Talking about the Talkback

It was my old man that infected me with a love of the Geelong Football Club.
A childhood decade watching Gary Ablett Snr every weekend would probably conform most any young lad to the club.
The old man loved the Cats – he loved them until he could love them no more.
After a third Grand Final loss in 5 years (in 1994; a second to the West Coast Eagles, and after almost 40 years of witnessing this incomprehensible failure), my Dad finally went loopy.

He then started getting around the house wearing an Eagles scarf. I think partly he was only doing it to stir me and my sister up; but probably partly as some sort of exorcism.
And maybe in some way he really wanted to barrack for the Eagles. Or anyone really. Anyone, but Geelong.
He simply couldn’t handle being a Geelong supporter anymore. 40 odd years of being so-close-but-so-far will do that to a man I guess. He was worn out. He couldn’t put himself through it any more.
My sister and I used to take great pleasure in stealing his Eagles scarf, soaking it in water and putting it in the freezer.

When my Dad passed away slowly a couple of years ago, naturally I spent a lot of that time thinking about him, and his place in my life. What particular traits had he left me with? What parts of him were in me? What quirks had he passed down to me?

Football, and in particular, the Geelong Footy Club I guess was a real big one.
It was the weekends spent driving from Ballarat to Geelong and Melbourne to watch the Cats that had brought us closer than probably anything else.
There is something about loving a football club that some people will never understand. Over time, it becomes ingrained in you, it’s always with you, it dictates how you spend your weekends, how you organize your social life. It can determine your moods, and directly impact your on your basic happiness.

Its completely irrational.

One of the other big things that kept coming up when thinking about Dad, was the talkback. Somehow, I had inherited his love of talkback radio.

I think it all started on the way to games, listening to the Coodabeen Champions. Then Rexy Hunt and co on AW coming home; listening to the callers, their zany and impassioned recollections about what had just transpired that afternoon. What they themselves, in all their physical glory, would have done had they been player or coach an hour or two ago. So of course, it wasn’t long before I became fascinated with this. Listening to these poor yet fascinating souls whilst doing the Sunday paper round the next morning; them calling up at 4am to talk about Tony Lockett, me coming home and trying to stay awake as I delivered the Sunday news to Ballarat – that was when it really started to capture me.

It was not long thereafter, this after I had left home, where I would l find myself listening to AW and LO in my new (first) car when i was by myself.
Then when i was doing the dishes, or reading in bed, or cleaning the house, or exercising.

Before I knew it, I was listening to talkback radio ALL the time.
Now lets face it, there’s something a little strange (pathetic?) about a guy in his teens or twenties who listens to talk back radio that much.
And paradoxically, I loved music. Music was a massive part of my life. I went to gigs all the time, most nights. I even played guitar and thought I was a something of a ‘songwriter’.

But here I was finding myself listening to strange, old, desperate people calling up and venting their frustrations and prejudices to some monotone and abusive AM radio presenter at unreasonable hours of the day – ABOUT FOOTBALL!

Yet I loved it.

Talkback was becoming an unhealthy obsession of mine, so I made a conscious decision to eliminate it from my life.

And I was going great-guns – I was back listening to CDs (as they were in those days) in my car, catching up on the latest music, toggling between RRR and PBS to keep my music knowledge fresh to the latest new local and alternative bands from New York, or Detroit, or Montreal, or some hick (hip?) town from the midlands of England.

Then along came SEN.
The Sports Entertainment Network.

This put a significant spanner in the works of my plan to withdraw from the world of talkback radio.

Once I started, I couldn’t stop.
Soon, I was listening in the morning when I woke. Listening to Timmy Watson and Billy Brownless, talking footy.
Listening on the way to work to Kevin Bartlett; talking footy.
Seriously – I really hate fucking Kevin Bartlett – always have, can’t stand the cranky old git – but somehow I had to listen to him.
His outdated views on the game infuriated me to the point of madness, yet I still tuned in the next day; every day.

Why? Why?

Because he was talking footy!
And then came internet streaming, and a radio in my office at work.
Soon, I was listening all day; listening to them all. All the experts, all the time, talking footy.
On the way home, the afternoon show – Dermie and the crew, talking footy with that bit of zany comedy infusion for that extra entertainment kick.

And then in the evening I’d sometimes tune in before going to sleep, just for a bit, just to check what was happening, check if they were still talking footy.

They were. They always were.

Soon, I realised, I was quite literally listening to footy talk back for the vast majority of my entire waking life.
Footy talk had infiltrated every part of my psyche, I lived and breathed it. I knew everything there was to know about (nothing) about football.

On the weekends I listened to them talking footy in the morning, and then the pre-game, and then the game, and then the wrap up.
Then I’d watch the footy. Or go to the footy.
Then on Monday, it was back to the start.

Something had to give.

So it was on one fateful Saturday, when I had elected to take my then girlfriend to the beach for a romantic weekend away; just the two of us (it must have been the split round or something).

We got in the car and the radio started with SEN. Immediately she changed it – she wasn’t much into footy talk back, and I could understand that.
We were here to converse, to enjoy each others company; laughs, romance; the footy could wait.

We drove and chatted and listened to music. And it was actually quite nice.
But soon, the conversation began to slow, and I began to wonder who was on the radio.

What they were talking about?
Of course they’d be talking footy. But what? Were they talking about Geelong? What if they were, and I was missing it?
What if something of terrible importance had happened in the past two hours in FOOTBALL and I didn’t know about it yet?!

Soon I slyly faded out the latest hipster band off the radio, and sneakily switched to SEN.

It was a few minutes before she noted it, and even then, it wasn’t a big deal, she simply put a new hipster tune and we kept on moving.
But this process continued a few times until I could see that she was starting to become somewhat upset that I seemed more interested in the footy than (whatever it actually was) she was saying to me. I could see she was upset, and I understood it, but I just couldn’t stop.
I needed my fix, and she sure as hell wasn’t gonna stand in my way. In a moment of clarity now I can see that she was saying that it was her, or the talkback.

What a horrible position to put me in; an ultimatum the likes of which I had never had to deal with before. And I can honestly say now, I wasn’t completely proud of myself as we turned and drove silently those two hours back to the city.
And as I dropped her off at her house and she almost broke the door of the car, I really did feel a tinge of remorse.
But when I switched back to SEN and the dulcet tones of Mark Robinson and his analysis guided me home to my bedroom radio, I realized I had made the only choice I could.

Eventually, as the years have worn on, and this horrible loneliness has kicked in – the realization that I chose SEN over true love has finally hit home. And yes, I’ve come to realize that the Shebectster is no substitute for a sheila at night; that it’s better to wake up to the female, than the full time score. Yes it’s better to listen for the girl, than the goalkicker.

I still see her sometimes, and in my state of perennial regret and loneliness, I wonder what would have been had my old man just played his damn Peter Paul and Mary CD’s, instead of the Coodabeens.

About Tim McBain

A long tortured but now proud Geelong man. Product of the 70's. Likes late nights, country music, Test Cricket, red wine, Woody Allen films, airports and mushroom risotto. Lives in Melbourne.


  1. love it

  2. Sliding Doors.

    No one will ever know if you made the correct or incorrect decision, Tim

  3. Ben Footner says

    Woman or full time score – if the score signals a win then that one is a close call I reckon!

  4. I think she wasn’t the girl for you, mate. Get one that loves talkback radio and footy as much as you and then you’ll know true happiness.

  5. Ben Footner says

    Amen Cookie.

    My missus can recite the name of every Adelaide premiership player by number.

    I was on bended knee quicker than you can say “Number 52 Shaun Rehn”.

  6. punt_road_theodore says

    I just don’t get women.

  7. RickyJay says

    AND of course the Coodabeens’ “talkback” is actually them talking to themselves — virtually !!

    Covey seems to do 50-60 % of the voices with my particular fave some snoozer from Droop Street who follows the Dogs.

    Peter from Peterborough goes OK, too.

  8. punt_road_theodore says

    and let us not forget the great Nige from North Fitzroy

  9. Donny from Devonport?

    A few of the Knackers on the Tassie trip were doing very good impersonations of him on Saturday arvo.

  10. Paul Daffey says


    Sometimes you’ve just got to put your best foot forward – and kick a torpedo if need be.

    She just wasn’t the one.

  11. Dennis Gedling says

    Fantastic stuff. I’ve found myself back on talkback in the mornings and on weekends when driving around. The ladyfriend is being subjected to Tony Delroy’s quiz from time to time again too.

  12. punt_road_theodore says

    Dennis, hold onto that one. she’s a keeper…

  13. John Harms says

    When I was a kid I remember the footy voices were deep and resonating and filled the house with a pleasantness. If I put SEN on while bathing the kids on a Monday evening there is a sort of screech which rips about the place and just gets worse and worse and nothing improves until the closing titles of Footy Classified.

    But it gets you. I used to be a Four Corners person. But now I get the fix from the couch as well.

  14. The talkback I remember as a kid used to have hosts with Old Testament voices and the charm of a small-town mayor. Now (on FM radio at least) it’s mealy-mouthed, narcissistic dogshit.

  15. Wow! You actually turned the car around and drove home!
    You had it bad!

    I like SEN in small doses ( but can’t handle the night show) but I know what you mean about needing to know what’s going on in football on a constant basis.

    The Coodabeens are true legends, best thing on radio. Love Champ’s footy songs!
    Love Torch’s Talkback too (and Tony’s before that) but Nige from Fitzroy gets right up my nose, he’s on far too often for my liking!!

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