Track stars descend on Melbourne for Maurie Plant Meet tonight

The fastest man in the world last year, and some of Australia's Olympic finalists will be lighting up the track at Albert Park tonight for an athletics meet unlike any other in Australia

On a Thursday night in Melbourne, some of the biggest stars in Australian and world athletics will go head to head in a meet unlike any other seen in Australia for years.

The Maurie Plant Meet, in memory of the late Maurie Plant, who was a key figure in Australian athletics in the lead-up to the Sydney Olympics, will bring together the fastest man in Australia and the fastest man in the world last year as one of the headline battles, along with a host of other stars.

Fred Kerley, who won the 2022 Men's 100m World Championships, is racing tonight and will go up against Rohan Browning, the mulleted speed sensation from Sydney.

Browning spoke ahead of the meet about his excitement for the race.

"I have been feeling really good, I have been training really well and I’ll be looking at definitely running into those ten -ohs and hopefully even a bit quicker," Browning said.

"It definitely just turns up the intensity. It is so exciting to run against a class athlete like Fred, obviously, he's the world champ in the 100 metres. I am  really looking forward to it."

Browning and Kerley will not be going head to head in their typical event, instead adding in a bend, and racing over 200m, as Browning steps up to the longer distance for the first time in the elite circles.

Kerley is one of the few men to have run under 10 seconds in the 100m, under 20 seconds in the 200m and under 44 seconds in the 400m, putting him as the clear favourite for his duel against Browning.

Despite that, Browning holds no fear, despite his inexperience at the distance.

"For me in the 200 I am so inexperienced at the event that I am not thinking with any limits. I don't think there is any result that would surprise me for where I am right now.

"I think it is going to be the best situation to try and run a quick time and I am looking to run low 20s. If I could run 20.20, 20.30, I think that would be a good starting point."

Browning isn't the only headline Australian to be competing at the Maurie Plant Meet. Genevieve Gregson is returning to elite competition after Achilles injuries and pregnancy and is excited to be returning to the bright lights.

"It’s not just my first track race since [the birth of son] Archer, it's also since Tokyo [Olympics] so it’s been quite a long spell for me but I honestly feel like I haven't left. I am so excited, racing really brings out the best in me, so it is good to get going again," Gregson said.

"It’s a bit scary and a little bit exciting having that sort of calibre in Melbourne on home soil is really exciting for athletics in general for Australia.

"For me that's what I need to be doing, I had a lot of time off and I think getting into competitions where there is a lot of depth is what I need, it keeps me hungry. Although I might be at the back it just puts more fire in the belly.

"I want to be back on a world stage again so this is giving me a little more insight on where I wanna be soon."

Gregson heads into the event with mixed feelings about her expected results, but that won't stop the nerves being back racing.

"I do have high expectations of myself all the time and I have raced a few times on the road and cross country since I have been back and I am always a little bit down on my performance.

"But I think to be out here pain free injury free, you know I've got a baby on the sideline, there is a lot to be proud of, so I just want to go out there and want to be able to walk away from the track and feel like I have built momentum for whatever is next and as long as I am thereabouts in the field I think that’ll be easy to achieve."

Inside the track, one of the biggest stars of the field events is also competing, in Nicola Olyslagers (nee McDermott). Olyslagers has made an early return to competition this year, hoping for a strong performance at the Maurie Plant Meet.

"I am feeling great, I never usually start my season in January, it is usually February but I was just itching to get out there," Olyslagers explained.

"1.98 was a great start and a good confidence booster too that all of the work I have been doing, you never know - it is like a birthday cake, I don't know what I am going to get myself into.

"I am just putting all the right stuff in and hoping that it turns out.

"I’ve come out of the last competition feeling good and excited. I haven’t competed in Melbourne I think for eight years so I am getting used to the surface but I'm in shape and I’m enjoying it and I’m excited, especially with the crowd here it could lift me to new heights."

The Maurie Plant Meet follows a week after the highlights of the World Cross Country Championships in Bathurst, where Australia won a bronze medal in the mixed 4x2km relay.

Stars like Stewart McSweyn and Jessica Hull will be hoping to carry strong form through the early part of the season.