NRL grand final equals 88-year-old record
Yesterday’s NRL grand final between the Melbourne Storm and the Canterbury Bulldogs revisited the record book.
Amazingly, it was the first decider since 1924 to have a scoreless second half. The Storm led 14-4 at the break, and that was that.
In 1924 Balmain led Souths 3-0 at halftime, and that was that as well.
But that game created history of another kind, as the first to be covered live on radio.
Bob Savage, the Balmain honorary secretary at the time, was the inaugural caller on radio station 2SB, later renamed 2BL.
History is very sketchy what happened to regular radio coverage of league through the rest of the 20s, 30s, and into the 40s.
But the first callers I can remember were Reg Grundy, Frank Hyde, and Tiger Black.
Grundy started as a kid sports reporter on 2SM in 1947, calling league and boxing before he broke into television when it first started in 1956 to become a media mogul.
Hyde became a rugby league player of note first with Balmain and Norths before he started his stellar radio career on 2SM in 1953, eventually calling 33 consecutive grand finals.
Hyde and Black were the closest of mates, even though they were in direct competition with one another with Black on 2KY, quite often calling the same game.
Black’s original association with league was as a tiny hooker in the 1938 reserve grade premiership winning side, the Dragons’ first premiership as a club.
But Hyde was the king caller as they did battle through the 50s, 60s, and into the 70s.
The pair had competition from John O’Reilly on the ABC in the 60s, and 70s. He held his ticket as a qualified league referee, which sure assisted him in his call, as refs in those days didn’t clearly indicate what their decision was about.
Former teak tough Kangaroo Ray Stehr was the first television caller in 1961 on Channel Seven.
But when dual international Rex Mossop beat 60 applicants for the newly created Sports Director’s job at Seven, he took over the call in 1963 for the next two decades and some change before he finished up calling on Ten.
I spent 15 years working with Rex on his ‘Sports Action’ program every Sunday of the year, and to say it was an education would be the understatement of any year.
He was unashamedly a one-eyed Manly supporter, having played for them in his Wallaby and Kangaroo days.
He had terrible trouble when foreign names started to hit the sporting big time. Martina Navratilova was the first, and Rex would be tongue-tied trying to pronounce her name. It was hilarious.
One of the many giveaways to guests who were live in the studio was Brut, the men’s deodorant. Rex would pronounce it as spelt, not ‘Brute’ as it was named.
But his on-going classic was his automatic tautology, he didn’t even know he was saying it.
I was sitting next to him live, waiting to cover the cricket or rugby, I can’t remember which, when he said – “We must revert back to the status quo as it was before”.
I was bent over with uncontrollable laughter, which prompted Rex to ask what the hell was the matter with me.
“You’ve just beaten your own record Rex, three tautologies in the one sentence – sensational”.
Rex never did understand my mirth that historic day.
But what we all understand is that Bob Savage, Reg Grundy, Frank Hyde, Tiger Black, Ray Stehr, and Rex Mossop are all integral parts of where radio and television coverage of rugby league first started.
And they were all damn good pioneers.
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