From writing for The Werribee Banner to having your own TV show on Fox Footy, are you proud?
Everyone has had a humble start, but not many people were born with a silver spoon in their mouth and had a charmed run through life. It doesn’t happen that way. I’m quite proud of the fact that I started at a little local paper that sold about 2000 copies a week. It was a good blooding for me because I got to do everything.
What was the best part of reporting on football?
I get really excited when I get a good interview subject, someone I’ve been chasing for a long time. I get excited about that because there is that adrenaline rush about I want to get in front of this person (interview), they’ve got a good story to tell and I want to see if I can extract the story. Professionally that’s what I like. What do I like about the game? I love what everyone else loves. I love the big marks and I love spectacular goals.
What keeps you writing?
I love the game. My love for football never diminishes. I did a function with Kevin Sheedy 10 days ago at Portarlington. My question was ‘You’re so immersed in this game’. He said, ‘I love it.’ The two of us have gone through our lives, coaching, playing, talking and writing football. I’m not good at many things, and I’m not trying to be modest, but I’m not. I can barely turn a tap on in a technical sense, but I love footy and I think I know a bit about it and I’ve got strong opinions.
Biggest rookie mistake you’ve made?
The biggest mistake I’ve made was when I was 60 something. I was on On The Couch, the week before the Grand Final when Hawthorn was playing. I said in the week leading up to the Grand Final Alistair Clarkson would, could, might, probably coach West Coast the following year. It was based on a call from a mate of mine that gets good mail. He’s in the game, his track record was good but I broke my own rules, I didn’t do enough crosschecking. Given the stakes, it was Grand Final week, Clarkson was really shitty on that. That was a rookie mistake but I wasn’t a rookie.
Did the Mark Jackson interview on Open Mike rock you?
Yeah, it’s unusual when a bloke comes on and the first thing he says is ‘I hope you get cancer’… I could have walked off, but I think I can’t just say, ‘You can come on and just say nice things.’ But it was certainly the most talked-about show I’ve ever done.
How do you get the most out of your interviewee?
I think I was trying to explain that before about getting into the art of conversation. Before every show we go and get a coffee, and it could be the second time or third time we get a coffee. Say if we are going to record at 2pm, I say come in at 1:15pm. They come in and I introduce them to people that they might know (other ex-footballers) such as Dunstall or David King, I then say come on, let’s go and get a coffee. We just talk. The bloke at the coffee shop is very good, he knows all of his footballers. He makes a fuss of them and they tend to relax. I don’t bash them first up when I’m doing my Open Mike. I put my toe in the water about the hot topic and I let it unfold from there. My own view is if they agree to come on, they agree to talk, so I think it’s implicit that they are in the chair so I can ask them the hard questions.
Any advice for aspiring journalists?
The biggest asset a journalist could have is curiosity. ‘If in doubt, leave it out’, that’s got to be the overriding one because despite the bad reputation we have, we are supposed to tell people what they don’t know, and factually.