The Departure of Uncle Gerard

 

One of my very first pieces for footyalmanac.com.au, way back in 2012, was a tribute to my favourite sports broadcaster, Gerard Whateley: https://www.footyalmanac.com.au/the-return-of-uncle-gerard/
While it seems a very ordinary piece of writing now, much of the sentiment remains. G.Whateley has remained our go to voice for all things sport. He still has dominated our AFL intake with his hosting of ABC Grandstand on radio, plus AFL360 on TV. Offsiders is always a must-watch in my home. While the past few Summers have seen my 2012 wish of Gerard calling Test cricket on the ABC come true.

 

So it comes as a rude shock to check my Twitter tonight and see that Australia’s best sports broadcaster has defected/been made an offer he can’t refuse to switch to SEN as their main caller and 9-12 weekday morning host.

 

 

In no way can I begrudge his move. He has given wonderful service to the ABC. He’s at the top of his game and deserves to reap the rewards. It’s a smart move by SEN too, a huge coup in the highly competitive Melbourne radio market.

 

I’ve been a rusted on 3LO/774ABC/ABC Melbourne listener since I was a primary school kid. Some of my favourite presenters have departed in recent times. Richard Stubbs, Red Symons and now Gerard Whateley were hosts I’d avidly listen to. Don’t know if I could handle it if my favourite presenter, Lindy Burns, left anytime soon. Of course it will happen one day. Who knows, she could be in negotiations with 3AW as we speak.

 

There will now be a huge hole at the ABC. Who will anchor the AFL coverage? What will happen with their cricket coverage? Gerard was doing a magnificent job, gelling so well with Simon Katich, Dirk Nannes and Chris Rogers. Ideally the grumpy, anachronistic Jim Maxwell needs replacing too. At least Kelli Underwood is a natural, ready made replacement as host of ‘Offsiders’ on ABC TV.

 

As for my family? We’ll still watch AFL360. We will probably listen to a bit more SEN. I’ll still be largely a rusted on ABC Melbourne listener. And we will still call him Uncle Gerard.

 

Congratulations G.Whateley, thanks for your ABC years and all the best at SEN.

 

About Luke Reynolds

Cricket and Collingwood tragic. Twitter: @crackers134

Comments

  1. Well said Luke. My reaction was “good on him, he’s obviously getting a quid to go to SEN”. BUT “what about me and all the other Gerard followers outside Melbourne?”
    It narrows his audience a fair bit to AFL and Melbourne. I know there is Internet streaming but I can’t see myself catching him at 4am Perth time on Melbourne breakfast radio.
    There must have been a lifestyle element to his decision as he seemed to be “Eddie Everywhere without the hubris”. I really enjoyed his Test Cricket work this season, and I am not sure the ABC have anyone to give their calls focus and direction in the way Gerard did. He set a tone that the others (bar Grumpy Jim) coalesced around.
    Corbin Middlemas (ex WA) is the best of the young ABC sport callers I have heard. But he seems 5 years short of the experience and authority to lead their broadcasting team. He has knowledge and flair and the alternatives seem a bit bland to my ear.

  2. Colin Ritchie says

    I put it all down to ABC Budget cuts by the govt. There appears to be so much uncertainty at the ABC at the moment as witnessed by recent “retirements” etc. The pleasure of listening to articulate, knowledgeable broadcasters present their programs etc without advertising to break up the flow of conversations, discussion etc ensures continuity remains keeps the listener fully engrossed with what is being presented. I suppose GW could see the writing on the wall and took the opportunity too good to miss. I usually don’t listen to commercial radio so I probably won’t be hearing as much of GW in the future. So sad what is happening to our ABC.

  3. John Butler says

    Happy New Year Luke.

    Disappointing, mainly because SEN isn’t really that accessible in Ballarat. What about Colac?

    I suspect Colin is correct regarding at least some of the reasons – the Coalition’s sustained assault on the ABC is having widespread and noticeable effect.

    But similar sentiments were expressed when Tim Lane moved to the commercial sphere. Life went on. As it will in this case.

    Cheers

  4. John Butler says

    BTW, what about John Harms as Offsiders host?

    A rotation policy, perhaps?

  5. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Well said Luke Gerard Whateley a thorough professional and a gun in all sports with certainly not a obvious replacement certainly will be more streaming of SEN by myself than previously especially in that time slot re KB

  6. Luke Reynolds says

    PB- Corbin Middlemas is very good, as are Matt Clinch & Quentin Hull. Massive shoes to fill but a wonderful opportunity for someone.

    Colin- can’t recall this much change all at once at the ABC. Will be interesting to see what we end up with.

    JB- Happy New Year. SEN almost totally inaccessible in Colac due to the local AM station being so close on the dial. All my SEN listening is on the digital stream. Tim Lane was a massive loss, as was the case then someone will step up.
    J.Harms as Offsiders host may totally blow the ABC’s budget!

  7. Luke Reynolds says

    Rulebook, will be interesting what other sports SEN have in mind for him. Maybe they’ll make a play for cricket?

  8. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Hutchy isn’t going to die wondering; after all he’s paired Blighty with Kane Cornes (you know, Campbell Brown with a less objectionable father) on Adelaide radio.

    Perhaps it is the huge theoretical upside, but what will Gerard be able to offer in the SEN world in that slot? Newsbreaking, analysis, opinion or live reads for Sexyland (“take me now, I command”).

    Unless/until SEN does cricket and racing, his main benefit will be to their footy coverage. But remember, he’ll be working for the f-wits that have artificially turned the Trade Period into wall to wall “news” and are disappointed when an actual trade materialises as it shuts down their confected narrative, so there will be a line that needs to be toed there.

    Maybe the radio bit is a sideshow and Gerard’s real value might be harnessed in alternative means such as podcasts, but if SEN retains its reliance on talkback, I can’t see where the weekday numbers will come from.

    I suspect that Crocmedia appealed to Gerard’s ego as well as his skyrocket as he only recently oversaw the ABC’s cricket overhaul. Perhaps the ABC might go out on a limb and take the Geoff Lemon, Adam Collins type of route as their current crop doesn’t seem ready yet (but those names you mentioned Luke are pretty good too).

    The ABC ain’t infallible though – it gave us Derwayne and persists with Peter Walsh in Adelaide.

    As long as the Coodabeens remain, I’ll be ok.

  9. Bob Morrow says

    We call him the Pope because he does tend to pontificate.

  10. Luke Reynolds says

    Swish- surely for SEN to get bigger and increase it’s audience share, racing and cricket would have to be part of a 24/7 sports station. If they’re aiming to broadcast those sports, they’ve got the right man.
    Old mate “Walshy” is totally unlistenable.
    How about the Coodabeens as some part of the cricket coverage?

  11. Dave Brown says

    Well put, Luke. I’m a bit each way on this one. Gerard leaves a big hole at the ABC that doesn’t seem readily fillable (I am a big fan of the idea of Adam Collins coming in to fill the cricket gap) but at the same time this is probably the right point at which to ensure he doesn’t overstay his welcome. The obsession with horse racing, the 30 second videos of ‘watch Gerard call this sporting event’, unleashing the growl were ripe for self-caricature. We have seen other commentators head in that direction to the detriment of our enjoyment.

    As you have identified too, the move to SEN realistically also means that Gerard becomes pretty much exclusively a Melbourne product (yes, I know we can stream but if the content is Melbourne focused, most won’t bother). Sad to see him go but possibly the right time.

  12. Luke Reynolds says

    Good points Dave. Big fan of Adam Collins, think he would be fantastic.

  13. Good on you Luke.
    Interesting points on accessibility raised above.
    And the trashing of the public service ABC.

    I’m finished with G Whateley now.
    Life’s too short to listen to ads.
    Next.

  14. Well played, Crackers.
    We too are huge fans of Gerard in the Dawson household. I wish him well, and hope that he takes every dime that he is worth.
    It does indeed beg the question of where to for the ABC?
    Re the cricket coverage: I have never really minded Jim Maxwell, but to my ears he has become unlistenable. It is amazing that someone who has commentated on cricket for so long still has such a tin ear for the nuances of the game.

  15. Peter Warrington says

    Presumably he will still 360 with Robbo, otherwise my life is over.

    I can’t say as there’s a single commentator at the moment that catches my ear. but it rankles that J Maxwell is there and G Maxwell not

    Also interesting that a Nannes gets the gig for the bowlers (to balance the self- of Kat and Buck Rogers.) Maybe there was so much money to be made in coaching that all the interesting brains went to that, rather than media? Eg Dizz Gillespie, a cricketing cleverman.

    The one gu I remember hearing and thinking”he’s got it” was Kasprowicz. very funny, but not in a skull sort of way. Wry, with vegemite.

  16. Gerard will suit SEN.
    They do racing every Saturday during Spring and Autumn Carnival and he will now as Bryan Martin has retired from racecalling.
    His show will be an open forum like Neil Mitchell but focused on sport.
    Will miss his cricket but he still does footy and horse racing and Olympics, he is also doing the superbowl.

  17. Stone Cold Steve Baker says

    Well said Crackers, and Happy New Year.

    Good on GW – whom, thanks to Jake Norton of the Wandering Eye, I will always know as Group One Gerard. Like a few others ahead of me in the queue have said already, time for him to sew some coin and give him and his family the kind of stability and job security that you can only dream of at Aunty these days.

    I find SEN unlistenable – 12 mins of content, and 48 mins of ads over the course of your listening hour, and as for their footy coverage, hubristic bullshit doesn’t even come close to the kind of plaudits awarded the most rudimentary marks and goals. Debutants are superstars of the game and clubs have been known to be preparing for ‘season-defining games’ … in round 3, so it’s going to take a bit to get me off of 774/ABC for footy. I

    If Group One put a pin in some of the hyperbole SEN deals in, then that’s good for footy

  18. Good job, Luke. Interesting times ahead.

    As a much-admired former colleague of used to remark when folks would change jobs, “A camel craps in the desert, the caravan moves on.”

    I’ve much regard for GW, but hope he doesn’t over enunciate around the dinner table etc.

  19. I’m staggered, Luke, that no one yet has mentioned Alister Nicholson.

    He and Uncle Gerard were the only 2 full-time sports radio blokes at 774 ABC Melbourne.

    I imagine Alister will step up to No. 1 now that Uncle Gerard has gone. Interesting to note GW hoped to farewell loyal ABC listeners — like we lot here on the Knackery — during the call of the 5th Test from the SCG.

    But he seems to have departed from the ABC already so maybe he got a DCM (Don’t Come Monday) and wan’t allowed that luxury.

    As for No. 2 full-time sports radio job at 774 what about Friday night AFL caller Adam White ??

  20. Nice work Luke. Whateley certainly has class behind the microphone. I think the move is the right one for him. I reckon Tim Lane has improved as a presenter since his move. More assured. That could simply be age and experience. But I think Whateley might improve too. The commercial world will force him to extend himself further. The pressures will be different.

    Don’t think we can blame budget cuts. Tim Lane left in 2009 when Wayne Swan was treasurer.

  21. Luke Reynolds says

    ER- agreed, life is too short for ads. I will remain a rusted on ABC listener. But do regularly listen to SEN if I see on Twitter an interesting interview is on. Plus there’s games I go to where only SEN or Triple M are covering. I’ll pick SEN every time out of that lineup. Will more than likely try and listen to Gerard’s weekday show in podcast form if possible.

    Cheers Smokie. Always never minded J.Maxwell, apart from his obvious NSW bias. But can’t take him at all now.

    Peter W- yep, let’s get the right Maxwell in! Gerard said he will still be doing AFL360. M.Kasprowicz and B.Geeves very much undervalued and underused as incisive, dry comments men.

    Old mate- sounds great

    G’day Steve, Happy New Year to you too. Group One Gerard- fantastic! If I have all options available for a game, I’m going to mostly go ABC. As I nearly always have done. But more likely to give SEN a go now too. Not much beats driving home from a Friday night game listening to Finey take talkback from drunks on SEN!

    Mickey- very intersting times ahead. Especially for the ABC in footy and cricket season.

    Richard- great point, Alister Nicholson is someone I should have mentioned alongside Middlemas, Clinch and Hull. He’s also very capable and a fantastic caller. Had Adam White already left the ABC for Sport 927? Maybe a comeback SOS required? Really like Whitey’s work.

    Dips- I have no doubt Whateley will adapt to and improve in commercial radio. And spot on, no matter who is the government of the time, great talent on the public broadcaster will always be a target for the bigger money on offer on commercial networks. In many ways the ABC was lucky to have him for as long as it did.

  22. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    An insider’s perspective on the ABC cricket coverage from Jarrod Kimber

    https://medium.com/@ajarrodkimber/my-time-with-abc-grandstand-a3e3fbd5805b

  23. Luke Reynolds says

    Thanks Swish, that is a hugely insightful piece from J.Kimber

  24. Cat from the Country says

    Well said Luke. I will certainly miss Gerard on ABC radio.
    Living in the country, SEN is not available.
    I will miss his mellifluous tones and good sense.

  25. Luke Reynolds says

    Thanks Cat. It’s tough being in the country sometimes. With Craig Hutchison’s involvement in SEN now, maybe his AFL Live commentary that has featured in country areas will carry the SEN call? Interesting times.

  26. Great work, Luke, and very interesting comments from fellow Almanackers.
    While I respect Gerard Whateley as a caller and admire his thorough research, I’m no great fan – he often sounded a bit smug to me.
    Notwithstanding the NSW bias that you mentioned, Luke, I’ve always preferred listening to Jim Maxwell because of his range of colourful anecdotes – “prayer meetings” (a few quick ales) with Alan McGilvray before the start of each day’s play, the two “verbs” (Cook and Root) in England’s batting line-up, and “with that single, the score moves on to that luscious number 69”.
    In Jimmy’s absence last summer, Grandstand WA’s Clint Wheeldon co-commentated with Gerard and did a fantastic job.
    I hope Clint gets the gig for the SCG Test and beyond.

  27. Jennifer Muirden says

    Indeed Lukey Luke, like you, I never imagined Gerard Whateley jumping ship from the ABC. I recall him being interviewed for a position at 3AW in 2010/2011 which he turned down so this announcement has surprised me somewhat. I actually admired the fact that he remained a non-commercial stalwart showcasing his huge talent on ABC Radio’s Grandstand and ABC Television’s The Offsiders both of which I tuned into specifically to hear him wax lyrical and showcase his vast knowledge of sport in general. That was until 2010 when he joined Fox Footy’s AFL 360 team masterfully mismatched with Mark Robinson as the obvious Felix Unger and Oscar Madison odd couple. What a great line up and the adorable lookalike muppets of Gerard and Robbo featured in their promotional advertisements continue to crack me up! But I digress…

    Yes, it’s interesting to see how markedly the landscape at SEN will change in 2018. I have no doubt that Gerard will truly shine in their Morning slot. Kevin Bartlett along side John Rothfield aka Dr Turf taking listeners home in the Drive program is a magnificent move by management. In my humble opinion Mark Allen and Ox were woeful. Great to see Frank Leach in his new role substantially sinking his teeth into the A-League, Football and EPL. Breakfast with Garry Lyon, Tim Watson and Sam Mc Clure sans Hamish McLachlan can hopefully rate better this year although it’s a hard ask given they are up against the indomitable Ross and John on 3AW. Finey will continue to thrive and make you feel alive on Evenings and deliver in spades.

  28. Neil Anderson says

    I’ve just been able to log-on to the Almanac after a week of trying and the first story I read was by Dips talking about the sport’s world being turned upside down. And now Luke reminds me that Gerard is leaving the ABC. So it wasn’t a dream.
    The Bulldogs winning the 2016 Premiership seemed quite in order, ‘A Wink From The Universe’ as Martin Flanagan called his new book. But Gerard going over to the dark-side, that’s something else. How will he go inserting ads every two or three minutes during his serious analysis of sport’s news? The newspapers are full of news about changes to various footy-shows on commercial TV this week. Pieces of fluff about who’s leaving and who’s swapping channels. The real story is about Gerard. He is such a respected all-rounder in many sports, it’s hard to know who could replace him.
    Anyway Luke, you are lucky you can pick up SEN where you live. Here in Mortlake I can only find SEN on the car-radio. On Saturdays if I stumble across it, I quickly turn it off if Craig Hutchison and co are on and retreat to the Coodabeens.

  29. Happy New Year Luke!

    It’s shamed the state broadcaster lost an outstanding presenter (although I do know much about him as I don’t think I have listened to his show)…

    Some people complain too many ads on SEN so I hope his talents aren’t killed…

    I might give it a go on his new show, but am still unhappy how the Ox was sacked. And I admit I dislike Hutchinson! That’s why I don’t fancy SEN any more.

    Just wish ABC have kept him.

    Cheers

    Yoshi

  30. Luke Reynolds says

    FitzroyPete- Clint Wheeldon is another very good talent. Look forward to tuning in tomorrow to see who they go with. Gerard’s long term replacement in the Test match lineup will be a fascinating choice. Someone already in the ABC or do they look outside? As has been suggested elsewhere, a caller who’s main focus is cricket instead of a football commentator who does cricket in the off-season would be welcome.

    Jennifer- yes remember the talk of the 3AW offer, thought he would have been a real long term ABC guy with maybe a late commercial career change a la Tim Lane. SEN’s lineup is shaping well, Finey is of course the jewel in the crown!

    Neil- have the same SEN radio issues as you, the local Colac station is far too close on the dial (1134 to SEN’s 1116) for reception to be listenable. All my SEN listening is digital/online or actually at the footy. Look forward to reading M.Flanagan’s Bulldog book.

    G’day Yoshi, Happy New Year to you too! Hutchy not my favourite on-air personality either, he seems a very good business operator though, happy for him to stay in the background! Gerard is a huge loss for the ABC. But they always end up unearthing talent.

  31. Sean Curtain says

    Luke

    Interested to see how the new SEN line up goes.

    I like their overall footy analysis but not their game calling. The constant references to sponsorship (every goal or mark of the day contender, injury update, score check, quarter has a sponsor) is very frustrating. And the fact that they got the Div 2 games to cover most Sat and Sundays. I tend to listen up until the bounce then switch.

    Bartlett doesn’t impress me but the Dr Turf combo in afternoons isn’t bad. Glad KB not setting the agenda for the theme of the day however. Sad to see Frank leach move out but I think Maher is underrated when he hosts solo.

    SEN already have quite a good racing coverage which will only be enhanced by Gerard. And they uncover some gems like Sam Groth and great to see Peter Donegan (underrated and under utilised) George Donnikian getting a run Sunday ams on different shows.

    What does this mean for Anthony Hudson?

    Sean

  32. You have summed up my sentiments to perfection. I’m not a watcher of things of Tee Vee, but have grown up with some version of the Abc at various times of the day at various times in my life. Doug Aiton was probably the first voice I lamented upon its departure.. years ago ? Maybe even 20 yes agp! I will miss Gerard, especially for his Monday morning slot summarising weekend sporting events.
    Guess I’ll have to readjust to the new line up on Aunty or turn the dial and find SEN.

  33. Tim Lane devoted his Sunday column to this move.
    Very interesting.

    http://www.theage.com.au/sport/independence-its-not-as-easy-as-abc-20180106-h0ecwf.html

  34. Luke Reynolds says

    Sean, is Peter Donegan the most under utilised, underrated sports broadcaster in Australia? I think he is brilliant.

    Kate, remember Doug Aiton well. Always sad when your favourite ABC presenters leave. Loved that Monday morning slot on J.Faine’s show.

    ER- that was such an interesting piece by T.Lane. Only the original Gerard could have written that.

  35. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Happy New Year Luke !!. Just got onto this piece after a couple of weeks of summer hazing. Being a decade older than your young self, I had similar feelings when Tim Lane made the move 15 years or so ago. Maybe we just get used to certain voices-faces on our preferred channels. It’s somewhat comforting. I wish Gerard the best. Let’s hope he doesn’t get caught up in the maelstrom of hyperbole down SEN way.

  36. I often hear Peter Donegan as a TV commentator on the Asian Golf Tour describing play from a luxury resort in Malaysia or Thailand. Underutilised? Jeez he must miss the Tuesday races at Moe and Waverley in June!

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