Crio’s Q? Can commentators cross over?

The sports caller’s voice echoed down the hallway. The tone and pace indicated it was the racing channel – as is often my wont.

Turns out it was Matt Hill calling footy. And making a really good fist of it.

His words run together in the habit of SkyChannel but the diction is clear and the effect positive.

I guess plenty of broadcasters have cut their teeth elsewhere or, more often, been seconded come Olympics/Commonwealth Games.

Bruce is the last one I recall making the transition from the racecourse to the footy box (Peter Donegan’s kind of done everything forever!).

I’m sure there have been plenty of others- did Rabbit Warren call the trots with Tappy way back when?

There’s, of course, no reason why a “play-by-play” shouldn’t seamlessly cross the codes.

I’m interested in the history of callers moving “expertise”, some hints on who might or might not succeed in making a switch, and some observations on what skills “work”.

For example, much was made of Richie’s successful silences during recent tributes.

It’s a rarity on our TV.

My theory is that our radio heritage has just been transported to TV with callers still assuming they have blind listeners (perhaps dumb also!). Richie, in addition to being a print journo, came through the British Television model. Hence his “let the pictures tell the story” methodology.

Maybe it is like a news service – some want the headlines and some goss whilst others itch for insight.

I used to reckon you’d listen to Bert if you hadn’t a bet and Bill if you had.

ABC footy if you cared, 3KZ if you didn’t.

Matt Hill’s made a risky leap and, I’m reckoning, doing well.

Comments please?



  1. Dennis Cometti started sports calling career with the ABC (after being a top 40 DJ) and did test cricket with Alan McGilvray and Lindsay Hasset for 13 years (there is a solid grounding for you). His calling of the swimming at the Olympics was also outstanding.
    The one and only George Grlusich also started with the ABC and called all sport, not just his foaming anti-Victorian footy rants. He infamously also did the Friday night trots at Gloucester Park (very colourful when he did his last on the odds on faves)! His Olympic and Commonwealth games boxing descriptions with Benny Pike were always entertaining.
    Ron Casey in the old Ch7 and 3DB days did everything. I remember listening to his call of the Lionel Rose and Fighting Harada world title fight in Tokyo.
    And Ray ‘Rabbits’ Warren was also a punt desperate like George and was Johnny Tapp’s understudy and called the Harold Park trots, before escaping to Rugby League.

  2. David Morrow also started out doing the Sydney races for the ABC after Geoff Mahoney retired (or was retired – ABC callers seem to outlive their use by date – anything less than a length margin was ‘leave it to the judge’). Back in the 60’s and 70’s you had Geoff Mahoney, Joe Brown and Alf Gard for the ABC. 5AD; 3DB and 2GB had Bert Day, Bill Collins and Des Hoysted. 5DN; 3UZ and 2KY had Ray Fewings/Ron Papps; Bert Bryant/John Russel and Johnny Tapp.
    David Morrow had an ill-fated TV stint with Channel 10 in one of their brief periods of largesse before running short of cash and sacking everyone (a regular occurrence in its history). David eventually got back to the ABC as a rugby league caller on the radio.

  3. cowshedend says

    Bruuuuuuce of course called the gallops
    PB Sundays listening on the ABC from Perth would always have George with “Umpires murdering West Coast, your comments Ken Cassellas!”
    Also Dermott Brereton, used to be a self opinionated pretentious painful flog, now he’s worse!

  4. At the ‘Bool
    Not sure Rick McIntosh, who has somehow become synonymous with here, will end up reading ABC News

  5. In a previous life I worked with Matt Hill at 2KY (now Sky Sports Radio). A professional in every sense of the word and I couldn’t be happier to hear him calling footy.

    If a person can accurately call 15 horses sprinting over 1,000m at Randwick or Rosehill in around 60 or so seconds, surely they’re equipped with the skills to call a game of AFL (or Rugby – Matt has been doing some Super Rugby work for Fox Sports also). I’d back Matt, Bruce, Dennis and Peter Donegan over some of the flogs that are placed behind a mic by mere virtue that ‘they played the game at the highest level.’

    Calling a race is about ACCURATELY describing the action, observing the runs (or not) coming through the field, understanding the tempo and generally ‘paining the picture for listeners’. Matt’s calls are a really nuanced ‘what is happening’ that most callers don’t bother with these days – distance from goal, whose forward line the ball is in, who’s controlling the play and so on, not just who kicked it to whom, who took the mark, who received the handball and his economy of words is also a real feature.

    Brenton Yates – as in the famous Jim Jacques laryngitis call at Globe Derby a few years back “ARRRGH YATESY, WHERE ARE YA?” – is Radio TAB’s man at Angle Park during the week and can be heard calling AFL on Triple M in South Australia as well.

  6. theJudge says

    Gerard Whateley has a go at everything – horses, footy, cricket, etc

  7. Peter Fuller says

    Tim Lane began in football, but adapted effectively to cricket and is very good on athletics. I also like McAvaney as an athletics commentator, even if his over-the-top enthusiasm is a bit hard to take.
    PB, I’m not sure if you recall Bill Collins calling swimming from an Olympics (probably 1970s). He was copping a bit of criticism for using a horse race caller’s technique; mischievously he exaggerated the effect in later calls. This was at a time when Channel 7 would use their own people rather than contract staff as much as possible.
    I agree with Crio, Collins was a rare instance of the promotional slogan being justified “The Accurate One”.

  8. Happens a fair bit in the US more than Australia. For example when Fox has the Super Bowl you’ll hear Joe Buck doing that a few months after the World Series (baseball calling reasonably different to American Football). When he was with the ABC and Seven you could hear Gordon Bray call the Union with aplomb then back up with the sailing or golf. You’d also see it a fair bit during the Olympics when callers have to do multiple sports on different days.

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