The athletics track at East Doncaster’s Rieschieck’s Reserve was officially renamed The Tom Kelly Athletics Track to honour the life and contributions of the legendary coach at an emotional ceremony on Thursday 6 November.
The Mayor of The City of Manningham, Councillor Jim Grivokostopoulos, paid tribute to the late Mr Kelly as he unveiled a brass plaque that will take pride of place at the George Street venue. The Federal Member for Menzies Kevin Andrews MP, the State Member for the Northern Metropolitan Region Matthew Guy MLC, along with the CEO of the City of Manningham Joe Carbone and Mr Kelly’s four children were joined by more than 500 people on the night. Michael Kelly spoke of his father’s love for his family and lifelong dedication to the sport of athletics as he thanked the community and launched the Tom Kelly Development Scholarship to support young athletes and coaches.
Doncaster Athletic Club President Adrian Patti, who was one of the thousands of athletes mentored by Mr Kelly, thanked the Manningham City Council, the Club committee, Doncaster Little Athletics and the local community for their support and effort in turning the idea into reality. “The Doncaster Athletic Club, the City of Manningham and Doncaster Little Athletics have worked closely on this and we are so proud that the track will now bear Tom’s name,” Mr Patti said.
“He was not only a coach, but a mentor, father-figure, friend and long -time committee member. Tom gave so much of himself for so many. He will be forever remembered for the person he was and the incredible contributions he made to Australian athletics,” he said. The ceremony was followed by the running of Athletics Victoria’s 5,000m State Championships, an event that was always close to Mr Kelly’s heart. Athletics Victoria CEO Glenn Turnor spoke of Mr Kelly’s influence on generations of athletes and donated the race entry fees of $1,500 to the Scholarship fund.
The Doncaster Athletic Club hosted a gala dinner on Saturday 8 November in celebration of Mr Kelly’s life which was attended by more than 160 people and raised a further $2,500 for the fund that bears his name. Mr Kelly was an elite runner himself having been the first Australian to win an international marathon in 1961 while also running third to Ron Clarke in the 1963 Zatopek 10,000m, a race in which Clarke set a new world record for the distance. But it was as a coach where he really made his name, guiding countless athletes at every level of the sport, from numerous Olympians, Commonwealth Games and World Championship representatives to beginners in Little Athletics.
His legacy will live on at the Tom Kelly Athletics Track.