Crio’s Question: What sports buzz words or phrases annoy you?

By Chris Riordan

I don’t want to bag particular commentators, but I’m peeved at how a certain word or phrase can suddenly become commonplace in the sports world and then, soon afterwards, intensely annoying.

I’m not so much thinking of Bruce when he says “arches his back”, which is just a term he overuses, but expressions that enjoy common use despite the fact they make no sense.

At junior cricket this summer, that term has been “bowling in good areas”. Our deckchair jury is unanimous that it’s annoying, particularly when trotted out two balls in to a spell!

I bristle when scores are given with a “by” in between. This has long been a rugby flaw (ABC radio is especially guilty) and it’s now seeping in to FoxSports soccer and beyond.

“Manly have won by 15 points to 10.”

“Victory’s win was by 3 goals to 2.”

I’m sure others have sports words or phrases that annoy them intensely.


  1. I’d like to hear more from Bruce McAvaney and his delicious call.

  2. I’m completely over “leadership group”

  3. Phil Dimitriadis says

    “Protecting the brand”, “Sticking to our structures”, “Going forward”,”The head is sacrosanct”,”Forward of the ball”, “Behind the ball”, “Sticking Fat”, “A rare talent”, “Role Model”. WEASELLY Phrases Crio!

  4. John Butler says

    Could someone please tell me what the hell “early doors” is supposed to mean?

    Phil, you forgot to mention that if we’re all “sticking to our structures” we’re probably “following the process”. You need to do this because inevitably you’re against “quality opposition”, even if they haven’t won a game.

  5. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Thanks for pointing that out JB. I need to be more of “team player” who “sticks to the game plan”. There is no need to apply so much “frontal pressure” on me though!

  6. John Butler says

    I promise to leave off your “frontals”, presuming I can find them. They’re not mentioned in Gray’s Anatomy.

    Great question this one Crio.

    Immediately, the rich linguistic legacy bequeathed by modern coaching is all too obvious.

    I’m just off to check some “good areas” in the garden.

  7. I’ve just written a heading with the phrase “buzz word”.

    Does that qualify? It’s not limited to sport, but it’s an overused term. (Memo to self.)

    I still have no idea when the shift from shot “at” goal to shot “on” goal was made, and why.

    Bring back “ruck-rover”.

  8. Stephen Cooke says

    American terms used in Aussie Rules, especially Quarterback and franchise. “Luke Hodge playing that quarterback role,” “The new Western Sydney franchise”. Oooh, isn’t our little native game all grown up now.

  9. As Daff alluded to in his intro to this piece, “shot on goal” is probably the one that annoys me most. I prefer to take a shot AT goal.

    Also don’t like “he butters up” and “coughed it up”.

    When I first started listening to footy on the radio as a kid in the early 70s, one that used to make me laugh was (I think) Ian Major saying “he tries to grab the ball but he’s retarded”. Back then my only understanding of the word retarded was as a belittling phrase used by kids (not me of course!) describing those kids they considered mentally inferior.

    JB, I’m off for a walk down the “corridor of uncertainty”.

  10. Phil – “the head is sacrosanct” – magnificent.

    I hate when a player says he is “going forward” and “moving on” after some horrible off season incident. WTF does that mean?

    Also hate “playing down back or up front”, “shot on goal”, “going through the process”, “exspecially” (Tony Shaw), “Sektember” (Tony Shaw), “quarterback” in describing a versatile player, “pinch hitter” in describing a goal sneak, “bowling Irish” (degrades my heritage), “we’re working hard” (way over used), agree with Crio, I’m way over “leadership Group”, describing a team’s progress on the ladder by saying they’re “6 and 1” for example (6 wins, 1 loss), “absolutely” (inane and nonsensical), “working families” (WTF are they?), using the word “less” instead of “fewer”…………..I’ll think of some more !!

  11. Stephen Cooke says

    A few blokes watching the TV with the sound off this year by the looks of things.
    As far as new innovations go, how useless is the heart rate monitor on the cricket. Wow, Mitchell Johnson’s heart raced up to 170 bpm there. Wow. Beautifully followed by Ian Healy saying, I thought as much.

  12. I’m with you there, Stephen. Those heart rate readings are about as insightful as an “in-depth” investigative report on a commercial current affairs show.

  13. Stephen Cooke says

    And not nearly as entertaining

  14. Andrew Fithall says

    I dislike the “bouncedown”. I am yet to see it happen in a game. A ceiling would be required. When the ball hits the ground it bounces up.

  15. Nothing irks me more than the “fat side of the ground”. Ugggh

  16. There are also some tennis sayings that get to me every summer – “closed out the match” and “bundled out”.

  17. John Butler says

    But Gigs & Stephen,

    How else could we fit more gratuitous plugs for Gatorade in without stopping play to wheel the dirigible on?

    This is starting to sound like an episode of Grumpy Old Men. And a good thing too!

  18. I heard this a couple of times early last year

    “kicking to touch” during the call of AFL games!!!!!

    give me a break!

  19. JB,

    You’re right about the grumpy old men. Although I really do hate shots on goal, I think evolution of language is a part of life, and to rail against it is like trying to make everyone call each other Cobber.

    Some of these changes are actually good. Sweeper, borrowed from soccer, is the perfect description of the Guy McKenna-style half-back. Turnover, borrowed from American football, is the perfect word to denote loss of possession.

    I still miss ruck-rover, though.

  20. Richard E. Jones says

    THIS is more a grammatical thing than a buzz word thing.

    But how on earth can someone say, or write: “Carlton are going to be a much improved side this season.”

    Carlton is a club, a singular entity. Therefore the sentence should read: “Carlton IS going to be a much improved side this season.”

    Same goes for using the verb “to have”.
    Not “Carlton have wasted their opportunites.” Shouldn’t it be “Carton has wasted ITS opportunities.”

    Interested to hear other Knackers and their take on singular/plural entities.

    Oh, and “going forward” as used in political-speak. Not going into the footy half-forward or full-forward lines. But as in “our policies going forward.”

    Shouldn’t that be “our policies IN THE FUTURE !!” Even better: “our policies in future !!”

  21. Stephen Cooke says

    Getting into a world of pain trying to get sports journos to use correct grammar. And I think all Grumpy Old Men should vote Daff off the island for railing against the return of the term Cobber.

  22. My Dad disagrees Daff…bring back Follower!

  23. Dear Cobbers,

    I am entirely with the US and English approach when it comes to singulars and plurals insofar as sports teams (and rock bands) are concerned.

    I think it should be Carlton ARE crap, not Carlton IS crap, because that it is how we talk. It’s got nothing to do with grammar; clearly I’m going against the grammar. I’m invoking the “evolution of language” clause that I mentioned before.

    When I was young, older journalists (not necessarily you, Dickie) used to invoke some grammatical rule and say, “I was taught that as a cadet.”

    What sort of argument is that? The journalist was a cadet 30 years previously. Things change. I’m writing this on the internet, for example.

    If we’re going to say Carlton IS crap rather than Carlton ARE crap, we might as well call each other Cobber.

  24. Cobber Crio,

    You’re right. Ruck-rover was a rather nouveau (French words should be banned) term that first came into use when Barassi (Swiss-Italian names should be banned) made the position fashionable in the 1950s.

    Until then it was always follower.

    Ruck-rover only had a 30-year period of usage before it was finito (all Latin derivative words should be banned).

    I’ve changed my mind. Use of the term “ruck-rover” should be banned.

  25. John Butler says

    There used to be a band called Ruck Rover. Are they still going?

  26. JB,

    Correct! Before we ban ruck-rover, Almanacker Rob Clarkson has reminded us that he used to be in a band of that very name.

    Here’s the link:


    Were you also in Victor Head and the Alloy Motors? I remember their song in which the chorus consisted of one word, elongated in the manner of a footy crowd:


  27. Rob Clarkson says

    “Baaaaaalll” followed by “YES!” as I recall.

    It was a good song.

    No, Paul. I had nothing to do with them.


  28. If we’re all for bringing back ruck rover and cobber can we bring back the stab pass. The old man was teaching it to us just as our Under 11s coach was telling us not to use it. The drop kick hung in the game for a few more years though.

  29. What about when a player (probably one of the leadership group) has a shot on goal from the fat side of the ground but it goes narrow?

  30. Geelongflyer says

    I hate the constant use of “back-to-back”. Couldn’t someone just use “consecutive”.

    “On the pine” indicating someone on the bench also drives me nuts.

  31. Steve Healy says

    “he marks in the left full forward and checksides one through the goals” left full forward, ever heard of the forward pocket? Dennis uses this a bit, and checkside is a common term for South Australians

  32. Andrew Fithall says

    It irks me when a commentator criticises an umpire for calling a player kicking out for infringing only marginally over the line. As an occasional(unpaid – and often ineffectual) umpire, I welcomed the line as the only definitive (I am being very careful with my words because I think there are some grammar police watching) in the game. It was a line.If you went over the line, that was that!

    However, that brings me to a gripe about the rules. We have a boundary line, but then decide to use a plane as the boundary. But inconsistently. The boundary is a (curved) plane – the player went out but the ball stayed in. The goal line is a plane. However, the kick-out line is a line, and the kicker’s foot and the ball can go over the line as long as the planted foot remains behind the line. My suggestion: leave the goal line as a plane, or not – for later discussion maybe, but the boundary line should become just that – a line. If the ball touches the ground, or touches any object or person that is in any way touching the ground outside the boundary, then the ball is out. (This is the basketball rule and it is a much easier rule to officiate.)

  33. Steve Healy says

    I disagree Andrew, basketball and footy are different games and it would eliminate players trying to keep the ball in by sticking their arm out with the ball in their hand. Those bits of play are ones that make up footy

  34. Richard E. Jones says

    BACK onto the grammar police thing, Andrew. Is a player “laying on the ground” or “laying on top of the ball”. I think not.

    Chooks lay eggs. The player is actually “lying on top of the ball” just as we coach potatoes “lie on the couch” watching the action with Dennis Commentator and Brucie telling us what we’re seeing.

    You don’t say — or should NOT say — to the dog: “Go and lay down.” He is not a hen.
    The dog should be instructed, or implored to: “Go and lie down.”

    As with Daff’s erudition on “Carlton are playing today” it seems, regrettably, that the plain (and very serviceable) verb ‘to lie’ has been tossed out the window.
    It’s still there for telling a fib or a blatant untruth, but in the sense of taking a prostrate position on the deck or on the couch it seems it’s almost gone.

  35. Dave Nadel says

    I’m a bit late getting into this debate but..Comment 14 (Andrew Fithall) “Bouncedown” is either South Australian or Western Australian. It arrived with the AFL and is used for what we Victorians have always called a ball-up.

    Comment 18 (Tim Dixon) “Kicking to touch” seems to be mostly used for the play that commentators from 1965-1990 would refer to as a John Beckwith kick (or Johnny Beckwith would have loved that kick!) Having finally realised that no-one under 55 has seen John Beckwith play even commentators as old as Tim Lane, Rex Hunt and Drew Morphett had to find an alternative term … so they took it from another code of football. Of course.

    My modern term that I’m over is “breaking the lines” Commentators may not have noticed that we don’t play Aussie Rules on a grid, so what lines are they talking about?

  36. yeah, no.

  37. Surely that should be “yeah, nah”, Crio?

  38. yeah, absolutely

  39. Andrew Fithall says

    “The ball returns from whence it came.” Tautological.

  40. “You can grill them, you can fry them, you can curry them. But in the end, they’re still sausages.”

  41. “…. Manufactures a goal” really manufactures my rage.

  42. Dave Goodwin says

    Late entry for most annoying football commentary phrase – “… in the context of the game”. This now gets used by commentators in virtually every final quarter of every game, usually preceded by “That was a critical goal/moment/play in the …”. Cringeworthy. Especially as every single action takes place in the context of the game.

  43. Richard Naco says

    Fancy that: 42 comments in this thread, none posted by the younger brigade, and my pet peev has not been touched by the many erudite and articulate respondees that have preceded me thus far.

    And said personal peev, c/- Fox Sports News especially, is: “And Gary Ablet, he kicks the ball”, or “Then Geelong, they pulled another victory out of the jaws of defeat … ” (and no, said peev is definitely nothing to do with my references to the Pivotonians! ;) ).

    This perverse insertion of inane pronouns has thoroughly infected commentators of rugby league, and is slowly and insidiously contaminating the indigenous form of football commentary as well.

    This practice, it must be eradicated completely before it’s too late!!!

  44. Richard Naco says

    Oh and by the way: Bruce, Sandy, and any other members of the South Australian diaspora can’t possibly be anything but polished orators.

    The Athens of the South, the one antipodean colony which was not used as a convict resort, must by its very heritage and nature be the font of all articulatedness in this wide brown land.


  45. Steve Healy says

    Actually, Naco, comments 1,31,33 and 45 were all posted by this brigade

  46. “Fancy that: 42 comments in this thread, none posted by the younger brigade” Not far off, but Steve did comments 31 and 33.

    I especially agree with the “breaking the lines” one. There’s only 2 lines that actually cross the entire field, not like in rugby or gridiron, so it is a cringeworthy term.

  47. ^Steve beat me to it

    We generally tend to restrict our juvenile conversations to our own posts.

  48. Or Uncle Crio gets mad…

  49. Uncle crio hates Friday Night Blockbusters…not only do I prefer footy on Saturday or Sunday afternoon, but the whole hype to Friday night (delayed) annoys me. The rest of the weekend is not always anti-climactic.

  50. Friday night blockbusters don’t annoy me as much Sunday twilight games.

  51. I can watch a Sunday twilight game until the end!
    Also, they never pretend a Sunday match is MARQUEE…just some of the players!

  52. I don’t like the word blockbuster.

    So there.

  53. Andrew Fithall says

    In the evolution of language, “verse” is well on the way to becoming a legitimate verb.
    ” Who are we versing this week?”

  54. I miss Peter Landy’s comment when the score was tied “The score is 3 goals 2 behinds, each of two” I knew what he meant, but it made no sense!
    I blame David Parkin for the rise of all the fancy terminology (talls, shorts, corridor, fat side etc etc) – he was first to use it, I think as code to confuse the opposition – problem was it confused his own players! I remember speaking to a former player in Parkin’s era and he said he never understood anything Parkin said but was too scared to say anything about it!

    Re 32 – its a practical application of the rules that the kick off line is used as it’s difficult if not impossible for an umpire to see if the ball crosses the line in the kicking action (unless the player kicks a drop kick!), whereas around the boundary and on the goal line it’s easier to see if it crosses the plane.
    And while we are at with the kick off line – why goal ‘square’ when its a rectangle?? Was it actually a square in the old days?

  55. Dips, you beat me to it with the “absolutely”. It is my pet peeve.

    Not only is it overused, but it is used incorrectly. I love Triple M commentary, but every time I listen to the GF call, I want to punch Brian Taylor and Garry Lyon in the face when they start saying things like: “And Riewoldt has had the ABSOLUTE wind knocked out of him!” as oppposed to “Riewoldt has had the wind absolutely knocked out of him” or “Riewoldt has absolutely had the wind knocked out of him”(which still sound stupid, but are more grammatically correct).

  56. Andrew Walker says

    Enjoy the discussion. My pet hate from the commentators is “secondary bounce”. As I understand it every bounce gets play started whether at the start of quarters or during the quarters. Am anxious for the 2010 season to get started. As an avid Bulldog supporter feel we might have something to look forward to.

  57. Susie – absolutely. couldn’t agree more.

  58. Richard E. Jones says

    YOU might, Andrew.

    But hang on. L’il obnoxious Shane Crawford tipped the Doggies to win the 2010 flag in Sunday’s Currant Bun. Does that put the mozz on them?

    Not suprisingly Crawf thinks the Squawks will finish 3rd — a rise of a mere six spots from ’09 — while the Mighty Cats are tipped to slide to 5th.

    Don’t worry that not only are the Hoops 2 out of 3 in the September caper, but also the defending NAB Cup titleholders as well.

    Oh well, maybe the pre-season kick and giggle doesn’t count!

  59. Dips, Susie et al,

    I absolutely hate absolutely. I first noticed its rampant overuse in London in the early ’90s and became distressed when it came over here.


  60. Mark,

    Good point about the goalsquare. A trigonometric conundrum.

  61. Rob Clarkson says


    Used way too much.

    Nothing’s ‘full’ anymore. Not even train carriages.

  62. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Can’t believe we forgot “accountable”, “in and under”, “gives a contest” and “contested ball”. I also wonder how long it will take for the term “flash flooding” to enter Footy’s vernacular? What the hell does “flash” mean in this context?

  63. Andrew Fithall says

    A defender makes a mistake and then “pays the ultimate price”. I can think of a number of outcomes worse than having a goal kicked on me. And I reckon I there would be a few Columbian goal keepers who would concur.

  64. ^Andrew, Andres Escobar was a defender, not a goalie.

    For some reason the term “sharks” as in “Mitchell sharks the opposition hitout” annoys me. In footy, the term sharking refers to taking possession of a hitout from the opposing ruckman. The commentators should say “Mitchell sharks the hitout” instead, because if Mitchell is sharking the hitout, the hitout obviously came from the opposition, so using the words “sharks” and “opposition” together is redundant.

  65. – loose ball gets
    – hard ball gets

  66. No one has bettered Denis Cometi’s “He went into the pack optimistically, and came out misty optically.”

  67. Dips – That was an absolute pearler, I think Cometti had been waiting to use that one.

    Cricket has produced some entertaining commentary calls too, but my favourite one would be Brian Johnston’s “I can tell you all at home that the bowler’s Holding, the batsman’s Willey.”

  68. I hate “first goal in footy” for a player scoring his first goal in the AFL.

    Who do you reckon was the best ever ruck rover?

  69. Steve Healy says

    Les, its a one-horse race, Barrassi of course

  70. Two shockers: “Roll the dice” and “Gets the job done”.

    One that particularly gets up my goat (sic) is the “Football Club”. What happened to good old nicknames? No longer do club people say “The Dees”, now it’s “The Melbourne Football Club”. Interviewees recite relentlessly “The ____ Football Club” over and over and over and over and… ahem, in a single interview. I assume it’s a way for players and club staff to formalise the club’s name – dare I say “brand” the club – but it just ends up sounding stupid.

    There’s also “changing tact” instead of “changing tack” and “all-beat” instead of “albeit” and “all goes well” instead of “augurs well”

  71. Richard E. Jones says

    WERE you, or are you, a print media sub-editor Tony T ?

    That “all goes well” gaffe is a beauty. You’d reckon that journos would know the difference — I don’t know how many times I had to alter that one back to the correct “augurs well” on the newspaper proof copy.

  72. Brucie was a pioneer of the “all goes well” and also managed one night (calling trots if I recall) to have a driver at “sevens and eights”, obviously more dire than “sixes and sevens”.

  73. This one made me laugh:

    “I have no doubt the AFL will punish those who digress.”

    ~~ Mick McGuane, 927 Sport

  74. For some reason the use of “ball game” bugged me last season. “Five point ball game”, “back in the ball game”…

  75. Richard Jones says

    TONY T: Mickey McGuane had a memorable 3 years in the Bendy F.L., coaching Gisborne to 2 flags (2002-03) and runners-up to Sandhurst in 2004.

    One line I will never forget came from him at 3/4 time in a game. Three-quarter time as country and regional folks know is when supporters and punters get to crowd around the players’ huddle.

    “I want you to re-consider what I told you to consider at half-time,” he said, in a very animated performance.

    Having not heard the initial consideration, as a bemused listener I could only hope the players were able to make the adjustment.

    I have a feeling Mickey might be coaching somewhere in Daff’s beloved Essendon D.F.L. these days.

  76. Richard,

    Mickey M coaches Keilor (it’s on your left as you hit the outskirts of Melbourne, having driven down the Calder).

    He and Greenvale’s Super Macpherson (ex-Footscray) have a nice little coaching rivalry.

  77. In 2008, which I think was his first year coaching at Keilor, Keilor pinched the Premiership from Greenvale who had been unbackable favourites all year.

    Mickey’s performances at Burnie, Gisborne and Keilor should have made him a candidate for some of the coaching positions that have come up in recent years. For various reasons (not directly connected with football) no AFL club would risk appointing him. This is a shame because I think that Mick is probably the best coach of his generation (i.e played in the 90s) He is certainly the best coach never to have been given the opportunity to show his skills at the highest level!

  78. Peter Flynn says

    I’ve been in Darwin and hence I’m very late in catching up with the above gold.


    Your London comments re absolutely are spot on.

    In my London experience, I had punters nauseatingly combining absolutely with brill (short for brilliant).

    A swimmer ‘bringing it home’ and ‘at the end of the day’ drive me to distraction.

    Apologies if these have been brought up in previous comments.

    I used to love the term ‘utility’. I first met this term on Scanlan’s footycards. A number of utilities were captured either in the act of scooping the ball up off the ground or were exhibiting an exaggerated Hadyn Bunton Snr blind turn.

  79. Flynny,

    Utilities did no such thing. It was the half-forward or rover who scooped the ball off the ground or dodged a shadow.

    Utility was code for “not very good”. They stood there with the ball in one arm and their hands on their hips.

  80. Daff,

    Fair enough and thanks for correcting a faulty/lazy memory.

    I agree that utility was code for ordinary.

    Utility could also be code for hard to classify or unknown i.e. a new boy on the block.

    Some Richmond utility examples that I have found on the internet:

    Michael Roach (1978)
    John Pitura (1977)
    David Cloke (1977)
    Kevin Sheedy (1975/1976)
    Dick Clay (1974) (Full back/utility)

    Sadly, no members of this very small sample are doing what I wanted them to be doing.

  81. Flynnie – “utility”. Forgot all about that. What a great word. I agree with Daff, the utility was the fringe player. In modern speak a bloke like Tom Lonergan might be a utility.

    What did ruckmen do on the footy card? Probably stood there looking nonplussed like most big blokes do (very over rated are big blokes).

  82. Flynny,

    It’s outrageous that any of those players were called a utility. They were just very good in more than one position. Dick Clay was a superb wingman and later a superb full back, but never at the same time in his career.

    And those cards on your link have made a mockery of me. Most of the shots are head shots. The only players doing something are Emmett Dunne and Mark Lee, who are both marking.

    Plod Dunne was a back pocket and not a renowned high flyer. And General Lee couldn’t mark a scorecard.

  83. Rob Clarkson says

    Gee Paul.

    A whole bunch of Richmond players not doing anything?

    Doesn’t sound right.

  84. Lots of ruck-rovers in those days, Rob.

  85. “sensational” “awesome” “the journey” “set play” “core group”

  86. “Utility” resonates to those of us who played a bit and had “delusions of grandure” that we could make it…..

    is scott pendlebury a modern day utility? and a very good one at that?

  87. Daff,

    Yes, questionable classifications seem to be rather prevalent.

    Clay played in a few GF’s at full-back in the early 70’s. Is that right?

    I doubt that this happened but it would be very funny if some of the photo shoots were just pee-takes so that we would look back and shake our heads in amazement just as you have with Emmett Dummett and Lee.

    To add to your above examples, KB (74/75) is shown in very awkward and unnatural handball poses.

  88. KB handballing!

    It now seems clear that the boy having a laff.

  89. Andrew Fithall says

    Having endured my first pre-season game commentary, I was reminded of another saying that irks: unanswered goals. Commentators usually overstate the number. “Goals in a row” is more appropriate. 11 goals in a row is usually 10 unanswered goals and then one “answered”. In play, it may be 11 “unanswered” as the commentator states, but then reduces to 10, when the opposition scores.

    And for the correct use of the word “whence” (comment 39), I refer you to Page 29 of The Age A2 February 13 in a book review by 2009 Almanac launcher Anson Cameron.

  90. Andrew Fithall says

    It is only an alternate strip, if they wear it every second week. Otherwise it is an alternative strip.

  91. 86: Dan, a similar phrase I really like is “delusions of adequacy”, I think it was first used in relation to Simon Taylor.

  92. Sam Marcolin says

    One “buzz” I hate is the Vuvuzela

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