Maurie Plant’s contribution to regional and global athletics is unique – almost certainly never to be replicated by a single person. His legacy to Oceania and World Athletics will be felt for many years after his untimely passing in January 2020.
As early as the 1980s, Maurie was keen to find competition on the world circuit for Oceania athletes – and not simply those from Australia and New Zealand but also from our region’s smaller island federations.
Maurie wanted to bring global athletics to our region as often as possible – working initially with some professional promoters in the 1980s before becoming the lead promoter himself, particularly after the World Cup in Canberra in 1985 where he served as deputy mayor of the Athlete Village.
He understood global travel for athletes and organised a “warm-up” meet at Sydney Athletic Field at 9.00am the day after the team arrived. Few others thought it was a good idea, but at Maurie’s insistence it went ahead and re-wrote the top of the world lists in many events at the end of the 1985 season.
He put the same knowledge to good use in establishing the domestic scene in Australia, particularly after 1993 when Sydney was awarded the 2000 Olympics and Paralympics. Maurie made sure that the right internationals were encouraged to come to the circuit – those who would provide the best competition for the rapidly growing list of emerging Oceania stars. Working closely with the Oceania RDC, he also made sure that there were spots in every meet for Oceania athletes even if their performances might not yet justify a spot. Many careers flourished from these opportunities.
Maurie worked very effectively behind the scenes to bring WAS and similar events to Oceania most notably the 1996 World Juniors, the 2001 Goodwill Games and perhaps his pride and joy the 2001 IAAF Grand Prix Final. He was instrumental in organising many pre-Games camps and lead-up competitions before the 2000 Olympics and the 2006 and 2018 Commonwealth Games.
He was appointed as a member of the IAAF Grand Prix Commission and as an announcer at world youth championships and IAAF grand prix finals. His legendary spot at the entrance to the TV zone as athletes exited the arena must have terrified those keen to make a quick getaway – for they had no chance of making it past the very first stop. But it was always a chance for athletes from Oceania to stop, compose themselves and, if their performance allowed, to enjoy the moment.
Maurie was always prepared to share his vast knowledge and experience with others – mentoring many in myriad roles including James Templeton, now one of the globe’s leading Athlete Representatives and the emerging group of meet directors in Oceania.
Maurie Plant would be a most worthy recipient of the Oceania AA Merit Award.