Out of all of the positives that 2013 Rugby League World Cup 2013 has brought us, perhaps the most popular one has been the absence of Channel Nine.
The self-proclaimed “home of rugby league” is on forced holiday and the ears of rugby league fans are so much clearer for it.
The World Cup commentary headed by Andrew Voss has been professional, positive and and entertaining. They have celebrated the game of rugby league and its history, and their enjoyment of the spectacle on show has had just enough national bias to make fans cringe with wry smiles and chuckles.
The British commentators, particularly former Great Britain coach Brian Noble, have shown up their Channel Nine counterparts with a simple expression of good old fashioned wit.
And Daryl Halligan, wearing his Kiwi exuberance on his sleeve, erupts with a sometimes unintelligible excitement that seems important because it sounds honest.
The enthusiasm of these men, ably lead by the wit of Voss, has put into stark perspective the tired boys’ club approach taken by Channel Nine, led by bronze-statue recipient Ray Warren and overlord Phil Gould.
Bias is one thing – and tinged with charisma is fine – but as far as I am aware, nobody likes commercial bias, especially one blatant and lacking in personality. If the role of the commentator isn’t to entertain, then it most certainly isn’t to irritate.
Having monopolised rugby league in Australia for so many years now, Channel Nine have fallen into the trap of believing that the walls it surrounds itself with are the ends of the earth. They are not – nowhere near it in fact.
The success of Andrew Voss and the World Cup team have only highlighted just how insular and ultimately self-defeating the Channel Nine approach will prove to be.
Time spent in commentary ought not to be spent glorifying oneself, the station or the products it is required to advertise. Commentating is about glorifying the sport and the players on show.
It is about bringing to life the enjoyment and passion that fans feel about their sport. It is also a way of bringing in new viewers and admirers.
Nobody wants to be turned away, least of all fans. Channel Nine may be ‘successful’, but when you are the only game in town, that is not proof of your quality.
One wonders just how many people watch Channel Nine with the volume off.
Well done to the World Cup commentary team. Simply by having a good time and enjoying what you are doing, you have shown how simple it really is to put on a good show.
Hopefully there will much more to follow.