With the retirement of legendary broadcaster Sandy Roberts this week, it got us talking in the Ladbrokes office – just who are the most iconic Aussie sports commentators of all time?
After much discussion and debate, we’ve come up with this list of our favourite callers.
You may find it delicious, centimetre perfect and marvellous or you might just say to yourself “I see it. But I don’t believeve it.”
Let’s start with some honourable Mentions…
When the Wallabies were at their peak, you had this man. Gordon Bray. The voice of Rugby is one of the finest sports broadcasters Australia has produced.
Some may think this is a surprise inclusion, but it shouldn’t be.
The FOX Sports Commentator has established himself as one of the great modern all-around sportscasters.
Speed currently calls three codes of football – A-League, AFL and NRL, and he even called an AFL and NRL game on the same day.
You have to admit, it’s pretty impressive.
However, it was Speed’s call of Riley McGree’s amazing goal in last years A-League finals that caught the attention of master English Football commentator Martin Tyler in this emotional video.
“But he’s a pom!” I hear you say. Well, yeah but he’s called more iconic Socceroos and A-League moments over the past 15 years and has taken the helm as the voice of the World Game in Australia.
With all things considered he’s a worthy honorable mention.
I see it, but I don’t believe it!
Any iconic AFL moment in the last 20 years has involved Anthony Hudson calling it.
From Nick Davis in the Sydney v Geelong 2005 Semi Final, the 06 Grand Final, Buddy Franklin kicking “THIRRRTTEEEEEN” goals against North Melbourne in Hobart for the Hawks, Huddo has been there.
GOT HIM! GONE! IT’S ALL HAPPENING!
One of the most iconic voices of the Australian Summer, the Boxing Day Test just didn’t feel right without the great man calling the first ball this year.
That said, with Channel 9 losing the rights to broadcast the Australian Summer of Cricket, Lawry saw fit to call it a day after 40+ years behind the mic (and a fine Test/First class Cricket career as well).
Say what you like but when Rex was at his peak in the 1990s, he was a juggernaut calling the football for 3AW.
Rex helped make footy fun. The calls of “YYYYAAAAABBBBBLLLLLETTTTTT”, the Fat Lady, the scoreline of “11-11-77 LOOORRRRDDD NELSON” and of course “Yibbida Yibbida” are simply iconic.
Rex had his critics, his battles with the thugs in the scallop industry and more than a scandal or two, but he’ll always be remembered and loved for his footy commentary.
Big Rex called it a day for footy calling, with his final broadcast being the St.Kilda v Collingwood match from 2018 on 3AW.
Gone too soon.
Grybas called NBL, NSL, Hopman Cup Tennis, AFL and the Sydney 2000 Olympics for the ABC before moving to 3AW in 2001 to be paired with Rex Hunt.
Along with calling duties with 3AW, Grybas was made the face of the original FOX Footy Channel and host of its iconic talkback footy program “White Line Fever”.
Grybas also hosted and called big-time boxing events such as the Green/Mundine fight of 2006 and the Commonwealth Games.
Grybas tragically passed away at the age of 32 of unknown causes.
The man who coined the phrase “The World Game”, the late Les Murray was and still is the voice of Football in Australia.
From the days of the old NSL, his legendary partnership with Johnny Warren, Tragic Socceroos World Cup Qualifiers, that wonderful night back in 05, bringing the World Cup to Australia from 1990-to his retirement in 2014, Murray was the heart of Australian football for many years.
While Murray is not remembered for his commentary, his passion and advocacy for the World Game make him worthy of a mention.
But now, here are our 10 all-time Aussie Sports Commentators…
10. Peter Donegan
Some might find it surprising to find him on this list but longtime sports broadcasting veteran Peter Donegan deserves to be right up there.
From having crutches thrown at him by Tony Lockett…
To hosting the Melbourne Cup Carnival for Channel 10, calling every single sport known to man.
From AFL, VFL, Athletics, Stawell Gifts, Tennis, Olympic/Commonwealth Games, Indoor Cricket, Lawn Bowls and then some Peter Donegan has called it all.
When Channel 9 had the rights for the 2012 London games, it was Donegan who called the athletics and he did a damn fine job with the absence of Bruce.
We’ll put it out there, had Bruce McAvaney remained a humble public servant and never set foot into a commentary box – Peter Donegan would be the lead sports commentator in this country.
9. Norman May
Before Bruce was the voice of the Olympics, there was Norman May.
The legendary ABC sports broadcaster called 11 Olympic Games, 11 Commonwealth games along with harness racing, surf-lifesaving, Cricket and Rugby.
However, it was his call of the men’s 4×100 meter relay in the Swimming at the Moscow 1980 Olympics that will forever be etched in the minds of Australian sports fans.
8. Sandy Roberts
“OH, MY HAT!”
“THERE IS A PIG AT FULL FORWARD”
“BILLY. YOU ARE THE KING OF GEELONG!”
With a CV of calling 1110+ AFL/VFL games, 19 Grand Finals, 11 Summer/Winter Olympic games, 25+ years of Australian Open Tennis, Major Golf tournaments and anything and everything Channel 7 threw at him including game shows, the news, Tattslotto, Good Friday Appeal – Sandy could do it all.
After almost 40 years at the Seven Network, Sandy jumped ship to see out his career at FOX Footy and on the weekend he announced his retirement after 46 years of broadcasting.
7. Lou Richards
For anyone Under 40, the legendary Lou Richards was known for his co-hosting of Wide World of Sports with the late Max Walker and for Lou’s Handball on the Sunday Footy Show.
There was so much more to Lou though.
Not only a Collingwood premiership captain, but he was also a pioneer of football and sports entertainment on television in Australia. T
he selectors of the Australian Football Hall of Fame should hang his head in shame for never elevating him to legend status because it didn’t meet the “criteria”
When Lou passed away at age 94 back in May 2017, his great mate Channel 9 Melbourne Sports presenter did a fitting tribute to the icon that is Lou.
6. Jim Maxwell
Another “Voice of Summer”, anyone who’s listened to Cricket on ABC Radio will know Jim Maxwell.
Maxwell has been a feature of ABC Cricket since 1973 and the editor of the ABC Cricket annual since 1988.
He suffered a stroke in 2016 but has recovered to make a comeback to the commentary in recent summers.
This interview between Bruce McAvaney, Tim Lane and Jim Maxwell from the Sydney Test earlier this year is all-time.
5. Tim Lane
Another from the ABC staple of broadcasting Tim Lane has 40+ years experience calling Cricket, AFL Football, Olympic Games and just about anything and everything.
From his days hosting the iconic “The Winners” national VFL replay program on the ABC along with the late Drew Morphett (With the porn-star moustache), summers of Cricket with Jim Maxwell to today where he is now part of the new Channel 7 Cricket stable, Lane has seen it all with high praise from the listeners, viewers and sporting public alike.
In a twist of fate, Lane was originally meant to be part of Channel 9’s Friday Night AFL team when they got the football rights in 2002.
He quit on the eve of the season as he didn’t want to call Collingwood games with club president Eddie McGuire, resulting in Dennis Cometti taking his place.
Lane would join Channel 10’s coverage of AFL a year later where he would call Grand Finals (which Nine didn’t have the rights too).
4. Dennis Cometti
From “centimetre perfect”, “like a cork in the ocean” and “Scotty Cummings alone in the square, jumping up and down and waving his arms like they’re playing My Sharona.”
There’s no doubting that Dennis Cometti was known for his trademark “Cometti-isms” but there was more to him than that.
Cometti signed up to the ABC at the age of 23 and became the youngest commentator in the history of the ABC to call Test Cricket with Alan McGilvary.
Eventually, Cometti would find himself at Channel Seven and part of their VFL/AFL coverage and, along with calling the football, he would be assigned to the swimming at the 1992, 1996 and 2000 Olympics where Cometti can lay claim to calling more Australian gold medals than any other broadcaster on television.
His call of Kieren Perkins at Atlanta 96 and Susie O’Neil at Sydney 2000 remain some of our most iconic sporting moments.
When Channel Seven lost the AFL broadcast rights in 2001, he joined Channel 9 in 2002 where he was paired with Eddie McGuire to call Friday Night Football matches in prime-time.
Cometti returned to Channel 7 in 2007, when the network regained the AFL broadcast rights, and was paired with Bruce McAvaney.
Bruce and Dennis become an iconic calling duo and worked together until the 2016 AFL Grand Final when Cometti retired from TV broadcasting.
His iconic tones can still be heard on Triple M Footy games from Perth and he still appears on Channel 7 as a contributor to the local news and WAFL coverage.
In the past week, Cometti was awarded a lifetime achievement award to the Sport Australia Media Awards.
3. Ray Warren
Ray Warren’s inclusion into our list of all-time Aussie sports commentators is as the 12th Man Billy Birmingham would put it is “DEAD SET IN THE FAIR-DINKUM DEPARTMENT.”
The man is the undisputed voice of Rugby League in this country and has seen it all.
The majority of iconic moments in Rugby League has been accompanied by Rabbs unique tone, passion and knowledge of the game.
Along with Rugby League, Rabbs had a long association with calling Swimming on TV “THORPE. HACKETT. HACKETT AND THORPE, THERE’S NOTHING IN IT!”
2. Richie Benaud
What can you say about Richie Benaud that hasn’t already been said?
Everyone has done a Richie Benaud impersonation with “The cream, the bone, the white, the off-white, the ivory or the beige” and “Choo for Twenty Choo”.
He captained Australia, he helped launched Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket and was the face of Channel 9’s Cricket coverage for over 30 years along with his international commentary duties.
Richie was Cricket and Cricket was Richie.
While Richie may no longer be with us, he will forever be the voice of Cricket.
1. Bruce McAvaney
You just get the feeling Bruce was going to come in at number one, don’t you?
We should count ourselves lucky we live in the time when Bruce McAvaney is the master sports commentator in Australia.
From calling the trots in Adelaide on weekends whilst working as a public servant during the week, Bruce found himself in Melbourne where he joined Channel 10 and called the Melbourne Cup.
It wasn’t long before Bruce called the athletics at the Olympics – Carl Lewis, Ben Johnson’s scandalous world record-breaking/drug cheating run in 1988 and of course, Cathy in 2000 – Bruce has seen and done it all.
No one does their research quite like Bruce, no one does stats quite like Bruce and no one loves certain players just like Bruce (Cyril Rioli is a delicious example).
From AFL Grand Finals, Australian Open Tennis, Melbourne Cups, Golf, Bathurst 1000, Rugby World Cup, Socceroos matches (yes Bruce has hosted them) – the man has done it all and with distinction.
There is only one Bruce McAvaney, and dare we say it, he’s special.
(Oh and his love for Winx melts our hearts.)