General Footy Writing: I love tipping on radio but I want to beat Crackers

By Josh Barnstable

Friday is one of the most enjoyable days of the week, perhaps the best day to many people. This may be because work or school has finished and they get a whole two days off to do whatever they want.

The reason I like Fridays are because it’s the end of the school week and because the footy is starting for another weekend. I can’t help but feel like it’s Christmas when its 5 o’clock on a Friday evening and I’m enjoying a nice Chicken Parma, knowing that a blockbuster match is due to come on the TV quite soon but, in my opinion, quite late.

Well there’s now another element. On 15 May, after a text to the ABC Radio about a footy issue, something I do quite often, the mobile rang. It was the ABC. They wanted me to go on their program every Friday afternoon at 4.40pm to talk to Peter ‘Crackers’ Keenan, North Melbourne legend, and talk about my tips with him. How could I say no? Sure I was nervous as all hell and probably looked like I wasn’t very enthused, but inside I was counting down the days until what I would like to call the start of a long career of radio commentary, starting from 22 May.

As I sat in the computer chair with a page of notes typed up on the computer, I waited on the line as Kathy Bedford, the host, and Crackers talked all the usual footy before introducing me. I was shocked. They pronounced my name right. I was also shocked that I was on the radio and all of regional Victoria could hear any mistake I made. Thankfully there were no mistakes, save for a few stumbles, but nothing major. I even tipped 7 winners. Ripper, one more than Crackers.

The next week was again full of nervous energy but once again the nerves floated away after a minute on air. I couldn’t remember how much I tipped that week, I think I got 6. All I know is that I was still ahead of Crackers.

Round 11 was a let-down. I picked Brisbane to beat Carlton. It’s something I regretted, with Fevola getting over his blues and Fevola’s Blues getting over the Lions. I also made a bold prediction to Crackers: Jack Watts would play like a star in game one and Melbourne would win. Well Watts’ had eight touches or so, kicked a behind and Collingwood won by … how much? 11 goals? I can’t remember. Now it’s starting to turn pear-shaped. After also tipping Sydney to beat Hawthorn, Cracker’s has grabbed the lead from me.

Round 12a was a disaster. With the phone out of order and dodgy reception at home, how was I to give my tips? Go to the next best phone it seems. Off we went into town to my Nana’s house and we hijacked her phone for half an hour and she was glad for her favourite grandson to have a cuppa with her while she talked about her Navy Blues. As the phone rang she pinged out of the room so I wouldn’t be distracted, something I cringed at, as her poor old ankle isn’t what it used to be. Somehow she convinced me that Carlton would beat St Kilda that night and I was actually trying to convince myself that it would happen. As it turned out it did not come to fruition. The Saturday night games were no-brainers but on Sunday, both Crackers and I picked Hawthorn and I once again went with North over Adelaide. So that sees just 2 tips so far from 5 games for the first week of the damned split round.

Now to Round 12b. A young boy (that’s me!), trying to forget about a hard day’s work at school which included 3 movies and a whole 3 periods playing Stick Cricket on the computers and all I wanted to do was have a chat with Crackers. Not this week though. A stand-in host was talking with him and didn’t know about my tipping. Also the producer got busy and forgot to call. They called ten minutes earlier to make sure I was ready but didn’t call back. Even Crackers was asking where I was. Thankfully I got a frantic call eventually; 5 minutes after Crackers had left, apologising profusely for forgetting. So I gave my tips for the 3 games and scored 3, picking Essendon, Collingwood and Geelong. I don’t think much of Australia would have had trouble with picking those games, though.

So after a weekend with my sister full of drinking, partying and mucking around (well, maybe not …), I catch the dreaded flu. So a week’s quarantine it is for me, according to Mum and according to every muscle in my body. I am stuffed. I can’t move and if I stand up too long, I fear I’ll fall over. I can’t talk without coughing; in fact I can’t talk at all really. So that makes me worry about the radio. Thankfully I’m on the improve by Thursday and by Friday, my voice is back in full throttle with the occasional cough outburst. A few cough lollies before 4:40 should see me through 5 minutes.

On I go and Crackers picks John Longmire to be North’s new coach. I agree with him. I also pick Essendon for the match against Carlton, something that I’m beginning to regret. Other differences are in the North Melbourne and Bulldogs clash. Sure I would pick the Doggies if this was any other match, but I’m attending it, it’s Darren Crocker’s first game as coach and Liam Anthony is proving to be as good as fellow blond sensation Jack Ziebell. Those two games really mean something, not just for the teams but for me. They need to win for me to stay in touch with Crackers, who I am starting to think is copying me, which is why I’m taking a few wild bets. Ha ha!

I look forward to next week already and to the rest of the season, to giving my tips and opinions on the rest of the year’s games and issues. It’s nice to be able to do that with a footy legend instead of some mates from the Picola league mates who call themselves legends. I’ve even gained a small audience every Friday in the library at school, full of mates wanting to know the inside goss on some of the coaches, players and my ideas on the upcoming games. Some even try to give me advice: “Pick Melbourne, Pick Melbourne, Jurrah had a flying debut, which will lift them.” “Yeah, no way,” is my response. “Maybe if Melbourne were playing a team of under-11s,” is another one.

But back to the point, hopefully these radio gigs will get me a spot on Triple M one day alongside my mate from school. We both pretend to be James Brayshaw and Brian Taylor calling the footy, me being Brayshaw. We commentate on many things. Whether it be the swimming at school sports day, the basketball at lunch, the high intensity games of downball or the school footy. We’ve even commentated on a game of AFL off the Playstation — and I bet even Jimmy and Brian would be envious of our performance.


  1. Good to hear that there is someone out there like me!
    I am also a teenager that aspires to become an AFL commentator, I also call sporting events for my school and I am in the running for a work experience job at SEN.
    Is the radio program that you talk with only avaliable in the rural areas?

  2. I wouldn’t have a clue Damo. It’s broadcasted in Bendigo and we get it in the Shepparton area and maybe more but I don’t know. I got the gig after I sent in a few texts to the host about footy matters and after putting my age at the end of each message, she grew to know who I was by message and thought I had a proper opinion on the game and one day in Bendigo, Mum and Dad ran into the host while she was doing a live broadcast and Mum told her that she was my Mum and the host said she wanted to get me on the radio ASAP for them and it started from there.

  3. Good role models for you blokes, from what I hear of footy commentary, would be Gerard Whateley (ABC), Dennis Cometti (Channel 7) and Tim Lane (Channel 10), I reckon.

Leave a Comment