Country Footy & Radio Can Mix

I didn’t know what to feel. Excited? Nervous? Comprehensive? Regret, even? I wouldn’t know for a while, so I blocked it out of my head. I had a game of footy to play, against Katamatite, the Tigers, Sam Wright’s home town. I spotted his dad first as I walked to the changerooms, donning a North Melbourne cap, keeping his long flowing grey hair in place. I had a bit of a kick on the ground at half time of the U/14’s. My quad, which was badly strained last week, felt good, and I couldn’t wait to play. Katamatite were also touched up last weekend, so they were coming into the game with hardly any momentum away from home.

15 minutes into the first quarter, and my dreams were coming true. Waaia hadn’t let the Tigers past the centre line, the ball was spending majority of time in the forward half, where I was playing. I received a free kick, 40m out on the boundary line. I looked inboard. Teammates were manned up, the goals were open, the wind was blowing my way. I had no idea what to do. What felt like 30 seconds of looking around frantically, I had supporters from behind the fence telling me to kick it, teammates screaming for me to pop it up in the air, and my mind telling me to forget it and just run down the clock and force a boundary throw-in. I kicked these type of goals all the time at training, but the wind was really bothering me, so I just kicked it long to the goalsquare. It was punched through for a behind, and I immediately regretted my decision. Still, we led at quarter time, which is an achievement in its own.

Three goals conceded later, and my hopes of an upset victory had all but vanished. Kicking into a 4-5 goal breeze, I dreaded the sound of the umpire’s whistle as I was tackled when not in possession of the pill. “Maybe I could make the distance” I thought to myself as I grabbed the footy. Turning around, the goals seemed 100m away. The wind picked up, and again I was forced into making a tough choice. Teammates were leading into space, but were quickly accounted for. I had the goal umpire, Dad, pointing where to kick it so I would allow for the wind, but the distance was too much. I threw it onto my boot and watched it spiral away and land 20m out from goal, where it was cleared. No score.

The game went on and eventually the siren ended a fairly even match, considering Waaia were missing a couple of their best players. 0.5.5 to 7.9.51 was the final score. I left the field, got changed quickly, and left. My next destination, with Dad, was Tatura, for the start of the Goulburn Valley Football Season. And my debut as the boundary rider for OneFm.

Driving down the highway to Shepparton, I heard my name mentioned a few times by the commentators. I knew I was going to be late, which put a bit of extra pressure on my shoulders. After finally finding the oval, we got in (I got in for free, Dad didn’t). I found the commentators box, where a microphone and a headset were thrust into my hands, and I was sent out into the middle of the oval. Now, I was feeling nervous, comprehensive and regretful. Was I ready for this? Why am I doing this? Why did I choose to do this? I got a few weird looks from spectators, umpires and players. Sure, I had the Onefm shirt on, the big-ass microphone and the uncomfortable headset resting on my head, I was just a teenager to them. The Tatura Bulldogs were hosting the Shepparton United Demons, and as I looked on at the coin toss, I braced myself for my first on-air experience as a footy broadcaster. Now, i’ve never been to the Tatura oval, ever, let alone watch them play, so you can judge me however you want:

‘Josh, who won the toss?’

“Shepp United did”

‘Which way will they be kicking? Will they be with the wind?’

“They will be kicking this way, but the wind is going that way”

‘Right, you do realise the people at home can’t see which way you are pointing? Anyway, what does the ground feel like?’

“It feels quite grassy”

‘Thank you Josh’

Not the best start (this is me retelling the story now, not me talking on-air) as I sat on the seats next to the United bench. They wore a horrible Melbourne jumper which was dominated by sponsors, while Tatura wore the Bulldogs’ colours. Asked for a tip by the commentators, I chose Tatura, purely because I liked their jumper better. They sniggered on-air at me, before I realised, after looking it up in the footy magazine, that it was basically a rematch of the best team of last year (United) against one of the struggler’s of 2010 (Tatura). I could see why they laughed at me, United dominated the opening quarter but failed to capitalise, kicking 2.5 going into red-time. They exploded into some red-hot form though, booting three quick goals and it was a very one-sided game as quarter time rolled by. I ventured over to the United huddle, not really concentrating on anything, until I heard my name called through the headset, asking what the coach was saying. How I managed to come up with a load of crap is still beyond me, but I really hope the newspapers don’t rely on me for quotes of the quarter-time address by the United coach.

The second quarter saw Tatura kick a few early goals, but still remained in arrears at half time. I was asked who I thought were the better players, so I just picked out the only player I really knew on the ground, Stephen Scott (former Waaia champion). I was then asked who were the better players for Tatura.

“I don’t think they’ve played well enough to start declaring who their better players are”

Smooth. Dad found me a team sheet floating on the ground, so I finally started to put some names to some numbers. Tatura began the second half in fine form, kicking into the wind but still managing a couple of goals. United undid all that good work, however, getting those majors back in the final few minutes of the quarter. With the aid of the team sheet, I was finally able to give a decent account of the quarter.

“Tatura played really well that quarter, despite kicking into the wind they really took the ascendancy. Cameron Trewin has been a focal point, and his goal from 50m out on the boundary was magnificent. Lee Warnett has played a typical Brent Harvey-game, burrowing deep under the packs and providing plenty of run, and i’m sticking with my ‘outrageous’ tip of Tatura running over the top of United with the wind in the last”

I settled into the concrete block, my seat for the past half hour, and watched in eagerness as the final quarter started. Tatura were 16 points behind, but in a flash they were within a goal. I was starting to sound like a genius, I tipped this! United fought back, getting the lead back out to a couple of goals, and Warnett succumbed to bad calf cramp right in front of me. Tatura hit the front with a couple of goals from the lightly-built young Milne up forward, before United was gifted a 50m penalty which brought them to the goalsquare to tie the scores. The commentators in my ear were going crazy, and even I was getting excited. I heard that there was only a minute left, but it wasn’t enough time for either team. The piercing sound of the siren ended an epic battle, with both teams locked level, United 10.17.77 to Tatura 12.5.77.

I gave my three votes on the game, not that they mattered much anyway, and gave my headset and microphone back to the commentary team. I was finally free to leave the ground, leaving all that pressure behind me. But it was a good learning curve, and it was great to see such a good game of footy. But even when you escape the AFL for a day, you still encounter those frustrating draws.

About Josh Barnstable

21 year old North Melbourne supporter from country Victoria. Currently living in Melbourne studying a Bachelor of Sports Media. Dreams of becoming a sports journalist and broadcaster.


  1. John Butler says

    Josh, good to see you following on the grand tradition of Dipper, Watson, Underwood and co.

    And learning a very important media lesson- if in doubt, make it up. :)

  2. Jake 'Cobba' Stevens says

    Sounds like fun Josh. Keep it up! Hope Waaia have a better game next week :)

  3. Thanks guys.

    Also, note the word ‘comprehensive’ in this report, I did mean apprehensive! My mind was fuzzled after yesterday, not to mention writing this at 1:30 in the morning.

  4. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rocket says

    Great to hear Tat match it with one of those mongrel Shepp teams – shame they couldn’t pull of an upset…

    I listen to One-FM whenever Rochy is playing – might have to wait until Easter Saturday when they play the Murray Bombers in Echuca.

    Love listening to Gunna Ryan – he was a real gunna as a footballer for Tat back in the 70s.

    Look forward to your boundary reports.


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