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Opinion

Could we have an indigenous play-by-play commentator?

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Roar Guru
18th February, 2021
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There isn’t one and there has never been one. So, there’s a reason why we should ask the question. 

I’m a writer – I don’t man the barricades but I sometimes feel taken with an urge to put something into the ether that is our public conversation when I feel that it might add to the discussion. I haven’t seen this topic discussed before, hence the motivation to write the article and hopefully provoke further discussion below.

Let’s start with the role of the ball-by-ball commentator and what we have come to expect of him. Channel Seven has two of them, playing off each other in tandem for a minute or two at a time. Their job is to tell us what they see of what’s going on when not much is going on. There’s a very subtle art to it as we understand it. You can’t just call names – well, not indefinitely, no, the ball has to be carried forward or backward by your smaller words in and around the names that you’re rattling off.

Bruce McAvaney and delicious. That sort of air space. They all have or had their own style – Dennis Cometti, McAvaney, BT – a most worthy heir to Max Walker’s “yobbos and dickheads” appeal crown that Billy Birmingham once bestowed on him – the list goes on.

For various reasons, this has been considered a weighty role. Occupants tend to outlast high court justices and Collingwood presidents in terms of tenure if not evicted by their own tongue in both AFL and league. The role has a skin colour barrier thicker than the one that surrounded the White House of the United States. And I see nothing to make me believe that this state of affairs is ever going to change. 

With the obvious answer to why an indigenous commentator has never been used in this role (because one has never been offered the job) quickly arrived at, my mind then turned to, well, how could this state of affairs be changed – in practical terms? I mean, this is a role that needs a professional. It’s not really a job for ex-players. 

So let me ask you this. Where’s the indigenous version of Anthony Hudson these days? Huddo never played footy and got the job on the strength of being very very good at what he does. Find the best up-and-coming indigenous commentator they can find when McAvaney retires and give him the job. Let’s have some blatant affirmative action on this.  

If you really want to get an indigenous voice front and centre in the game, you’ve got to have one calling the game, that’s my view. I know there’s a young-at-heart indigenous man out there who loves footy, who can sing the footy song as well as anyone with his words and make those of us watching at home think that we’re there. 

Cometti wasn’t born a legend of the commentary box. He was made one through decades of service. I would like to see an indigenous man given this same opportunity – given the space to grow into the role, make it his own and write his own story over the next few decades. There’s one out there. Channel Seven should go and find him.

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