Ben Fitzgerald is the latest in a line of very talented discus throwers to emerge from the Newcastle area. Nine of the last 10 occasions the national men’s discus record has been broken it has been by a Novocastrian.
It started with Dudley resident Wayne Martin who on the 15th January 1977, 37 years ago today, added just 10 centimetres to the national record. Over the next two years he would raise the record on five occasions, adding a total of 6.08m to the record. It was broken once by Victorian Werner Reiterer in 1987, before another Novocastrian Benn Harradine, from Eleebana, broke the record on four occasions raising it to the current mark of 68.20m set last year in Townsville.
Windale’s Ben Fitzgerald, along with Merewether’s Liam Speers who in recent years has raised the NSW under-20 discus record, provides hope the local area can continue to dominate the event. Fitzgerald is pushing for selection in the Australian team for the 2014 IAAF world junior championships along with Queensland pair, Matt Denny and Mitch Cooper. Denny, the world youth discus champion, has a best of 58.67m with the under-20 implement of 1.75kg. Fitzgerald is next best with 57.11m, while Cooper is very close on 56.35m. However only two athletes will be selected for the world juniors and the national junior championships in March will be a key selection event.
We caught up with Ben Fitzgerald ahead of the Hunter Track Classic this weekend.
ANSW: Newcastle certainly has dominated the discus in recent decades. Have you meet Wayne Martin and do you have much contact with him and Benn Harradine?
Ben: I can’t say I’ve ever met Wayne, although it would be a great experience to meet another great thrower and listen to his journey. Benn and I have contact with each other both through Ken (Benn’s father and my coach) and one on one chats over the web. Benn sometimes contributes to my training and technical goals.
ANSW: When did you start athletes? How did you get involved? Were you always a discus thrower?
Ben: When I was younger and still living in Nambucca heads, about 11 -12 years old, I was still a fairly big kid and I could throw a shot put a decent distance. When I realised this, I gave shot a decent go and made it to state in my first year. In the second year I picked up my first discus and won my first school level comp with a throw of just under 20m, my Pop elected to show me a few things and through a bit of training ended up making state for discus and placing third at nationals for shot. From here I got asked to attend a four-day camp out at Scotts head. This is where I met Ken and Benn Harradine and ended up getting offered a scholarship to Hunter Sports High in Gateshead.
ANSW: When did you start to make progress in the discus? What made the difference?
Ben: After moving to Windale when I was 14 to take on the scholarship at Hunter Sports High, my 1kg discus PB was around 48m and Ken thought I could do a lot better in discus than shot. We started doing a lot of work in discus and bettered my throws to around 60m by the time I was 15. Moving to Newcastle enabled the one-on-one training I needed with a highly skilled technical coach which pushed me to improve.
ANSW: Who coaches you currently and in the past?
Ben: Ken Harradine is my current throws coach and Justin Ryder coaches me in the gym. Previously I’ve been coached by my old primary school principle Les and my grandfather Kevin
ANSW: What is the plan for the summer?
Ben: Honestly it’s probably been one of the slackest seasons so far with all the excitement of finishing school and turning 18 etc. But I’ve been back into training from the sixth of January slowly working up into an 11 session a week program to get the best results at nationals
ANSW: What are your goals now and in the future?
Ben: Short term goals would include a national medal and selection into world juniors. Since I’ve been serious about athletics all I want to achieve is to wear the green and gold at a world senior meet.
Australian discus record progression
58.90 Warwick Selvey V Adelaide 25.02.67
59.00 Wayne Martin N Brisbane 15.01.77
60.18 Wayne Martin N Sydney 16.02.77
62.44 Wayne Martin N Sydney 06.05.78
65.06 Wayne Martin N Melbourne 03.01.79
65.08 Wayne Martin N Newcastle 03.01.79
65.62 Werner Reiterer V Melbourne 15.12.87
66.37 Benn Harradine N Salinas 05.09.10
66.45 Benn Harradine N Split 05.09.10
67.53 Benn Harradine N Townsville 05.05.12
68.20 Benn Harradine N Townsville 10.05.13
Ben Fitzgerald - Statistics
DOB: 30 May 1995
Club: Macquarie Hunter
Coach: Ken Harradine
Discus 48.53m (2kg), 57.11m (1.75kg), 65.94(1.5kg), 57.25 (1kg)
Shot: 15.19m (6kg), 16.60m (5kg)
To watch the NBN Television item on Benn Harradine and Ben Fitzgerald Click Here
David Tarbotton and Ron Bendall for Athletics NSW
Image Ben Fitzgerald (courtesy of David Tarbotton)