Coleman / Return of the call from the card table

ANDY Warhol’s cynical prediction that “in the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” may not have come true, but for a host of sportspeople around the country, they are a bit closer to it now than ever before.

Chris Coleman

Chris Coleman.

Readers of a certain vintage may remember the days when local radio – and occasionally TV – stations provided live coverage of local sporting events. Not the national leagues, but the local games, featuring the people you might have shared a spot at the bar with during the week.

Unfortunately for local sports, the almost insatiable demands of the national codes for coverage from their broadcasters have made the old local broadcasts largely uneconomic, as well as logistically difficult.

It’s hard to broadcast suburban footy when the NRL or AFL provide games on four or five days a week on a regular basis, including blanket coverage on the weekends.

A lot of the big-name commentators you see on the TV these days cut their teeth calling country footy and, having done a bit of it in the past, there’s nothing quite like that to learn your craft.

A lot of suburban grounds don’t have big grandstands, so you could be working at a table on the sidelines or a commentary box about the size of a phone booth and situated in a less-than-ideal position to identify the players from.

I started working in radio at the tail end of regular local sports broadcasts, having harboured a desire since my very early days to be a football commentator. I reckon I did commentary on at least 30 different sports back in the day. It paid to be a jack-of-all-trades, especially as my career progressed.

Despite the shrinking number of opportunities to work at sporting events I managed to do enough through the ’90s to work on a few AFL and NRL games and the odd appearance at some other sports.

Eventually though the supply of commentators outstripped the demand for events and it got to the point where I’d be doing one or two games a year as a favour for a local sports event for after-the-event DVDs.

I figured the dream was over, but I didn’t count on the internet. The past few years have seen a virtual explosion in the number of local sporting bodies that have worked out they can get exposure on the web. It’s not at the point where sports are making megabucks from it, but it’s more common than you may think.

It’s a growing trend that was started by lower-profile sports but is now happening widely and for the players it’s opening doors across the country and overseas. Footballers are being spotted in online streamed games and being offered the chance to play in higher-level competitions. I know several Australian baseball players who have picked up contracts in the US.

And for a kid who – at the age of seven – said to his dad, an old radio man himself, “one day, I want to be a football commentator” it’s an opportunity to do it weekly, even if it has taken 40 years to get there.

Chris Coleman regularly calls games for the Canberra Raiders Cup competition and the occasional NEAFL fixture.


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