Crio’s Question: Who is the best sports commentator?

Thanks to Peter Flynn for this instalment. It’s been inspired by Britain’s  Daily Telegraph, whose readers have voted Murray Walker as “the greatest sports commentator of all time”.
Read the link and then join our discussion.
I’ll kick off with some of my favourites:
* Tim Lane: great at any sport. A monument to his talent was his effort in managing to make Stacky sound interesting throughout tedious Shield draws.
* Smokey Dawson: the definitive radio voice. He loved every thrust and parry of a game.
* Bill Collins: the race-calling doyen.
* Whispering Ted Lowe: in a niche market.
* Aggers and Boycs: Aggers for his ball-by-ball description and general excellence, and Boycs for his commentary and carry-on between deliveries.
Nominate your favourite sports commentators.



    sorry, i just love the way he gives his spin on our great game! :)
    he’s not that bad at netball commentating as well. But overall i prefer his view on footy.

  2. Damian Watson says

    I might be showing a biot of Carlton bias but Ian Roberston from an entertainment perspective was great to listen to.

    Peter Landy was great too throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, aside from always changing the colour of his hair he was a great caller of the footy, tennis and boxing.

  3. From an AFL point of view, the great Dennis Cometti and Brian Taylor would have to be the best in the business, but none can match Bruce McAvaney’s ‘Delicious’ remark when referring to Cyril Rioli.

    For Cricket, Richie Benaud is the king.

  4. in that case Dennis Commeti would be the best food critic! lmaoo

  5. Peter Flynn says

    Thanks Crio,

    Can’t believe Murray Walker won the day in the UK. The worst commentators ever could be the follow-up question.

    You have ball-by-ball commentators and pundits. I won’t split the two.

    My Top 5 are:

    (1) Michael Williamson
    Gave us pieces of magic commentary that are fully ensconced in the footy vernacular.

    (2) Bill Collins
    The Accurate One. The ’86 Cox Plate call is a classic.

    (3) Richie Benaud
    Doyen. Incredible cricket knowledge and a very dry sense of humour. Knows the power of silence.

    (4) Tim Lane
    Versatile. Footy, cricket and athletics. Call of Andrew Lloyd winning the 5000 metres in Auckland was gripping.

    (5) Martin Tyler
    Just knows the right thing to say at the right time.

    Honourable mentions to Jack Styring, Smokey Dawson, Ron Casey, Jack Newton, Dennis Cometti, John McEnroe, Anthony Hudson, Mark Maclure, Barry Davies, Aggers and G Whateley.

  6. Kerry O’Keeffe
    Tim Lane
    Dennis Cometti
    Martin Tyler

  7. John Butler says

    Hard to argue with many of the above.

    Although, Damien, you have to be too young to really remember Peter Landy, so I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt (in point of fact).

  8. Steve Healy says

    MY favourites are:

    Dennis Commeti, Brian Taylor, James Brayshaw, Tim Lane, Anthony Hudson, Gerard Whaetley, Drew Morphett, Dwayne Russell, and David “Swan” Mackay.

    And nothing beats Richie Benaud when it comes to cricket.

  9. Damian Watson says

    I still hear him on some of my old video tapes and DVD’s and I always thought he was a great caller, although I suppose he only changed his hair colour once.

    Clinton Grybas had the ability to call many sports on 3AW and Foxtel. Bill Lawry is exciting to listen to.

  10. Peter Flynn says


    Nice call re Clinton Grybas.

  11. Agree re Martin Tyler.
    Against all my better judgement, i have to credit BIG DAZZA EASTLAKE for weightlifting!
    Harsha Bhogle is outstanding.
    And though critics will hound, Chappelli is about the only commentator who budges my mute on Ch9. How good was he when he did the radio stint during the early Ashes games this year?

  12. John Butler says

    Damian (sorry about the e)

    I’ll second PF on Clint Grybas.

    Another occurred to me, Phil Liggett at the cycling (not a sport I’d be that into otherwise).

    Crio, I’ll back you up on Chappelli and Harsha, but can’t go at Big Dazza (not without earplugs anyway).

  13. Phil Dimitriadis says

    I’ve got a soft spot for Ian Chappell. I like his anecdotes and the fact that he calls it as he sees it.

    Henry Blofeld-“my dear old thing” lightens up proceedings. Michael Holding should make relaxation CDs. He’d make a fortune, his tones are so soothing.

    In footy Matt Granland from SEN is growing on me and Gerard Whately is getting better each year. Graham ‘Smokey’Dawson was underrated, he was excellent.

  14. Tongue in cheek re Dazza…10 mins every 4 years was fun.
    John Motson on the “world game”

  15. Agree with Crio and Phil regarding Chappelli. Not sure why he is so polarising. Intelligent, thoughtful an unafraid to speak his mind. And he does tell a reasonable story too.

    I think as time passes, people will start adding one SK Warne to their list. Though his thought process appears to be driven from between his legs when he’s not involved in cricket, he is a great thinker and analyst of the game. Could’ve been a great Aussie captain. Like Ian Chappell, is attacking and prepared to innovate when the situation calls for it.

    Footy: Cometti is great. A lot of his stuff is rehearsed but he’s also capable of great “off-the-cuff” one-liners.

    I used to think that Peter Daicos wasn’t a bad student of the game but 3AW and Ten both dumped him, so there must’ve been something I saw that others didn’t – or I just have no idea.

    Tim Lane very good in both media. Can’t agree with you about Robbo, though Damian!

    The quietly-spoken Doug Heywood on ABC TV was good at embellishing the on-screen pictures.

    And how can we forget “Clelo” (Ian Cleland) on “Jack High”? Great stuff!

  16. Peter Flynn says

    I forgot to add Greg Miles, EJ Whitten, Jack Dyer and Peter Donegan.

    EJ calling footy on 3GL (K Rock) and on World Championship Wrestling.
    ‘Bulldog Brower has Jimmy O’Dea in the SLEEEEPAAAAARRRR!!’

    P Donegan can (and does) call anything.

    Jack was very entertaining with his kitbag of sayings.

    Gigs, what about Doug Heywood doing tennis on the radio?
    ‘What a wonderful backhand from Rosewall.’

  17. Timmy Watson became Doug’s love child. He was great on The Winners.

  18. Who was it who used the call the boxing on World Of Sport – was it Bill Collins?

    I used to love those calls, sitting on the loungeroom eating a ham steak with egg. Was probably about 8 or 10 at the time. Lionel Rose and Fammo were killing them.

  19. Sorry – not Bill Collins – I meant Bill Casey !!

  20. Peter Flynn says


    Ron Casey produced those legendary calls of Rose and Fammo.

    Some of the finest sporting commentary ever.

  21. RON Casey – how could I forget that? Thanks Flynnie. They were great calls. I’m sure he made most of it up but it was great theatre.

  22. Peter Flynn says


    The Casey commentary is so good that it is was recently added to the Sounds of Australia registry of the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra (along with Helen Reddy and the vegemite jingle).

  23. Rocket Rod Gillett says

    My favourite canditate for the best caller ever – the definitive ABC voice of Ken Daikin – TV & radio – before they went all blokey – difficult to differentiate these days… no nicknames of fellow callers back then!

    Greg Pickhaver aka HG Nelson told me that they based Rampaging Roy Slaven’s character on ABC radio pithy experts commentator Doug Bigelow

    Best country caller EVER – 3BO’s Dick “I’ll-call-the-board-at-the-QEO” Turner.

    Honourable mention to 2WG’s Allan Hull (father of ABC Brisbane’s Quentin Hull) – I especially recall waking up with monumental hang-overs on Sunday morning to hear Hullie proclaim it “another beautiful day in Wagga as I look out over the Wollundry Lagoon” to preview that day’s South West league matches…

  24. What do you all think of Kelli Underwood’s commentating of AFL on channel 10?

  25. Steve Healy says

    Not good enough.

  26. Too biased

  27. Steve Healy says

    yeah too biased and she runs out of breath too easily, not good for a commentator.

  28. No opinion Josh. Really haven’t heard her and would rather this particular forum as a discussion on favourites… I could go on forever on those I don’t (infact Ch 9 have probably just signed off from a list of them!- Richie included.).

  29. I listened to Kelli on the tv and I believe there is no greater crime than calling a TV Game as if you’re playing to a radio audience. I have eyes!

  30. Rocket Rod Gillett says

    Bill Casey was the editor of the Sydney Sun afternoon newspaper for many years.

    Sydney used to have two afternoon dailies: the Sun & the Mirror – alas no more. They just went, unlike in Melbourne where it became the Herald-Sun.

  31. Richard E. Jones says

    ROCKET: the Melb. Herald lasted as an arvo daily until very early 90s, I recall. TV has killed afternoon newspapers across the English-speaking universe.
    We’re just back from 2 months in the US and the UK and even in London which produces no less than 14 national dailies Mon-Fri., the Evening Standard is now given away as a freebie.
    On the topic of electronic media callers, how about my old central Victorian radio and TV mate, Shane Healy. We called many an 80s Bendy F.L. grannie on TV8 (now Southern Cross TV), a few of them with Rob Gaylard in the booth. And from the Dick Turner box at the QEO we gargled through many a BFL home and away clash.
    Heals is now gen. manager at 3AW but still grabs the mike from time to time at the G and Docklands.

    Of those from the ‘time before’ Dick Mason and ‘Smooth’ Booth on ABC radio were handy, altho’ neither holds a candle to Tim Lane. I grew up in the 50s listening to Monday evening fight nights on 3DB (I think) with Ron Casey. My Dad was a chalkie and I would sit on his study floor as he sat at his desk pretending to do paperwork !
    Rocket — rememeber Noel Bailey ? He could do footy, cricket and track and field a la Tim Lane ?

  32. All good calls. But what makes a commentary team ‘special’ in my view is the special comments man. For mine, the best (of late at least) include Leigh Matthews, Nathan Buckley, Wayne Carey (yes, Wayne Carey) and Dermott Brereton (I don’t care what you say, I like his in-depth analysis of the mechanics of a piece of play layered with subtle thoughts on how he would have crunched that guy). And on radio, do yourself a favour and listen to the boys from NIRS (and special comments from Gilbert McAdam, Ronnie Burns and co). In my first few years living in Brisbane in the late 1990s, they were my only genuine link to footballing civilisation, even if they are bias towards the Lions.

  33. Peter Flynn says


    Nice call.

    I watch the Marngrook Footy Show and really enjoy the banter between McAdam, Burns and the gang.

  34. Richard E. Jones says

    GLAD you like the NIRS commentary, Sasha.
    I did 3 full years with them from 1999-2001. My favorite special comments man to work with, particularly at the MCG, was Glenn James: the ex-umpy.
    The reason the NIRS got the gig calling Lions’ games was becoz back in the 90s Brissie did NOT have a dedicated station or network specifically oriented to calling their games.
    Two colleagues of mine, Barry Denner and Ronnie Rogers, did a couple of demo tapes for the Brisbane hierarchy. Their player identification, one-on-one banter and knowledge of the game was so good they were hired virtually straightaway. The NIRS took up just Brissie games initially, expanding to other weekend AFL games the next season and exponentially to a complete weekend of footy, starting with the Friday night fixtures.
    The Nat. Indigenous Radio Service goes into little tiny communities in the Top End, remote W.A. and the N.T. that even the ABC’s vast network doesn’t reach.
    We used to reckon in the early Noughties that on grand final day the NIRS coverage would reach 400,000-500,000 people.
    Bruce Eva (Beaver) who writes the back page Pssst in each Sunday Age sport liftout is a current caller with Denner, Rogers, Andrew “Undies” Underwood and Co.

  35. Rocket Rod Gillett says

    Hi Sasha,

    No mention of special comments man Mark “Jargon Jaw” Browning on NIRS Brisbane…reckon he’s been on-air since late last century – discovered I think by our mutual colleague Richard Jones who put the commentary team together for NRIS when they first started out – they sounded like a country footy broadcast team – good, raw, honest stuff. I think they were all Bendigo blokes. It was always good to listen to the punters calling in after the game driving back down to the Gold Coast from another Lions triumph at the Gabba! Roaring Days!!

  36. Rocket Rod Gillett says


  37. Rod, Peter and Richard,

    What I like about NIRS, which you have reinforced is that all of the callers are quality. And importantly, they haven’t lost any of their initial earthiness and honesty. And yes, Glenn James, icing on the cake – one of football’s enduring characters.



  38. Richard E. Jones says

    AND the Bendigo connection stretched into the NIRS itself, Rocket and Sasha.
    In the mid-90s Gerry Pyne transferred from Bendy FM station, 89.5 Triple C, to Brisbane in his employment. He’d been Triple C manager.
    A former Telecom (before the Telstra brand was coined) cables, plugs and landlines whiz, he became gen. manager of the NIRS.
    So when the possibility of calling BrisVegas games was floated he reached back into central Victoria to nail some matchday callers.
    I was just one of the team. Barry Denner deserves special recognition as the foundation co-ordinator of the calling team, a position he held until reasonably recently.
    Meanwhile, Pyne and his Brissie-based team travelled thousands and thousands of klicks around outback Oz establishing little NIRS stations and dishes in the most remote locations imaginable.

    I remember one Bris v Geelong game at Skilled in late 2001. That was in the days when Vossy, Akker, Lappin, Hart and so on would flog we sorry Cats. Chappy was just starting out for Geelong.
    Happily that trend has been well and truly reversed and we belt them nowadays.
    Anyway, Jargon Jaw Browning was in the box with us.
    Around three-quarter time he started fretting about missing his flight back to Sydney. Fortunately Barry Denner had secured a couple of freeby tix for me and so one son-in-law and eldest daughter were in the outer crowd.
    Jargon Jaw managed to squeeze into their little 90s Laser and history records the Great Man made it to Tulla in time !

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