RICHARD OSBORNE WAS asked whether he'd be available for a chat first thing
in the morning. Say about 9.30am.
``Can you make it about 10.30am? It takes time to unwind after a match."
After 17 years and 283 matches as a player, Osborne knew the night football
drill, where it can seemingly take forever for the adrenalin to slow down enough
to allow even a few hours' sleep. And four matches into his boundary-riding
career, little has changed. Night football and a good night's sleep remain
Still, if and when Osborne's head does touch the pillow after a night out at
Waverley Park, he can be well pleased with himself. The raps on Osborne, as they
have been on Channel 7's other footballing new boys John Worsfold and John
Platten, are good. There was much discussion about the merits of the ``outs" at
the Seven footy selection table following last year's grand final, but early
suggestions are that the ``ins" will more than hold their own.
Osborne has so far been a solid boundary rider. His observations are accurate
and having only just stepped off the playing field himself, little takes place
on and off the ground that escapes him.
And given that the bench personnel at every club can change considerably from
year to year (Osborne himself played for four clubs), there are enough people
he can sidle up to for a quiet word on injuries or tactics, although he hasn't
been a journalist for long enough yet to recognise the differences between clubs
playing coy and being flat-out uncooperative.
``The clubs are guarded with the information they give you, so you don't want
to push them," he said earlier this week. ``As a member of the press you have
to respect the wishes of the coach."
Osborne might find himself at odds with several veteran media colleagues on
that score, but he is looking forward to milking what he can out of them. ``One
thing `Dipper' has already told me is that you have to earn the trust of the
clubs and that's something I seek to do."
It was, and is, a trait of the TV commentators he came to admire while on the
field himself. His favorite is Seven colleague Bruce McAvaney, but he also
fondly remembers Doug Heywood, the superb ABC TV football commentator from the
'70s and '80s, who never had a harsh word for anyone. ``From what I remember, he
never bagged me," Osborne says. Another favorite is American football
commentator John Madden, who is probably without peer in the world as a
Once the home and away season starts late next month, Osborne appears set to
tread a well worn path on the MCG boundary line, where Seven's director of
sport, Gordon Bennett, said he will be based for much of the season. He will
also play a part in Seven's Sunday morning, Rex Hunt-fronted panel show.
But he does have his eye on the grandstand and hopes to join Worsfold and
Platten, who have both come straight from retirement and into the booth. And if
he heeds the one instruction he received from Bennett before his first match
(``Just speak well"), he will.
Take out the new boys (apart from Osborne, Worsfold and Platten have appeared
just once), and Seven's night football coverage doesn't appear to have changed
much from last year. Bruce McAvaney and Sandy Roberts talk up each match as
though they counted for premiership points, Dipper still prowls the boundary
line as though he owns it, John Russo still adds little to the commentary while
Peter McKenna has again been consigned to the grandstand.
McKenna's is an odd assignment. His role is to talk about the forward
structure for both sides, although his location high above the forward pocket
means he can only comment on one team's forwards. Perhaps he has been squeezed
out of the commentary box. If McKenna is to remain part of the Seven team from
next year, he'll no doubt be praying the commentary box at the new Docklands
Stadium has enough room for him.
Also interesting about the Ansett Cup this year is that radio has opted out
of a major role. The new radio rights agreement struck by the AFL and stations
throughout Australia gives the licence holders the right to broadcast all
pre-season matches, not just the final. But with the exception of local
broadcasters in Adelaide, Darwin and K-Rock for the Geelong match last Saturday
night, the competition has all but been ignored.
3LO is believed to be giving some consideration to broadcasting the
semi-finals next weekend, but otherwise, the pre-season competition won't hit
the airwaves until the grand final on 13 March, which the radio stations have
traditionally used as an opportunity to clear their larynxes and try a few
things out before the real stuff starts a fortnight later.