Athletics: Harradine home to prepare for final shot at Commonwealth Games glory

PREPARATION: Retiring discus thrower Benn Harradine at home in the Hunter ahead of next month's Commonwealth Games. Picture: Josh Callinan
PREPARATION: Retiring discus thrower Benn Harradine at home in the Hunter ahead of next month's Commonwealth Games. Picture: Josh Callinan

There’s the usual coffee stop, a host of familiar faces and even his original massage guru.

It’s familiar territory for Benn Harradine, as the retiring 35-year-old prepares to go “full circle” and launch his final international campaign from home in the Hunter. 

Sweden-based Harradine, a regular on Australian athletics teams for two decades, bids farewell to discus competition at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games next month.

But these last few weeks will be spent living at his parents new place in Valentine, training out of Glendale, and generally making the most of what the greater Newcastle region has to offer.     

“It’s nice to come back to where it all started,” Harradine told the Newcastle Herald. “It gives me a chance to reflect on my career, what I’ve done and where I’ve travelled.

“But I’m just super grateful that I’ve got this opportunity to go one more round in the green and gold, base myself in Newy and have some fun.

“Newcastle is a place I know. I grew up here, I’ve got family and friends here, local haunts, massage therapists I’ve used throughout my whole career on and off.  It’s a good formula for me.

“I go into the Commonwealth Games happy and whatever happens up there is really a bonus.”

Based on results this year, Harradine will enter his fourth Commonwealth Games as a genuine medal chance.

The 2010 Delhi champion, who was fourth in Glasgow four years ago and eighth on debut in Melbourne in 2006, sits behind only Jamaican pair Fedrick Dacres (69.83 metres) and Traves Smikle (67.72m) as well as countryman Matthew Denny (64.03m). 

But it was the nature, rather than his 63.56m second-placed distance, of last month’s performance at the national championships and selection trials that fills Harradine with more confidence after qualifying with his sixth-and-final attempt.

“I don’t really have any great expectations, but I’m confident of sticking to my process,” he said. “Really focus on what I can control in order to throw as far as possible.

“If I can do that, I know I can be competitive. Whether that’s medals or top eight, it’s hard to say.

“I’m confident I’ve got the ability to throw far when it matters and I proved that to myself at nationals.”  

The Australian record holder (68.20m in 2013), who started at the Macquarie Shores Little Athletics Club, was unhappy with his showing in Rio and chose to push on so he could “leave the sport on my own terms”.  

He was also partially spurred-on by critical comments from then national track and field coach Craig Hilliard. Harradine was among a host of high-profile athletes that Hilliard suggested had under achieved.

“It is frustrating when some of those athletes, you would call them the perennial offenders, whatever you like, that is where it is at,” Hilliard said. “You can’t deny them the opportunity though, they have reached what are tough qualifying standards.”

The stinging appraisal didn’t sit well with Harradine, who threw 60.85m and missed the final. 

“I wasn’t super impressed with that,” the five-time World Championships representative said. “It’s certainly been something I reflected on and probably, I guess, hurt me a little bit. But I’m over it now and we use it every day.” 

The Eleebana-raised athlete, still coached by father Ken, contests the preliminary discus round at Carrara Stadium on April 12. The final is the following night. 

The three-time Olympian has ruled out a crack at Tokyo 2020, but is keen to experience future Games from another point of view.     

“I’ve been to the Olympics on one side of the fence, but I really want to get there from a leadership or coaching perspective as well,” Harradine said.

“It’s just a bug. Once you’re involved in high-level sport you never want to leave. So the ability to help lead an athlete or a team at an Olympics and see them perform would be the ultimate goal.”