Tell us about your journey into the role of Chief Sports Reporter of The West Australian?
Journalism is in my blood. My father Arthur was a newspaper journalist in New Zealand before travelling to Australia for the 1956 Olympics and thankfully, he decided to hang around. He crossed over to ABC TV journalism – followed closely by my older brother, Stephen, who has been a journalist and newsreader with Channel 10 for at least 35 years.
I grew up in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne but moved to Geelong to study journalism at Deakin University and cut my teeth at the regional Geelong News, a bi-weekly tabloid where I was offered a cadetship in 1984. Within a year I was appointed sports editor and then joined its sister paper, the daily broadsheet, The Geelong Advertiser, covering the fortunes of the Geelong Cats as its chief VFL reporter.
Geelong was a fantastic place to work – the ultimate training ground.
I moved back up to Melbourne to the Sunday Sun as a sports reporter before it merged with the short-lived Sunday Herald then became the Sunday Herald Sun.
I took a risk and moved to Perth in 1993, picking up shifts at The Sunday Times, becoming deputy sports editor in 1998. I met my wife, Lisa, also a reporter for The Sunday Times and we soon made the natural pilgrimage, London, in 2000, seeking out Fleet Street. I worked as a sub-editor at The Times and The Sunday Times in London for four years before the lure of home, rejoining the Herald Sun in 2004. Clearly still with itchy feet and ambition to be a sports editor, I rejoined The Sunday Times in Perth in this role in 2005. My first edition featured a Justin Longmuir kick after the siren as Fremantle defeated St Kilda. I remained in that role the longest – until 2021 when I became chief of staff of The West Australian’s sports section. I’m now back on the tools – breaking local football stories 30 years after Geelong.
What does a typical day in your role look like?
Lots of phone calls – strictly confidential – and seeking out news leads before a 10.30am conference with the sports editor. My role has an AFL-focus but I branch out into all sport, writing about anything from off-field politics on the West Coast Eagles board, a player’s retirement, a new bid for a Perth-based NRL team, or writing a profile on an Olympian. It’s an overarching role rather than a specific round. What I love about the job, and what is also the toughest part of it, is that no day is ever the same as the one before. You can break a big story on Tuesday that other news outlets follow and by Wednesday it’s back to the drawing board – a blank canvas. It keeps you on your toes. And you’re never bored.
What is one of the biggest news stories you’ve covered in the past year or so that has captivated readers?
After an intense investigation, I broke the story about West Australian football great Graham “Polly” Farmer’s diagnosis in 2021 of Stage III chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Farmer was the first Australian rules player to have been diagnosed with the disease that brought America’s NFL to its knees and it was the catalyst for the change in AFL and NRL concussion protocols. I am very proud of that story. I had to work very closely with the Farmer family and medical experts to present it in a sensitive and explanatory way.
On a lighter note, I had a lot of fun with photographer Jody D’Arcy tracking down ‘missing’ West Coast Eagles Ashley Sampi on the Dampier Peninsula. He’d walked out on the Eagles and no one could find him. We did. But only after a drive through swollen creeks, small bushfires and into the middle of nowhere. When we pulled up in front of his fibro home he was sharpening a branch into a spear and looked at us, smiled and said: “Well done.”
Who or what inspires you most?
War correspondents. Let’s face it, I cover sport. It’s not life or death. These legends do put their lives on the line on an hourly, or daily, basis. It’s brave. It’s so important to be hearing impartial reporting from war zones.
If you could give your younger self some advice, what would it be?
It might sound harsh but the first thing I was told when I got my first gig was “prepare to lose friends”. That hasn’t happened too often – in fact I’ve made way more friends than I’ve lost – but there have been and still are run-ins when you have a crack. I’d tell my younger self not to stress. We are journalists, not people pleasers. Footballer writers are not working in PR. Our job is to inform people, warts and all.