The organisers of the inaugural $78,000 Bunbury Geographe Gift have secured the services of accomplished handicapper Mark O’Brien.
The former Victorian Athletics League Chief Handicapper has a long history of involvement in both athletics and pro-running, as an athlete, coach and later handicapper.
“Pro-running is a uniquely Australian endeavour. In some respects it exemplifies some of our characteristics — it gives everyone a fair go,” O’Brien said.
An accountant by trade, O’Brien admits he has a flair for numbers and statistics, but maintains handicapping is an art.
“I really enjoy the sport and the statistical side of athletics is of interest to me, I always knew everyone’s form,” he said.
“The attraction of pro-running to me is that you don’t have to be the most gifted athlete to win.
“If you have worked as hard as you possibly could the handicaps provide a balance of abilities, and if you have worked hard enough you can achieve success.”
O‘Brien’s handicapping career includes overseeing the famed Stawell Gift for six years, writing the VAL procedures and guidelines and later as a VAL director, overseeing the VAL Handicap Review Panel.
He said he was thrilled to be involved with the Bunbury Geographe Gift and was keen to see a competitive and exciting event.
“It will be the last major pro race for the season in Australia, so everybody’s form will be exposed. Pro athletes would have already given their best — which will make the job of handicapping Bunbury transparent and compelling.”
O’Brien will receive assistance from Athletics WA on the form of local athletes, but would ensure the races will be competitive.
“Pro-running in WA has struggled and part of it has been providing a level playing field for all of their athletes,” he said.
“I would love to see a really good professional event in WA get some traction and progress.
“The organisers have the capacity and vision to make it work, Stawell is a great event and it is wonderful to have an event in WA that can provide something along those lines.”