The Auckland Track Challenge has lost some of its star power with injuries to Jacko Gill (wrist) and top Australian Damien Birkinhead (groin) forcing them out of Thursday's meeting at Douglas Track and Field in Waitakere.

Gill is frustrated about not being able to compete in front of his home crowd, but won't risk the injury ahead of the World Indoor Championships in the US in less than four weeks.

Kiwi powerhouse Tom Walsh has recovered from a recent hip injury and will be competing however, his first outing since September last year. Walsh's immediate focus is on the World Indoor Championships before he starts his build-up to the Rio 2016 Olympics. He'll be up against Australian number two Matt Cowie.

Reigning Olympic champion Valerie Adams will contest her first shot put competition in Auckland for three years and while claiming to be at 90%, will want to make a statement ahead of the World Indoor Championships in Portland in March. She'll be aiming a fourth world indoor title to add to those won in 2008, 2012 and 2014.


The meeting starting at 6.30pm will feature several key match-ups including recent national pole vault record breakers on both sides of the Tasman.

Eliza McCartney from New Zealand and Alana Boyd will face off in the pole vault with two times Commonwealth champion Boyd having the edge with a 4.77m Australian record against Halberg winner McCartney's 4.65 NZ record. But anything can happen in a pole vault competition and the 19 year old Aucklander will be going for her second ever win over Boyd.

The men's javelin has become a feature event with the addition of 2014 Commonwealth medallist Hamish Peacock. With three recent competitions over 80m, the Australian is the current world leader in the event but will strike 15 times NZ champion Stuart Farquhar and young apprentice Ben Langton-Burnell on their home turf, both striving for Rio standards.

World Universities 800m champion Angie Petty takes on two of Australia's best middle distance athletes in Brittany McGowan and Selma Kajan. The New Zealand champion went close to making the 800m final at the Beijing World Champs in 2015 and already has several qualifying performances for Rio 2016. She'll be looking to continue her recent unbeaten streak in Australasia.

The SOS Rehydrate men's 1500m features four times NZ champion Hamish Carson, the newest member of the NZ sub four minute mile club Eric Speakman and young middle distance find James Preston taking on Australian Craig Huffer, owner of the fastest personal best in the field.

Australian Dani Samuels won the World Championships discus in 2009 and will provide a benchmark for Kiwi discus divas Te Rina Keenan and Siositina Hakeai who both competed against Samuels at last year's World Championships but are yet to hit qualifying standards for Rio 2016. The addition of Commonwealth medallist Jade Lally from Great Britain makes it the strongest event on the programme.

The Les Mills men's discus pits NZ champion Marshall Hall against young Australian Matt Denny. World Junior champs medallist Denny has a best three metres further than the Southlander, but Hall will want to get as close as he can to Denny.
The men's 400m promises to be an excellent contest with a raft of top Kiwi talent including NZ champion Tama Toki, top ranked Andrew Whyte and breakthrough "blade runner" Liam Malone, who recently ran a fast 48.28, qualifying for the Rio 2016 Paralympics.

Joseph Millar headlines the MakoXcell 100m with a quick clocking of 10.33 in Canberra on Saturday, the fastest time by a New Zealander for three years. Millar is zeroing in on the Rio qualifying time for the 200m.
The Auckland Track Challenge at Douglas Track & Field in Waitakere gets under way at 6.30pm.