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David Morrow has retired

March 8th, 2024 at 07:06am

Some very sad news went through Australia’s sporting and media worlds a few weeks ago as sports commentator David Morrow announced he has been diagnosed with brain cancer, will not return to the airwaves for this year’s rugby league season, and is retiring. While David has commentated just about every sport you can name over his decades of broadcasting, he undoubtedly leaves the biggest hole in the rugby league world where he has been a consistent high-profile voice of the game on radio, bringing the passion and excitement of the game to people right across the country and indeed the world.

David’s career spans something in the order of 50 years or more, and while he has called most Australian professional sports at one time or another, he is best known for his work as a rugby league commentator. Most of this was at the ABC where he was one of their leading rugby league commentators until he became the victim of a technical error and a subsequent bureaucratic farce, which led him to move to 2GB’s Continuous Call Team in 2015 where he became their main commentator. I recall at the time of the ABC peculiarities, 2UE was a competitor to 2GB and had rugby union broadcast rights, and I mentioned to then-Drive host Jason Morrison that 2UE should hire David. As it turned out, after David moved to 2GB, 2UE came under the same ownership as 2GB and became “Macquarie Sports Radio” for a while where David spent some time commentating cricket, so I suppose he was hired by 2UE in a roundabout way.

David joined the ABC in 1980 and was involved in a number of Olympic broadcasts, but what many people probably don’t know or remember is that through the 80s and 90s, the ABC had television rights to a number of lower-tier professional sports such as basketball and David popped up as a commentator in front of a national television audience on just about everything except VFL (well, as far as I can tell he didn’t call any VFL). Through my work I have had the pleasure of seeing many ABC TV sport broadcast tapes from those years in recent times and lost count of how many times David turned up on them. His distinctive voice and passion for whatever sport he called always stood out. There was also a period of time, prior to the formation of the National Rugby League, where ABC TV had some rugby league television broadcast rights, including during the Super League years where ABC ran their own commentary over the top of a Fox Sports broadcast, and David had some involvement there too, which was always a delight.

One thing which David has always managed is to remember that sport is entertainment, and commentary should recognise that. I dare say that this has probably been a bit easier since moving to 2GB where the commentators have a bit more scope and freedom than those at the ABC do to have fun while calling a game and go a little bit off-topic at times. It is my view that some of David’s best work has been at 2GB over the last nine years where he adapted to the 2GB style very well and brought the audience a fantastic combination of insightful commentary, reasons to laugh, and a great passion for the game of rugby league and other sports too. His chemistry with Darryl Brohman in particular and their ability to bounce off each other during a call with everything from serious analysis to the utterly absurd has been a highlight of the broadcasts. It has been a true delight to hear.

Away from the broadcast box, David is very highly regarded among the rest of the media as one of the nicest people in the business. The last time I mentioned David on this blog was when he made the move to 2GB. I originally made an error in recounting his reasons for making the move and I received an email from David pointing it out and requesting it be corrected. While I didn’t recognise the email address and couldn’t be sure I was really corresponding with David, the facts bore out so I was more than willing to make a correction. David, however, sensing my concern about the legitimacy of the correspondence, followed up with a phone call to assure me that the email was really from him and we had a brief chat. It was a very nice gesture and one which meant a lot to me.

In David’s absence, Mark Levy is stepping up to the plate at 2GB as their main rugby league commentator, while Ray Hadley is also picking up a few extra games (having confined himself primarily to State of Origin and the finals in recent years). David leaves big shoes to fill and a style which won’t be imitated; I’m sure Mark will do well in his own style but David will be sorely missed.

Some years ago a work colleague said to me that he thought my interest in many sports was more of an interest in the commentary than in the actual sports a lot of the time. In many ways that is true. I tend to seek out the commentary which appeals to me the most and will often watch or listen to a game which doesn’t particularly interest me just to hear the commentary. Andrew Self on TalkSport calls a few Premier League games and is always fun; Tim Gossage calling AFL is an inimitable experience; Darren McAullay’s deep rich voice calling Western Australian horse racing gets me to pay attention even if I am not invested in the race; Joe Tessitore calling American college football is enough to get me to switch on a game I otherwise wouldn’t watch (Joe did an excellent job calling NFL Monday night games for a few years and should never have been dropped from the role); Rex Hunt, when he was still calling AFL, never delivered a dull moment. Brenton Speed, now working for Nine and calling a lot of tennis, can get me to watch players I’ve never heard of with names which seem to have all of the consonants and none of the vowels. I could go on for quite a while.

David Morrow was one of those voices on my list of “if he’s calling, I’m listening”. I am going to miss hearing him and checking to see which games he is calling each week.

I sincerely wish David all the best for the future. I hope he is able to maintain a high quality of life and can continue to enjoy all that life has to offer, especially his passions of various sports including horse racing, and time with his family. It is also my hope that one day, David will feel well enough to have the occasional cameo in broadcasting. I’m sure his adoring fans will be delighted if that were to occur.

All the best David, and thanks for the many many years of great commentary.


Entry Filed under: Sport,TV/Radio/Media

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1 Comment

  • 1. nbrettoner  |  March 9th, 2024 at 10:41 am

    Hi Samuel,

    This is such a really good in depth thankyou and recognition to someone who obviously has deeply touched and steered your own life, as well as many others.
    And as a ‘someone’ who didn’t know David, in this you have introduced me to his legacy and impact on society. Thankyou 🙂


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