February 2014 marked 160 years since the first press report concerning sport at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
A single sentence appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald describing a cricket match between the Garrison Club and the Royal Victoria Club on Thursday, February 16, 1854; "This match came off on Thursday, on the ground at the back of the Victoria Barracks, and excited unusual interest," the report said.
Since then, journalists, broadcasters, photographers and media professionals of all kinds have made regular prilgrimages here regardless of the season, weather and event. More sporting history has been made on the grounds of the SCG, Allianz Stadium and the Sydney Sports Ground before it, than any other precinct in Australia. The constant companions of the stars who took wickets, lifted premiership trophies, or kicked goals have been the mean and women of the media.
The Media Hall of Honour pays tribute to their efforts past, present and future.
Richie Benaud OBE
Richie Benaud led Australia in 28 of his 63 Tests. He did not lose a series as captain. He was the first man to complete the 2000 runs/200 wickets double in Test cricket. From 1956 until his retirement as a player at the end of the 1963–64 season, Benaud combined sport with life as a journalist for The Sun and the News of the World. He learned the art of reportage during his time as a police roundsman.
Benaud began his broadcasting career on BBC Radio in 1960, moving to BBC Television three years later. Through his work in England and commentary for commercial TV in Australia, his voice was familiar to Australian viewers when he joined Channel Nine for the first summer of World Series Cricket in 1977–78; the commentary team he anchored became synonymous with televised cricket in Australia. At the same time, Benaud never stopped writing — for newspapers, magazines and as the author of 10 best-selling books.
EH ‘Tiger’ Black BEM
Ernest Harold ‘Tiger’ Black was a 20-year-old hooker in St George’s reserve-grade rugby league side that won the club’s first premiership in 1938. Injury ended his playing days soon after. He accepted an administrative role with the Saints and set off on a radio career that continued into the 1970s. He began at 2UW, moved to 2UE and established himself as a highly respected and popular figure at 2KY. ‘It’s nice to meet nice people’ was his catchcry.
Black was a fixture on the sidelines at league matches in Sydney, followed tours by the Australian team to England, France and New Zealand, called boxing with the same enthusiasm he gave football and hosted a regular Saturday morning sports show. His forte was understatement. An advertisement in EE Christensen’s Rugby League Yearbook described him simply as ‘Australia’s greatest league commentator’. He was awarded the British Empire Medal in 1979, for services to sport and the community. Black died in 1983 while his beloved St George were beating Easts in a semi-final playoff at this ground.
EE ‘Ernie’ Christensen
Described by his rival, Alan Clarkson of The Sydney Morning Herald, as ‘undoubtedly the finest all-round sporting journalist of my time’, Ernie Christensen started at the Labor Daily at age 18 in 1936. Two years later, he was covering the British Empire Games at this ground. He worked briefly at the Daily Mirror, served during the Second World War and joined The Sun in 1945, where he established himself as rugby league’s No. 1 reporter.
Christensen edited the Sydney premiership’s program, Rugby League News, for two decades and the Official Rugby League Yearbook from 1947 to 1978. He was the inaugural president of the Australian Sportswriters’ Association and a president of the Rugby League Writers’ Association. He covered seven Commonwealth Games and also served as a judge at the Johnny Famechon–Fighting Harada world title fight in Tokyo in 1970, when the Australian originally assigned the task encountered visa problems. He died suddenly in 1980, soon after he returned from the Moscow Olympic Games, his seventh Olympics as a reporter.
John Corbett Davis was one of Australia’s first great sportswriters. He worked on the renowned Sydney sporting paper The Referee from the inaugural edition in 1886 (when he was 18) to the last in 1939. He was editor from 1912 to 1939, a role he also filled during the 1920s at two other Sydney weeklies: The Arrow and the Sunday Times. Davis wrote for The Referee using the pen names of ‘Not Out’ (cricket), and ‘The Cynic’ (football).
As a journalist and administrator, he was hugely influential in the evolution of cricket, rugby union and rugby league in Sydney. He was a strong supporter of the concept of a ‘Board of Control’ to run Australian cricket, which put him at odds with some of the game’s leading players from the pre-War years, including MA Noble and Victor Trumper. These champions, like his legion of readers, never lost respect for him. Davis died in 1941. His remarkably extensive sporting memorabilia collection is archived with the State Library of NSW.
JHW ‘Jack’ Fingleton OBE
Jack Fingleton opened the batting for NSW and Australia during the 1930s before achieving further fame after the Second World War as a journalist and author. He started in newspapers at age 15, as a copyboy with the Daily Guardian, and was a full-time working reporter with the Daily Telegraph Pictorial and The Sun as he pursued his cricket career.
Fingleton appeared in three Tests during the bodyline series and was a regular in the Australian team from 1935 to 1938, at one point scoring five centuries in six Tests. After three months as press secretary for former Prime Minister Billy Hughes, Fingleton joined the Canberra press gallery in 1944 and remained a member of the gallery until 1978. He also covered cricket series in Australia and England as a widely read reporter, columnist and radio commentator. He crafted 10 books — including his classic on bodyline, Cricket Crisis (1946) — in a style that prompted Sir Robert Menzies to judge him ‘the best of cricket writers’.
Ian Heads OAM
Ian Heads joined the Sydney Daily Telegraph as a copy boy in early 1961 and on his move to the sports department as a cadet journalist began writing on rugby league, and swimming in 1964. He was the chief league writer for the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph for 12 seasons from 1969, leaving newspapers to become managing editor of Rugby League Week in 1981.
From 1988, he analysed league and other sports for a variety of newspapers and magazines on a freelance basis. At the same time, Heads became a prolific author, writing or co-writing more than 40 titles, including major histories and books with champions from a wide range of sports — cricket and the football codes to the Olympics and Paralympics. A superb mentor for many aspiring journalists, Heads headed the Australian Olympic Committee office in the Main Press Centre at the Atlanta, Sydney and Beijing Olympics, and was a long-time president of the Australian Sportswriters’ Association.
Frank Hyde MBE OAM
Frank Hyde was a first-grade footballer with Balmain, Newtown and North Sydney. He won a premiership with the Tigers in 1939 and was Norths’ captain-coach when they lost the 1943 Grand Final to Newtown on this ground. He became a sports broadcaster at Radio 2SM in 1953, quickly gaining plaudits for his boxing commentary. He covered the Melbourne Olympics and, most famously, dominated Sydney rugby league’s airwaves for 33 years.
A much-loved figure, his signature line, when describing a kick for goal, was, ‘It’s high enough, it’s long enough … it’s straight between the posts.’ Hyde was a columnist with a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Sydney Morning Herald and Sun-Herald, the Catholic Weekly, Rugby League Week and the Bulletin, and also a long-time panellist on Channel Nine’s World of Sport, a referee, coach, raconteur, recording artist (his Danny Boy was a top-10 single in Sydney in 1973) and tour guide.
Alan McGilvray AM MBE
Alan McGilvray was an all-rounder good enough to play 20 first-class cricket matches between 1933 and 1937. He led NSW in 13 of these games. McGilvray’s earliest radio reports were match summaries in 1934. He was one of the pioneers involved in the ABC’s synthetic coverage of the 1938 Ashes Tests, when he and colleagues in a Sydney studio interpreted ball-by-ball cables from the UK and then called the play complete with artificial sound effects.
After the War, McGilvray was at the ground alongside former Test players Victor Richardson, Jack Fingleton and Arthur Gilligan, describing the 1946–47 Ashes series. Future notable co-commentators included Johnnie Moyes and Lindsay Hassett. A staunch advocate for fair play, McGilvray hardly missed a Test in Australia, covered Ashes tours from 1948 to 1985 and followed Australian teams to South Africa, the West Indies and New Zealand. He became ‘the voice’ of the Australian summer. His final Test commentary stint in Australia occurred at this ground in 1984–85, after which he received a heartfelt standing ovation.
Norman May AM
Norman May’s broadcasting career began at the Sydney Metropolitan Surf Championships at Dee Why in 1957. At different times over the next five decades, on television and radio, he enthusiastically covered just about every sport imaginable, including cricket, rugby union, rugby league, swimming, surf lifesaving, sailing, football and rowing. He witnessed 13 Commonwealth Games (1962–2006) and 12 Olympics (1964–2008), and was the perennial host of the ABC Sportsman of the Year.
Though May’s Olympic experience was prodigious – who can forget the Gold! Gold! Gold! Call in the men’s medley relay at the 1980 Moscow Olympics - for many sports fans the strongest memories are of him calling rugby matches for the ABC at the SCG and Sydney Sports Ground alongside Cyril Towers or Trevor Allan, and cricket Tests and Sheffield Shield games with experts such as Jim Burke, Keith Miller, Frank Tyson and Bob Simpson. In 2000, he was awarded the Olympic Order by Juan Antonio Samaranch for services to the Olympic Movement in Australia.
AG ‘Johnnie’ Moyes
Johnnie Moyes played Sheffield Shield cricket for South Australia as a teenager before the Great War. He was chosen to go to South Africa with the Australian team in 1914–15 but the War meant the tour did not take place. Moyes enlisted in the AIF. He earned the Military Cross in France and was seriously wounded. He played twice for Victoria in 1920 before moving to Sydney, to forge a remarkable career in the media.
He was initially a correspondent for Sporting Globe, then a reporter and news editor with the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Guardian, The Sun and Sporting Life. After the Second World War, he became a revered broadcaster with the ABC and author of 13 of the best books ever written on Australian cricket, including accounts of tours by overseas teams to Australia that are classics of tour reportage. Moyes’ excited yet measured commentary of three dramatic finishes during the epic Australia-West Indies series of 1960–61, including the Tied Test, are now part of cricket folklore.
John O’Gready’s often masterly coverage of major sporting events in Sydney established him as the best known of all the great photographers who have worked at this ground. Remembered today as the man who took the epic photograph of captains Norm Provan (St George) and Arthur Summons (Western Suburbs) in the seconds after the 1963 rugby league grand final, O’Gready ‘patrolled the sidelines’ during 29 grand finals and countless cricket, league and rugby union Tests.
He joined the Sydney Morning Herald photographic team in 1957 and over the next three decades built an enviable reputation through his reportage of major news and sport for the Herald, The Sun and the Sun-Herald. His photograph of Provan and Summons, two mud-clad warriors, one short, one tall — captured in a sporting embrace as a shaft of sunlight cut through the gloom — won the British Press Sport Picture of the Year award and is now famously cast in bronze as the National Rugby League’s premiership trophy. The equipment available meant he had one chance to capture the shot and he did not know the outcome until afterwards in the dark room.
Bill O’Reilly OBE
Sir Donald Bradman described Bill ‘Tiger’ O’Reilly as ‘the greatest bowler that I ever faced or saw’. In an era often dominated by batsmen, O’Reilly took 144 wickets at 22.59 in 27 Tests, bowling leg-breaks, top-spinners and wrong ’uns at near medium pace in a style Johnnie Moyes described as ‘intense, purposeful, hostile, relentless’. A school teacher, O’Reilly was based in the NSW bush for three years from 1928, which meant he did not make his Test debut until 1932.
A knee injury forced his retirement in 1946. Almost immediately, he was in the pressbox for the start of the ’46–47 Ashes series for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, a place he would occupy to great effect for every subsequent Test in Australia until the Bicentenary Test at this ground in early 1988. He also covered the 1948, 1953 and 1956 Ashes series in England. His daily pieces were studded with insight. He was never guilty of poor grammar or lazy prose. His policy, he once explained, was to rely entirely on his long experience and to write ‘exactly what I thought in the most forthright manner possible’.
In 1925, 20-year-old Ray Robinson, a junior reporter with the Melbourne Herald, contacted the English magazine The Cricketer to complain about their scant coverage of Australian cricket. The editor invited him to contribute, beginning an association that lasted more than 50 years. Robinson became the cricket writer for the Star in 1933 and worked for the Australian Press Association in England during the 1934 Ashes series, his first of many tours.
In Sydney from 1939, Robinson was a sub-editor at the Telegraphand then a reporter and sub-editor for a number of Fairfax papers, including The Sydney Morning Herald and The Sun. He was also the Australian cricket correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph and had articles appear in papers and magazines around the world. Robinson’s acclaimed first book, Between Wickets (1946) sold more than 50,000 copies. His later titles, especially On Top Down Under (1975), characterised by meticulous research and apt phrases, entrenched his status as one of cricket’s finest authors.
Jim Shepherd was the first sporting director for Channel Ten in Sydney, responsible for shows involving many sports — including cricket, the football codes and boxing — between 1965 and 1970. His passion was motor racing, especially the speedway, which he called at the Sydney Sports Ground and Sydney Showground for many years. Shepherd’s first ‘break’ in journalism came while he was a student at Sydney Boys High, when he had articles published by Australian Motor Sports magazine.
He was a copyboy with The Sun in Sydney in 1950, quickly gained a cadetship and within a year was a sports reporter at the Daily Telegraph. He edited several national magazines before switching to radio, then television. After Shepherd left Ten to establish a publishing business, he built a reputation as one of Australia’s best sport historians, writing and compiling a number of major reference works.
Ray Warren OAM
Born and raised in Junee, Ray Warren’s earliest commentary experience was ‘calling’ marbles he’d rolled down a slope near the family home. His first official broadcasting job was a Barmedman–West Wyalong rugby league game for Radio 2LF Young in 1966. Within three years he was in Sydney as 2GB’s No. 3 racecaller behind Ken Howard and Johnny Tapp. In 1971, Warren filled in as a league commentator, a precursor to getting the 2GB job full-time at the start of the following season.
His first television experience came in 1974, describing Amco Cup games for Channel Ten. He covered numerous sports for Ten, including Melbourne Cups, swimming and tennis, and called NSWRL premiership matches from 1983 to 1986. He joined Channel Nine’s State of Origin commentary team in 1989 and seven months later was in Auckland calling Commonwealth Games swimming with Norman May. He was still calling swimming 22 years later at the London Olympics. When Nine obtained the exclusive league TV rights in 1992, Warren again became the game’s highest profile play-by-play commentator, a position he held without challenge for the next 20 years and more.