Missing Red Symons

It was just the other morning when I said: “I miss him”.  And with that short statement, I uttered the three words which I never believed would fall from my lips. I miss Red. I actually miss Red Symons. And this week, the week of the AFLW grand final, I will miss him just a little more.


As someone who has listened in the mornings to 774 since it was known as 3LO, this year has proven to be wrenchingly difficult. Sure, everyone’s time in the media is finite, and Red is no spring chicken – but what were ABC Melbourne’s management thinking when they plonked Sami Shah and Jacinta Parsons behind the breakfast radio desk? Sami’s accent has seen him cop plenty of flack, but that does not bother me – in fact, it is a refreshing point of difference. It is his seeming desperation to elicit a laugh from every conversation (due maybe to his background as a stand-up comedian?), which infuriates me so. And Jacinta? We hardly know you.


That breakfast shift is now as homogenous and bland as a bowl of no-name cereal. Had I wanted this plain-packaged female-male banter, I would have scrolled up and down the FM dial years ago. There are plenty there to choose from.


It is true that for many years I tolerated more so than loved Red. He grated on me, and it was an endurance rather than an endearment. Then I the noticed the yawning gulf he left behind during an enforced hiatus following his unfortunate head injury. That was when I first began hankering for his idiosyncrasies: his habit of talking over the top of guests and interviewees; his desperation to let all his listeners know that he was more clever than them; the annoying chuckle at things which were not really at all humorous; the little ditties he composed because, well, he could. And of course there was the amusement of his daily baiting of Jon Faine at 7:40am.


To me, Red’s most endearing trait was his total lack of interest, and knowledge of, Australian football. Unlike some radio presenters, who feign fanaticism in an attempt to fit in, Red did not even pretend to comprehend the game. As someone with a high-profile radio gig in Melbourne, that surely took some chutzpah. At the beginning of each season, Red would take on board suggestions from listeners and others as to whom he should barrack for. He would then announce his team for the year, and playfully inquire every Monday how his team had fared. It was an annual charade, which allowed him to both be a part of the footy discussion and yet still removed from the emotion of it all.


In this regard, I have felt a little like Red Symons during the first two seasons of AFL Women’s footy. With my club not involved in AFLW, I hitched my temporary allegiance to the Bulldogs’ wagon, mainly in deference to my Dogs-supporting wife. I will be barracking hard for them come the grand final this weekend.


But next year when the Kangaroos enter the competition, I will not have to maintain a Red Symons-like pretense any longer. My team will not be missing from the competition any longer.


Although I reckon there is no doubt that I will still be missing him in the mornings, and maybe pondering which AFLW team he would have been supporting for the benefit of his listeners.


About Darren Dawson

Always North.


  1. Do I miss Red? Nuh. Couldn’t bear the insufferable prick.

  2. Sounds like Red was a successor to Keith Dunstan’s AFL (Anti Football League – logo was a brick shaped footy). From memory they liked footy but were against the all consuming claptrap that surrounded it.
    Ahead of their time? Might be time to revive it.

  3. I would love Sami Shah on my radio every morning on ABC Perth but we have Peter F*****G Bell who is as wooden as one of the benches in the three tier stand at Subi.

    Even though I loathed him as a presenter more often than not I somehow miss Eoin Cameron (RIP). The way he was orbited by sycophants and his cult of personality was unbearable but it was unique and switched between him and another station. He also loathed football but was in a tipping comp of all things on air with Ross Solly.

  4. Luke Reynolds says

    Smokie, I have been a 3LO/774/ABC Melbourne listener since my early teens. Happy to out myself as a big Red Symons fan ever since he first filled in on breakfast then took the gig full time. Always gave me a laugh, always found him interesting. You are right when you say he liked to let the listeners know how clever he was. He regularly did. And backed it up. His show was a mixture of intelligence, wit and sarcasm. His baiting of Jon Faine was always great radio.

    I tried to give Sami and Jacinta a go. Their program is truly horrible. Like you, I have no problems with, and welcome, Sami’s accent. Yet for a ‘comedian’ I get no laughs at all from listening to him. Tries way too hard. Faine makes me laugh more.

    After being an ABC breakfast listener for as long as I can remember, it’s Spotify now when I get to work around 7am each day.

  5. When I married Luke (Reynolds) it was unspoken that I too would embrace the early morning alarm of Red on 774. I’m glad I did, I always felt as though I learnt something from his show. Using the generic phone alarm to wake us up now just isn’t quite the same. At least we get up on time!

  6. Groucho Marx never liked to go on a holiday when he had his quiz show. Asked why, he said they might find someone better. The connection to Red? Well Lynne Haultain hosted beakfast, Red filled in for her, and when it was time to have her back, the audience didn’t want her. True story. Red was good but I have listened to 3aw breakfast for the best part of 28 years, blimey, and I’m not changing in a hurry.

  7. Interesting and timely piece Smoke – and one which could easily be followed up with general approach of ABC leaders at the moment.

    As for Red and football – I reckon he is intrigued by it. He can be spotted in the Brunswick St Oval Fitzroy crowd from time to time. Always friendly in the Red way. A fine jouster.

    I think he is brilliant. Across so many things. Genuinely interested in (some) callers and hoping they might prompt him to think about something in a new/fresh/different way.

    Big picture. Starts with the notion of his own smallness and the nature of chance. And aware of human folly and the pervasiveness of self-interest.

    And not a prisoner of identity politics.

  8. Punxsa-and-the-rest-of-it Pete says

    About 10 years ago, I wrote fan mail to Red. It read:

    ‘Red, I never thought I’d say this – actually the truth is, I’d never given this any thought at all; what with you being a bloke, and me being a bloke, and me not thinking about blokes at all – but I just can’t tell you how much I love your show.

    Red wrote back ‘Thanks ducky.’


    Love Red and am devastated he’s lost to morning radio. Losing Red at breakfast is like losing Kellogg’s

  9. G’day Smokie,
    Ours isn’t a house of morning radio, as a rule. Over the years I’ve heard bits & pieces of Red’s show. And I enjoyed his “otherness.”
    I always felt he excelled at taking the devil’s advocate position, challenging and being challenged. For the sake of the ideas, or the principle, or the intellectual argument. Never for hostility. I enjoy that parry and thrust and respect the intellect in being able to perform it live-to-radio.
    I do wonder whether Red’s health is alright after sustaining a closed head injury. Every acquired brain injury is different.

    As for Sami – I don’t know him.
    Jacinta was a 3RRR breakfaster and then presented other 3RRR shows. If we listen to any morning radio at our place, it’s 3RRR. Jacinta lives locally to us & is also in our school community (volunteering with stalls, etc).
    I haven’t heard their show.

  10. Thanks for your comments, all.
    Trucker – Red certainly is polarising.
    Peter B – yes, whatever happened to the Anti Football League?
    Dennis – I don’t know who most of those people are!
    Luke – I didn’t warm to him initially, but now sorely miss Red.
    Mrs R – there are some things that are non-negotiable in marriages
    PB – Lynne Haultain would certainly agree with Groucho
    JTH – an interesting thing about Red is that he simply didn’t care if you liked or disagreed with him, he just continued on his merry way
    Pete – he has left a gaping hole, that’s for sure. Great story.
    e.r. – from my angle, Sami tends to drown out Jacinta.

  11. Alistair Watson says

    Ms Lynne Haultain was on maternity leave when she was supplanted by Mr Symons. Not everyone would agree with that. Mr Symons is on the old side. He had to go sometime, when his fans would have had to adjust and his critics would have celebrated.



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