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Famed Australian athletics coach and honorary life member of Forres Highland Games, Neville Sillitoe, passes away


By Garry McCartney

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Neville (centre left) being presented with the Rosebowl in 2013 in recognition of his chieftain duties by his friend and games secretary, Mike Scott.
Neville (centre left) being presented with the Rosebowl in 2013 in recognition of his chieftain duties by his friend and games secretary, Mike Scott.

AN internationally-famous member of the Forres Highland Games (FHG) committee has passed away, aged 96.

One of Australia’s greatest athletics coaches, Neville Sillitoe, attended the event for more than three decades, with numerous athletes from his former employer Caulfield Grammar School of Victoria, South East Australia.

FHG secretary Mike Scott was informed that the much-loved and respected sprint coach died on June 20.

He said: “Neville was last at the games in 2018.

“He was a great friend to me.

“I last spoke to him on May 20 this year.

“Though in pretty poor health, he past on his best wishes to all at FHG.”

Neville started his athletics career in the early 1940s, competing with Coburg Amateur Athletics Club.

After hanging up his own spikes with personal bests of 10.1 seconds (over 100yards), 22.7 (220yds) and 50.5 (440yds), he turned to coaching sprinters which he continued almost to the end of his long life.

Perhaps Neville’s most noted success was with runner Peter Norman’s silver medal at the 1968 Mexico Olympics.

However, Neville also coached Commonwealth 880 yards gold medallist, Noel Clough.

Between 1961 and 1983, five Sillitoe athletes – Gary Holdsworth, Peter Norman, Greg Lewis, Colin McQueen and Bruce Frayne – won 16 of 23 national 200 metres titles contested.

Holdsworth, Lewis, D’Arcy and James won nine of the national 100 metres crowns during the same era – which also saw Neville serve as a team coach for the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane.

Neville himself discovered Richard James and coached him from humble beginnings to become the Australian 100 metres champion.

Neville and a young Aussie team at Forres Highland Games.
Neville and a young Aussie team at Forres Highland Games.

Neville was known for encouraging young athletes living in country areas to develop athletic skills through home visits accompanied by his champion athletes.

This created opportunities over more than 25 years through annual overseas six week tours where they competed in England and Scotland.

Students experienced competition, travel, being part of a team and the responsibilities of independence.

Neville was recognised with life membership of Athletics Victoria in 2001, Athletics Australia in 2007 and on the Queen’s honours List with the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2018.

Mike said: “Caulfield Grammar School were very successful in all FHG events. Neville was coach at the school from 1983 to 2014.

“He was made a FHG honorary life member in 2010 and chieftain 2013.”

2013 Games chieftain, Neville Sillitoe.
2013 Games chieftain, Neville Sillitoe.


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