Harms on footy commentators

John Harms measures the current crop of footy commentators according to the Sid Waddell scale. Check out his article from the Age, and return to leave your comment.


About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au. He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst four. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. Quarters is to commentary as Chris Mathews was to bowling in cricket. frequently wide of the mark.

  2. Tom Harley is just happy to be there.

  3. Good commentators are hard to find. I actually liked Rex Hunt’s commentary when he first started out. It was fresh and funny, but unfortunately he began to believe his own publicity. I think a lot of commentators are doing the wrong sports. Bruce is an excellent horse race caller and superb at the Olympics but I’m not a huge fan of his footy work. It doesn’t seem to come as naturally to him.

    Love Agnew on the ABC over summer.

    Brian Taylor sounds bored all the time. Don’t like that style.

  4. Good line about Whately – why does he suppose that anyone cares about his tedious (self righteous) opinions.

  5. Some might love or be able to tolerate the incessant hype and need to pretend that every game or round is ‘the most important ever’, but I’ve found it increasingly tedious and off putting. Do the commentators and the media establishment fear that people will actually walk away from the game if people are not constantly reminded it’s ‘the best in game in the world’? Try as I might, I can’t find the romance in the hyper-insularity that other seem to do. If a particular side is ordinary, or worse, a there’s a game that entirely meaningless in the great scheme of a season, isn’t it ok to be honest about that? If a team is ten goals down and kicks a couple in a row against the obvious run of play, is it necessary for Bruce McAvaney to tell us that ‘there’s still a chance’?

  6. do we need commentary on the TV at all? crowd noise and on field noise would do me.

  7. harsh call on Gerard methinks Dave.I like his take on things

  8. Dave Nadel says

    The key factor to calling the footy is that the commentator has to remember that the footy is the entertainment. The commentator is there to describe the game, not to be the chief clown. Humorous comments are great when they enhance the description, they are boring, distracting and obtrusive when the commentator thinks he is the entertainment. Which is why I avoid Rex Hunt and try to avoid the ABC’s Peter Walsh. Most of the MMM commentators also suffer from delusions of self importance. I don’t mind knowledgeable comments like those of Gerard Whately and some of the Victorian ABC commentators.

  9. Andrew Fithall says

    Similar to you Dave (#8)! Add to that my distaste for anything uttered by Robert Walls. His method is to try and make every one of his pronouncements sound as if it is the most important thing the viewer is likely to hear that day, if not ever. The faux gravity is excruciating.

  10. Tony Robb says

    Your article got a mention on Sports 927 in Canberra this morning. I think youve been too kind. The general sense of over playing the moment seems to permiate the comments here and is rightfully scorned. We have picture boys and we can tell if something is good or bad. You missed as few as well; Tim Watson, Richo et al. Why are they needed at all as they are just holding a microphone and contributing little to the understanding of the game other that telling us who is on the bench or who is in the hands of the trainers. Which we can see with PICTURES. Glen Jackovich takes to cake. He takes baracking to a new level. Whatley should listen to one of his race calls to get a bit of an idea how annoying hsi commentary is. Paul Roos wil be a great asset to on the couch as Sheehan and Healy are appalling, ditto “Robbo” who looks and sounds like a pig and is so factually incorrect is borders on lible and slander.
    But as you point out John be careful who you upset in the bubble which is Melbourne football.

  11. now a citizen of the eastern seaboard and living in Sydney I crave footy news in many forms – commentators I am very surprised that no one mentioned Malcolm Blight? I am aware he is special comments but his absolute love for the game is so obvious when he talks, for the players for the whole enchilada, Blighty is football (to paraphrase 3AW). Wheatley is very forthright and unbiased, Walls is a little over the top but thinks hard about the game and I’m said to say that while harmsy likes Dwayne R I find his voice a little boring.
    So Bruce McA is passe these days and the Ten team needs some improvement, some of their after the game guys are brilliant, sadly that is at 1am in Sydney.
    Go the Dee’s

  12. Richard Jones says

    BOYS, it’s not easing calling our brand of footy, especially at AFL level. I did it for 3 years for the National Indigenous Radio Service, then the dedicated network for the BrisVegas Lions.

    #4: Dave. You are spot on. If Whateley drags out one more closing syllable — i.e. “It’s a goallllll !!!” — I swear I’ll toss the radio on the deck.

    #7: David B. Good luck to you if you wish to continue with Gerard. Self-importance, you have a figurehead, a benchmark.

    #9: I don’t mind Wallsy. Love his take on the various ‘midgets’ scatted around the clubs. Stevie Milne f’r instance.
    We bigger blokes know that it’s our turn to swing a game in the last, desperate moments of a tight match when we call still mark in a pack overhead, and the ‘midgets’ have run out of puff.

  13. johnharms says

    Swarter5, I especially like how Blighty is intuitive and instictive and analyses the game on the impressions he is forming from watchig it, not from analysis of the hard-ball gets and inside-50s etc. I agree: he is terrific to listen to. He is also speculative and in no need to prove himself as a career-analyst. Hence, his self-deprecatiion is also endearing. I don’t claim to know him well at all- although I have spent some time in his company (an interview with him, and a lunch or two) – but he is very much as he appears on the telly. Re Dwayne Russell I reckon he has good knowledge across all sports, an outsider’s perspective, and the ability to play th einsider as well. Funny, I have never noticed the voice element, to which you allude.

  14. Harmsy – you are spot on with the self-deprecation comment, no bullshit, loves the game, does not suffer fools gladly is another cliche that I think Blighty may adhere to, he was an awesome footballer, very successful coach and clearly in my view brings all of that to the TV without the “I’m full of myself” attitude. Sigh, wish he had of played for the Redlegs!

  15. johnharms says

    SWarter5, Loved his coaching. Loved his post-GF comments about his players. Especially Andrew mcleod after that second GF v North playing injured and delivering one of the most creative half hour bursts of all time – the third quarter. I reckon Blight understands joy. And he saw no need to contain it. Just a pity he couldn’t snag us a flag at the Cats.

  16. John Butler says

    #8 AF, if you’re going to expel faux gravity, then political discourse in this country will grind to a halt. It’s important goddammit!

  17. Harmsy – I was at those Cat fiasco’s and as much as I love Blighty I think he was out-coached by more desperate – win at all costs men – where MB may not have coached to hurt and maim, others may have. Geelong was a team of superstars, no doubt but the prime movers were diffused by the winning teams of that era. One of my enduring memories of Blight was when the messiah returned to Melbourne in the early 80’s, MB was at full forward and Barass shifted R Flower to full back, if my memory serves me correctly, Blight had 7 by the 10 minute mark of the 2nd quarter and the magnificent Robbie Flower was moved off him. Blight played BIG!

  18. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Gem of an article Harmsy. Great to see you back in the AGE.

    I have become a fan of Matt Granland at SEN. I like the way he flows with the emotion, while being informed. He is a real fans’ commentator who generally captures the play beautifully and doesn’t ask inane questions.

    Cometti is almost becoming a parody of himself, which is a shame as he still has the gift…if only he wasn’t so conscious of it!

    Gerard Whately improves as a commentator every year, but I think he sometimes tries to play the elder statesman role, which does not befit him yet, when it comes to giving his opinions.

    BT and Tim Lane are a great combination who are developing a rapport at 3AW and will get better with time. Met Tim Lane last night at James Gilchrist’s book launch. A real gentleman, and so well informed.

  19. Wall’s shtick is to pretend everything he says is important:

    Quarters: “A brilliant goal by Judd. Robert?”

    Walls: “Yes. A good goal.”

    We know what you’re up to, old timer.

    If you reckon commentary is vanilla now, just remember how bad it was in the 1990s.

  20. David Downer says

    An elegant precis of “the village” JTH.

    Agree wholeheartedly with AF (#9) and the Walls “profound statement”.

    Wallsy appears to be the self-annointed oval-ball Moses, standing atop of Mt.Sinai, tablets in hand, shouting down the ten commandments of football – which tend to change of course from quarter-to-quarter or week-to-week. And with each R.Walls “Thou shalt not…”, footy becomes a lot more serious than it was ever intended to be.

    Also agree with PM (#5), the overblown hype for every single game treats the viewers like absolute fools, and reveals that many of these blokes are on the cliche auto-pilot.


  21. Lest we forget it was Malcolm Blight who allowed Yeates to run through Brereton in one final where “he had some history with Dermie”.

    While it was a great game, can’t help but think it was more motivating than unsettling for the Hawks.

    RL commentators are the kings of self-important un necessary hype merchants. If ever hear Phil Gould talking the TV goes on mute…

  22. For TV, less talk would be a start. They need to recognise when to just shut up. Let the pictures do the talking.

    Case in point; the end of the Freo-Cats game round 3 last year, BT says, just before full time “just listen to the crowd when this siren goes” and then proceeds to shout over the top of the crowd when the siren sounds.

    I actually like the ABC Adelaide commentary team. Their call of the Rd 22 2002 Port/Brisbane game I still remember for it’s wonderful rhythm and sense of excitement.

  23. Andrew Fithall says

    I am really enjoying Mark Riccuito as a special comments man. I am not sure of the value of what he has to say; it is just that every time he talks, I think I am listening to CW Stoneking. If you are unfamiliar with CW’s work, an example, from his 2009 album, can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jgncwm9cMio. He sounds like he is from the 1920s deep south of the US. In fact, he lives in Footscray.

  24. Swarter5 says

    Gus you are correct and I did recall that and I also thought he had learned from it in his Geelong days. I note the absolute genius of football writing, Martin Flanagan is in agreement with me.
    Malcolm Blight your a legend!

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