January is not usually a time for rugby league teams to join, rejoin or quit competitions – or for State of Origin sides to go into camp.
Anyone can contribute to The Roar and have their work featured alongside some of Australia’s most prominent sports journalists.
Darrell Eastlake was a knockabout larrikin who rose to legend status as a sporting commentator.
He died yesterday at 75, in an aged care facility on the Central Coast of NSW, having suffered from by Alzheimer’s, dementia, and emphysema for most of the last decade.
Having a beer with Darrell wasn’t just social, it was an event, especially in his kingdom of Gosford, where he held court.
Walking along the street to the appointed venue, every second man or woman stopped to greet him, to shake his hand, or just pat him on the back.
He didn’t know 95 per cent of them, but they all received a beaming smile, a firm handshake, and a ‘nice to see you’ – or ‘nice to see you again’ to those he recognised from an earlier chance meeting.
And it was the same in the drinking hole, or the restaurant.
It was a ritual, an event.
As a kid, he loved all sport, but particularly surfing and rugby league.
It was the former that got him started after kicking off his adult life as a Qantas luggage handler.
He progressed to making surfboards, and owning a surf shop in Cronulla, to giving surf reports on 2UW.
The next step was calling the Knights on Newcastle’s NBN before starting his four decades on Channel Nine’s ‘Wide World of Sports’, calling rugby league, surfing, motorsports, Formula One, and weightlifting.
He was the first to call State of Origin over a decade, from 1983 to 1993, but it was the weightlifting that provided the humour with the always evident passion.
In one tournament his booming voice drowned out his peers on other stations, so organisers moved Darrell into the stairwell. But he could still be heard in the commentary box, even though it was some distance away.
That signature voice was so strong it sent the volume needle way to the right on the panel, and when he got really excited, which was often, the voice made the needle bend hard against the stopper.
But that was Darrell Eastlake, and his unbridled passion, to a tee.
He just loved sport, his wife Julie, and loved a beer with a smoke afterwards. In return, his listeners loved him for his genuine passion, his vast general knowledge on the run, and his delivery.
He made sport lively, and always interesting.
We farewell a great bloke, who made an even greater impact and contribution to sport calling. That recognition is reserved for the very few.
He’s gone, but will never be forgotten for as long as the media covers sport. And that, of course, will be forever.