Rohan Connolly, senior football writer at The Age and radio broadcaster at 1116 SEN

Rohan Connolly. Photo by Simon Schluter.
"I get more satisfaction now out of writing and speaking about the game than about getting a tip-off or a big news story." Football writer Rohan Connolly talks to Patrick Minkowski about the passion for the game he has covered for decades.

How did you become a football reporter?

I grew up loving the game from the time that I was about five. My father was a journalist, so I was always interested in that. He used to be a film critic for the old evening Herald. I used to go into the office with him and see how the whole paper came together. That was always pretty exciting. I remember watching [football] and being taken by it. From the time that I was about seven, I used to write little practice match reports of games that I watched. I got a cadetship on the Sun, now the Herald Sun. The company was called the Herald Weekly Times and they published the Sun. My dad worked at the Herald, so they had a rule that if there was a spouse or sibling, they couldn’t work on the same paper.

What are some of the highlights of your career?

In a news sense, 20 years ago now, in 1996… Hawthorn nearly merged with Melbourne and North Melbourne tried to merge with Fitzroy. I was working for The Sunday Age exclusively… I was lucky enough to get those stories. We broke those stories and they were pretty massive. If you look at the big picture, in the context of the [AFL] competition and the game, the ramifications of those were huge. At the end of 2010, I did a big one with Ross Lyon [The coach of the St Kilda Football Club at the time]… St Kilda had just lost that second Grand Final… It was going to be about how they would come back from the loss, but it ended up being about [how] he lost his sister half-way through that year, as a result of cancer… He fronted up to work the day after she died… A few months later he lost a nephew in a motorbike accident, so it was sort of like his year from hell. I was pretty proud of the piece I did on that.

What has kept you interested in journalism over the decades?

It’s probably changed. When I was younger there was obviously a lot of excitement about getting a big story, in a news-breaking sense… [But] as you get older I think your priorities change a bit. To be honest, I’m probably in it now more for the love of football than for the love of journalism. I’m very interested in the media and journalism, but… I get more satisfaction now out of writing and speaking about the game, than about getting a tip-off or a big news story. I love the game and I’ve got plenty of opinions about it. I love being able to express those. I’m lucky to have a platform to do that.

Do you still have some journalistic challenges despite all of your experience?

 The changing nature of the media is one… It’s pretty tough times in newspapers now. The Age is where a lot of people go, and so is The Herald Sun. There’s a possibility, sooner than later, that there may not be printed editions and everything will be online. I think people’s reading habits have changed. So the shifting landscape makes it hard to keep up.  I don’t get the time to put into stories like I once did. There’s fewer staff, we’re basically an around the clock operation.  I’ll give you an example, if a story comes up now at 10 am or even 10 years ago, if that was the case, you had all day to work on it. Your priority was the next day’s paper. As long as you had it written by 8 pm that night, you knew you were right. Whereas now, anything that comes up you’ve got to do straight away, so that it can go up online. Digital is the first priority. You don’t get the time to devote to things, which is frustrating.

What advice would you give to young journalists trying to break into the field?

 Read and watch as much as you can. If you’re trying to get into journalism, you probably can’t afford to be specific and say, ‘I want to be a football journalist’ or ‘I want to write about politics’. You’ve got to learn the ropes first. I’m often a bit taken aback when young journalists come into our paper and, not all of them, some of them are great, but some of them are quite unworldly. If you’re hoping to be a journalist, you should have a good general knowledge across everything.