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Meet the Team – Chief of Staff (Sport), Rourke Walsh

29 May 2023

Tell us about your journey into the role of Chief of Staff (Sport) at The West Australian?

I started as a cadet reporter at the company’s regional newspapers in 2011, first working at Pilbara News in Karratha and then The Kimberley Echo in Kununurra. I covered pretty much all areas of news and sport over the first few years, including a couple of crocodile attacks in the WA’s rugged Kimberley region. In 2016, I was lucky enough to get a job back in Perth as a crime reporter at The West Australian. During that time I covered a variety of police-related stories, including murder, major drug busts and even a prison escape. In 2020, I moved into the news desk at The West Australian as Deputy Chief of Staff. During that role I was involved in co-ordinating coverage of each day’s news and events, including elections, natural disasters and major criminal investigations. Among those were the Nick Martin bikie murder, Mark McGowan’s 2021 State Election landslide, Claremont Killer sentencing, Perth Hills bushfires and the Cleo Smith abduction. In 2022, I moved to The West Australian’s sports department.


What does a typical day in your role look like?

I start most days at around 7.30am reviewing all of the overnight sports results from around the world, and in particular those involving Australian athletes, to see what we can use in the paper and online from our international wire services. These include, English Premier League soccer, NBA, tennis, and golf. Next, I make contact with our reporters about what they will be working on for the day, or in days to come. In these conversations I pass on directions for how the editor would like certain stories covered and collate a list of all stories we are producing, or have access to from the wires. At 10am I update morning news conference with the major headlines for that day and later meet with the Sports Editor to discuss placements for the stories on particular pages. As stories are filed by reports I am involved in editing them as well as designing layouts on the ages. Each Friday, I have a column that I write about AFL football that runs in the Pre-Game lift-out and on occasion I cover certain other events myself, such as the Margaret River Pro surfing.


What is one of the biggest news stories The West Australian has covered in the past year or so that has captivated readers?

The story that stands out in a sporting sense is the sharp decline of the West Coast Eagles as an AFL powerhouse. In 2018, the Eagles were premiers and as recently as two seasons ago were still challenging for the flag. But a run of injuries, retirements and mismanagement of their playing list has seen the club fall off a cliff. Historically one of the competition’s most success teams since forming in 1987, Eagles fans are not used to a run of terrible losses like the past two years have brought. The fallout has been ferocious and still has a long way to go. You only have to read the letters to the editor section of The West Australian after a bad loss to see how engaged Western Australians are with their football teams.


What inspires you most?

Uncovering information. That’s what journalism is about. People might think the job is being a beautiful writer, and in some ways it is. But more importantly it is about cultivating relationships that give you access to information. Without that information, it is pretty hard to have something to write about. I’m always excited when a reporter comes to me with the inside story on something. A recent example is the Nat Fyfe footy boots controversy, where a reporter and photographer from The West Australian revealed Nat Fyfe had been wearing Asics boots with an Adidas logo stitched on in an effort to overcome his plantar fasciitis injury without breaching his sponsorship deal with the apparel manufacturer. The story had Fyfe’s management working overtime with an explanation, and uncovered the great lengths professional athletes go to in trying to overcome injuries. But it would not have been told without an eagle eye for details.


If you could give your younger self some advice, what would it be?

Journalism is all about doing the basics. You will make a lot of calls every day and most days they might not result in much. But then, every now and again it will result in a massive scoop. It is not always easy, but you’ve got to stick with it to get results.