGregor took the honours, he hit the line in fourth place.

“I’d won the Yarroweyah Gift the week before, and took a few days off work, to keep off the concrete floor, and give myself the best possible chance. Did okay too…. I didn’t miss out on third place by much and was pretty happy with my effort.”

Bernie diverts to chat about Jack King, the wise old running coach, whose brother Chris won Stawell in 1908. Jack apparently lived for running and had trained five winners of the famous Gift on a cinder track he’d constructed at the family property, just off the Three Chain Road.

“Jack walked into the bank in Rutherglen one day, where Bill Howard had just been transferred, and said to him: ‘Son, would you like to win a Stawell Gift’. He’d seen him playing footy and reckoned he had the makings of a runner. “

“Bill was backed in from 100 to 1 when he won his first Gift. He was pulled about 3 yards the next year and ran 11.6, to win it again. I picked up the princely sum of $140 for finishing third.”

“One thing I regret, in hindsight, was not going over and training under old Jack when I was about 16.”

Bernie’s first-ever victory in pro ranks was at Maryborough, in 1967, when he took out the quarter-mile ( 400 metres ). He saluted again in 1970.

The 400 turned out to be his specialty. He won it on four occasions at Wangaratta – 1970, ‘74, 1980 and ‘84. The event is now called the ‘Grealy Family 400 Metre Handicap.’

A framed photo, depicting each win, takes pride of place on the Dining-Room wall. It’s about the only show of pretension from the illustrious Grealy running career.

“Robyn doesn’t like displaying too much of that stuff,” he says. “But it is special, winning a race in front of your home crowd.”

Bernie first started coaching around 1980. Greg O’Keeffe was his first ‘recruit’.
Greg recalls the day he was jogging along Edwards Street when a car pulled up alongside, and an instantly-recognisable voice called out: ‘….Ow ya goin…..’

It was Bernie, who asked him if he’d like to start training with him.

They hit it off straight away and became great mates, sharing countless memorable sporting moments over the years.

“There were a fair few who trained with us over the years. I think all of them won a race at some stage.”

“I remember Wally Pas coming down with his Rovers team-mate Nick Goodear. The first time he came out of the blocks I thought: ‘Wow, this bloke’s got something.’ “

“Of course, he won a Wang Gift, as did Greg and Jason Boulton. They all became pretty-well infatuated with the sport.”

Bernie was also a finalist in four Wang Gifts. The closest he got to bringing home the chocolates was in 1976, when he finished a close third to Warren Vines.

He retired from running when he was 55, but still remained heavily involved. For quite a few years he competed in Veterans Games.

Then he took up cycling and enjoyed the competitive aspect of Hume Veterans events.

But a couple of heavy falls, the last of which badly damaged his shoulder, broke some ribs, and caused a stint in hospital, convinced him that it was time to give away the bikes.

With the Carnival looming, he’s been doing a bit of work on the Showgrounds track and will be there in an official capacity next week.

He thinks back to those days when the Carnival attracted 140 bikies and something like 300 athletes, and the town would be buzzing for weeks beforehand.

It’s just that, with the passage of time, circumstances have changed, he says. Regardless, it still gets the adrenaline of this sporting junkie rushing, just like it did 68 years ago…………..

PAS…..ENJOYING THE RIDE….. AS SEB REACHES FOR THE STARS

Sebastian Pasquali……The name rolls off the tongue beautifully.

You may have become acquainted with this precocious sporting talent recently, by dint of social media. He’s the 16 year-old kid who made a dream first-class soccer debut.

You’ll recall Melbourne Victory thrusting him into the spotlight against global giants, Juventus, amidst the heaving atmosphere of a large MCG crowd.

Fitting in like a glove, he moved with the aplomb of a seasoned performer, then stepped up to convert a penalty shot which clinched the match for his team….. He was the talk of the town.

Now, after another couple of A-League cameos, Seb has been lured to one of the world’s most successful clubs, Ajax Amsterdam.

It’s a soccer education at the highest level. The experts say that, with an opportunity like the one he’s been offered, the lad had to grab it with both hands. They’re all in agreeance, that Ajax are among the best developers of talent in the world.

It’s only seems a few years ago that he was running out in the Black and Red stripes of the Wangaratta soccer club.

And before that, as a toddler, being carted to Ovens & Murray matches, where his dad was lauded as a champion of another code………..

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Dad – Anthony – has held a life-long fascination with sport – and fitness.

When his parents were growing tobacco in the Ovens Valley, he and his younger brother Walter would turn out for the Myrtleford soccer club. The family’s move to Whitfield saw them shift their allegiance to Wangaratta City.

My favourite story of ‘Pas’ is of a 15 year-old first embracing the game of Australian Rules, and the Wangaratta Rovers.

Tuning in to the radio broadcasts of the Rovers games on 3NE, he is absorbed by the commentary, and visualises himself wearing the Brown and Gold. He becomes entranced. His ambition is now to play for the Hawks.

As an extension of this, he wanders into the Murphy Street Sports Store owned by former Hawk stars Eric Cornelius and John Welch, and queries how he could go about signing up.

They steer him in the right direction and the next season he begins playing with the Thirds, alongside his Galen College mates, Frank Anania and Carlo Tonini.

Twenty-two years later, he retires after a career which scales the heightimg_1994s. He has chalked up a then club-record 322 games, coached the Club and has been an integral figure in one of its finest eras.

The following year he receives an honour he cherishes dearly when he is elevated into the Rovers Hall of Fame…………

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But it was not always beer and skittles for Anthony Pasquali.

After winning the Thirds Best & Fairest in his first year, and playing in a Reserves flag in his second, he served a solid apprenticeship, before he was deemed ready for senior football.

He debuted under the watchful guidance of Mervyn ‘Farmer’ Holmes in 1985 and soon became an established player.

With many lads of similar vintage also making their way in the game, ‘Pas’ showed the way with his meticulous preparation and attitude to fitness.

His marking skills – an important part of his repertoire – allowed him to play well ‘above his height’ and with undeniable stamina he could run all day. Some say he was best suited to a wing but, really, he could be shunted anywhere with equal effect.

Half-way through the 1988 season, ‘Pas’ was admitted to the Police Academy and shifted away from Wangaratta. Although his stay in the Force proved to be short-lived, he continued to travel back and forth from Melbourne for several years.

The reward for the vagaries of travel was his place in a crackerjack Rovers side, which was a power for most of the next decade.

A noted big-occasion player, he starred in the 1988 and ’91 flags. A stress fracture of the foot had consigned him to just a handful of games in 1993 , and he watched on as the Hawks again took the honours.

There was no doubting his determination to rebound the following season. The Rovers went into the Grand Final on a 34-match winning streak and were at unbackable odds to defeat Wodonga.

It appeared that the Dogs had an obsession about taking ‘Pas’ out of the game. During a turbulent third term they lost control and three seperate reports were laid for incidents against him. No matter – the Hawks cruised away to win by 59 points.

Several years later, he made one of his toughest calls. He was by now the Rovers assistant-coach and regarded the post as a natural progression to assume a coaching role in his own right.

Benalla came knocking in 1999 and he took charge of them for two seasons. He added further laurels to an already glittering CV by winning the GVFL’s Morrison Medal and their Club B & F.

His dream was realised in 2001, when the Rovers appointed him as captain-coach. The Hawks reached the finals in each of his three years at the helm, but, in my book, 2002 was a coaching triumph.

His side, flying under the radar throughout the year, hit the front early in the final quarter of the Grand Final, but couldn’t go on with the job against North Albury.

‘Pas’ handed over the reins at the end of 2003 and agreed to play on. But injury struck in the form of a broken leg. Despite his best efforts to fight his way back to full fitness the following year, he finally decided that it was time to pull the pin on his magnificent career.

As a 12-time O &M, and 7-time VCFL rep, along with his other football gongs, he had proved his ability to perform consistently, with rare quality, and at a high level.

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But it wasn’t long before he was tempted to resume a relationship with Wangaratta City that he had abandoned in his early teens.

His boys, Riley and Seb, were now showing plenty of promise in the junior ranks, and ‘Pas’ also found himself being swept up in the round-ball code.

Who better, then, to take on the main job at City, when it became available ?

So, in a rare twist, ‘Pas’ became the first person to coach both an Ovens and Murray League and an Albury-Wodonga Soccer League club.

He was fascinated by the varying cultures of the two codes, both of them unique in their own fashion, but says, when it all boiled down, it was a simple case of man-management.

And he has thoroughly enjoyed the ride he and Susie have been on, as the boys have made their way in the world of soccer.

Riley (18) is at university and has played at State League club, Altona, for the past two years. Seb, who turned 17 on Tuesday, is completing Year 11 at Maribyrnong High.

” ‘Seb’ has a one and a half-year contract, with the option of another year, so I’ll be heading over to Amsterdam with him, to help him settle in. I’ll be spending a fair bit of time over there, then I’ll go over and back a couple of times in the off-season,” ‘Pas’ says.

“It’s a great opportunity for him. Pro-soccer in Europe is the ultimate,”

And what words of pre-match advice does this Aussie Rules champ and soccer enthusiast give to his kids ?

“I just tell them to make sure they enjoy themselves.”…………

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SENTIMENTAL FAVOURITE GETS THE CHOCOLATES…

Walter Pasquali wears a permanent grin on his welcoming Continental countenance.

He’s a jolly fellah, Wal. But if his smile could get any broader, it happened on a hot January evening in 1995, when he stormed home to win the Wangaratta Gift.

The sentimental favourite had scorched down the floodlit 120 metre track, to breast the tape in 12.21 seconds, and ignite wild celebrations. Hands held aloft, he commenced probably the longest celebratory journey in Gift history, and finished his ‘lap of honour’ by acknowledging the roar of the crowd in the Richardson Stand.

He still rates it as his finest sporting moment, even though he can entertain you with scores of other anecdotes and highlights of an eventful career which has hummed along for nigh-on 30 years……..

 

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He was brought up on the family’s King Valley tobacco farm, one of three sport-mad kids. An older brother, Anthony, had fulfilled a long-held dream to come in and play footy with the Wang Rovers, where his name was to become indelibly etched into the club’s record books.

Wal was eager to follow suit and in 1985 featured in a Thirds’ premiership, alongside players of the calibre of Mick Wilson,  Howard Yelland and Rick Marklew.

His progress was steady. A lengthy apprenticeship in the Reserves included a Runner-up Best & Fairest trophy in 1987 and universal recognition as a terrific clubman.

A smaller edition of the lean, versatile ‘Pas’, he was mainly a winger, with pace to burn and a lethal left boot and was rewarded with 3 senior games in 1987, Laurie Burt’s first year of coaching.

“Wal’s bubbly personality helped create a positive vibe around the club. Everyone loved him.” Burt said.

“But I wasn’t in his good books one Thursday night when I announced the side and left him out. The next thing we heard was a loud bang. Wal had taken his frustrations out on the toilet door. I pointed out to the boys, that’s how much it means to him to play senior footy.”

It was on the suggestion of a team-mate, Nick Goodear, that Wal decided to have a crack at foot-running. The extra edge in pace would, he believed, be the weapon that would earn him a permanent senior spot.

But disaster struck, in the guise of a damaged knee early in the 1988 season, which required a full reconstruction and effectively put the kibosh on a footy career which was really only just starting to crank up.

And, as his rehab progressed, so did the thoughts that he might focus on running. He was working as an electrical sub-contractor at the time, doing plenty of training under wise old Bernie Grealy and finding an adrenalin-rush in his adopted sport.

Within eighteen months he was lining up in the final of the illustrious Stawell Gift, on Easter Monday, 1990. It was to be the year of the brilliant West Australian Dean Capobianco, who blitzed a field which included two other eventual ‘Stawell’ winners.

Nerves got to Wal, who finished sixth . But he was richer for the experience.

For the next five years or so he was super-competitive, despite running off a tight mark. Always explosive off the blocks, he won successive Broadford Gifts, and took out the 70m events at Werribee, Bendigo and Broadford (twice).

During a big 1993 campaign, he finished fourth in the coveted Bendigo 1000, and was invited to contest Jupiter’s Gift in Queensland, where he ran a close second. He was fourth in the final of Adelaide’s rich Bay Sheffield Gift, regarded as second only to Stawell on the pro running calendar.

To top the season off, he took out the time-honoured Burramine Gift. So, with those sort of performances, there was little wonder that the handicapper was always scrutinising him closely.

He was flying in early 1995 and began to focus on the Wang Carnival even more intensely after his win in the Rye Gift two weeks prior.

“It meant a lot to me to run well at Wang, in front of my home crowd.  Mum and Dad, who didn’t usually attend the Carnival, were there, all my mates were egging me on and I felt good in the lead-up to the Final,” he recalled.

So how did it feel, Wal, when the ground lights were turned off, the floodlights were trained on the Gift track and commentator Eddie Bush gave your resume’ as you paraded down that familiar stretch of turf, just minutes before the big event ?

“I was pretty sure I’d do OK. It was all about getting away to a good start, which I did, and I was determined to catch the front-marker, Adrian Campagna, who was another local, by the 60-metre mark, then peg back the other blokes in front of me.”

” I’ve never run faster than I did that night and when I got to Phil Harloff, the Albury runner, I knew I was home. There was about a metre in it in at the finish. And then the celebrations started……..”

Wally started to experience trouble with his achilles the following season and it became a continual battle to get his body right.

But he kept running and his love of training and competing remained as strong as ever.

One ritual he maintained was his journey to Stawell every Easter. It was there that his romance with a star 400m runner, physiotherapist and his future wife, Anna Deery, blossomed.

Anna had been close to Australian selection as a junior, restricted only by a navicular foot injury. She was later in contention for a spot in the 400 relay squad for the Commonwealth Games, being rated No.5 in the squad and narrowly missing a spot.

So, with a mutual love of athletics, they had plenty to offer Wangaratta sport when they moved back here in 2009.

Wal re-ignited his considerable passion for the Brown and Gold and has helped out in several capacities. Of particular assistance has been his work in fitness and conditioning. He is held in high regard by the Hawk playing group.

Greg O’Keeffe, who has seen all of the top local runners come and go over the years, rates Anna as one of the hardest female trainers he has seen. She has a zest for junior development and is heavily involved with Little Aths.

Their contribution to the Athletic Club has increased by the year, both by sponsorship through their Optus business and their considerable physical input.

The whole Pasquali brood – Wal, Anna and the kids, Christian, Isabella and Sofia – will be competing this Saturday, when the Carnival kicks off.

And Wal will be forgiven a touch of nostalgia when the finalists are asked to take their marks for the running of the 95th Wangaratta Gift…..It’s 20 years ago, the butterflies are in the tummy and he’s the second back-marker… Oh,what a memory that is……….

 

 

FOOTNOTE:   The other Wangaratta winners of their local Gift have been: Maurice Maroney (1930), A.W.Whittaker (1938), Frank Seymour (1947), Jimmy Doolan (1958), Greg O’Keeffe (1985), Jason Boulton (1997 and 2006).
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