After 34 years of service, David Morrow – one of Australia’s most enduring and respected broadcasters – is hanging-up the microphone at the ABC at the end of this month.
Following what could be his final rugby league call for the ABC last weekend, the veteran commentator reflected on his career and possible future in commercial radio with The Newsroom this week.
Morrow always wanted to be a broadcaster. He started out in 1971 as a general announcer at the now-defunct 2KM radio station in Kempsey, before becoming the station’s go-to caller for all major sporting events between Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour.
“I grew up wanting to be a broadcaster, from the time I was young kid, it was something that was in the blood and when the opportunity arose I took it,” said Morrow.
At one point Morrow worked as an accountant to help pay the bills, but when a position at the ABC became available in 1980, he traded the calculator for a permanent seat in the commentary box.
“Once the opportunity came to go to the ABC, it was just a matter of doing what I enjoyed for most of my life, once that opportunity arose I was never going to let it slip,” he said..
After joining the ABC, Morrow has covered just about every sport known to Australia; from horse racing to rugby league and the Olympic Games.
But which sport is his favourite to call?
“I’d have to say athletics, because when I was a kid I loved athletics,” he said.
“Don’t get me wrong I love my football, I love racing, but there is just something about (athletics). At the time you don’t really think about what’s better, you just enjoy it,” he said.
Morrow’s most memorable call was Sally Pearson’s record-breaking gold medal run at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
“The hardest race of anything to call is the women’s 100m hurdles, because it’s a very short race, you’ve got twelve and half seconds in which to make a mistake and the fact they have got ten obstacles to get over,” he said.
“The pressure was on Sally, but but it also meant the pressure was on (me), because you know everyone wants her to win an you’re willing her to win as well.”
Throughout his career Morrow has met some fascinating athletes, including International icons Usain Bolt and Muhammad Ali. However, the biggest impact on Morrow’s career have been his parents, and former boss at the ABC, Alan Marks.
“I had him as a boss for about 30 years, (and) Alan Marks was close to nearly everything I have done in my life. from that point of view he’s certainly the most influential person in my life,” said Morrow
Toward the end, Morrow’s tenure at the ABC encountered some hurdles of its own. Earlier this year, Morrow was stood down after on-air colleague Warren Ryan made a racial-reference in a joke that offended some listeners during an NRL match. Morrow briefly laughed some time after the joke was made, a reaction he maintains had nothing to do with Ryan’s remark.
“It did affect me personally because I don’t think I did anything wrong, because I didn’t hear what Warren Ryan had said,” Morrow said. “I was off doing something in relation to work, and I was shocked that I was called into it because there is no way in the world I knew anything about what had happened , I didn’t have a clue about what Warren had said until the Tuesday after the Friday that it happened.”
With plenty of support from his peers in the industry, Morrow pushed through the controversy and returned to the ABC, calling the Melbourne Cup earlier this week. His career at Aunty is likely to wrap-up with the Australian Open golf tournament in Sydney, which runs from 27-30 November.
There have been reports of Morrow moving to 2GB next year to link up with long time friend and fellow caller, Ray Hadley.
“There is a lot of talk about that, Ray Hadley and I have been friends for 35 years, there is always possibilities and I am not going to say no to anything, 2GB might be an option who knows . . . I might go there I might not.”
– Jake O’Brien
Top photo supplied by ABC.