Jones files: High times on the back of a truck

By Richard Jones
WHILE broadcasting sports events in Papua New Guinea was never dull, radio work hasn’t been without its moments here in central Victoria.
How many metropolitan radio hacks would hoist themselves into the back of ute parked against a country footy ground’s fence? Not to mention a dairy cattle livestock truck positioned adjacent to the oval’s perimeter?
When the Bendigo 89.5-FM team headed off to Lockington, in dairy country north of Bendigo, the livestock truck was always the go. Of course it had to be close to the clubrooms so that a power lead could be run over to the truck. No electricity, no broadcast.
A furniture truck was the go at Kyneton. Naturally, “Monk” Plowman’s excellent range of furniture had to be mentioned at least twice a quarter to keep our benefactor happy.
Out at Newbridge in the Loddon Valley league, we needed an extra long, long lead. The nearest telephone line was located in a farmer’s house a fair distance from the Riverside Oval. The radio call would go down the phone line to the studio and thence out to the eager listeners.
Some a truck was also used in the Loddon Valley league, but these were hay- and grain-carting vehicles — much cleaner and not so sticky on the soles of the shoes as the dairy cows’ trucks.
Luckily at Lockington, the phone line and the power source were close by — both in the footy club secretary’s office.
Of course, there’s always a smartie or three in the crowd at country footy venues. One pouring wet day (Oh, that we could regain some of those) in the late 1980s the team drove out to Serpentine to broadcast the Loddon Valley Football League grand final. Shane Healy, later of 3AW fame, and I were perched in a truck, naturally, and got stuck into the broadcast. There were mini-lakes on two half-forward flanks.
Suddenly our roving mike guy “Flash” Reid bobbed up beside the truck tray. Water was pouring off his peaked cap.
“Some b*^#>*d has pulled our power connection out,” he wailed.
Not wanting to get soaked through, we sent our special-comments man down off the truck to assist Flash to make some running repairs. It turned out that a huge wad of masking tape had been ripped off a double adaptor. In the pouring rain it must have taken some application to unravel because extra tape had been used to serve as insulation.
Finally, we eventually got back on air just in time to describe a huge biffo between the Newbridge and Bridgewater ruckmen. Healy told me I’d better describe the fight because of all the boxing calls I’d done during my PNG days.
Another time in the late ‘90s, out at Heathcote District Football League club Colbinabbin, power to the whole ground was cut. The Heathcote  District grand final was in progress.
The radio team was perched precariously in a metal-scaffolding structure when the ground producer told us we were off-air. Eventually after some frantic mobile calls to the weekend duty Telstra tech. we discovered it wasn’t a telecommunications problem at all.
The producer raced over to the clubrooms where the kiosk was sited. We now had not power. There was no power at the kiosk, either. Eventually league officials discovered that a transformer on a power pole many metres off the ground had been broken. The pole was on the dirt track leading into the ground.
Again, quite some work must have gone into disrupting the day’s activities.

We’ve been blessed with some interesting characters, a few of them lacking in personal savvy. Naive might be the best description.
As the anchorman of a broadcast at the ground in Golden Square, Bendigo, one day I asked our roving mike man — not Flash Reid, on this occasion — to check the power outlets. We had to be sure all the equipment was plugged in.
“Is that lead over there plugged in and working, mate?” I asked.
“Just a minute, I’ll check,” was the reply.
Sure enough he checked. Broadcasters and timekeepers shared the same box in those days at the Square. Our mike man reached around one of the timekeepers and pressed a switch.
“Baaaaarrrrp,” went the siren. Our mike man had accidentally called an abrupt end to the twos match. I sent him downstairs to frantically wave his arms to reassure the players and the umpires that there was, indeed, still time left to play.
Another time we were in the car halfway to Maryborough to call a game. The same boundary rider was in the car.
“Can we pull up a minute, please,” was the request. “I have to make a phone call.”
We stopped and he climbed out. A few minutes went by as the rest of us waited patiently in the car. A crestfallen colleague climbed back in.
“Couldn’t get on,” he wailed. Turns out our colleague had been trying to get a call through to the talkback segment on Coodabeen Champions on ABC radio.
No matter what the rest of us told him, our man was convinced the Coodabeens’ talkback bizzo was kosher. Not Covey or Billy Baxter providing the voices.
I reckon he still believes it’s real—that dinky-di footy fans ring in.
Ah, well. It’s been an interesting ride.
Broadcasting from the press box at Bendigo’s Queen Elizabeth Oval, or even from the grandstand at Maryborough’s Princes Park, buried deep in among the Magpie faithful, has been a breeze.
If you don’t think it is, try sitting for an afternoon in a ute or cattle truck on the plains of northern Victoria in July, with southerlies gusting in and the stench of cattle urine wafting upwards. It’s then that you hope the footy scores are close.

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