Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
8 January 2019
By Keith Quinn (from his book Quinn's Quips) Early in my broadcasting career by 1969 I was deemed sound enough by the bosses of the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation to be the regular studio host of the Sports Roundup radio show. It was quite simple broadcasting work and therefore very good for a young bloke to be involved with. But one day I think I played a major role in New Zealand winning a cricket test match! Read on...
Basically for that job I would arrive at one of the studios at Broadcasting House in downtown Wellington and open up the show. The 'show' actually was pretty uncomplicated action for me. After going on the air I would read a few news, scores and stories from around the place. Then I would 'cross over' to a major sports event which we were featuring that day and which had commentary running ball-by-ball for hours. While that happened I waited in the studio, monitoring the broadcast in case it broke down. At any breaks in play, like lunch breaks, or rain, or change of innings etc, I filled in by reading more sports news and adding additional news interviews and local updates.
On this particular day in early March 1969 (but 50 years from 2019) the game I was monitoring was a West Indies v New Zealand cricket test in Wellington. The weather was fine, the game was meandering along without need for my interruption, so I arrived at the studio; I supposed I was in for an easy day.
For me at that time I felt that my job was akin to being near the very peak of what was possible in the life of a sports broadcaster. I had made the odd appearance on TV reading the night-time sports news and my rugby reports from the Ranfurly Shield season in Napier were very exciting to do.
So when an assistant editor from the Radio Newsroom upstairs entered the studio holding a telegram (yes, a telegram!) and asked me what to do with it I looked at it and blinked.
It was addressed to "The Manager, West Indies Cricket team, c/- Broadcasting House, Wellington New Zealand" - and its content clearly and simply said 'Here is the West Indies Cricket team to tour to England at the conclusion of their tour of New Zealand.'
So I thought; 'wow! As I am in Broadcasting House this telegram must be directed at whoever the studio host for that day is. So I thought 'I'll be the one who reads out this significant sports team in the next break in play!'
I never hesitated to think maybe the current West Indies team members, battling away against New Zealand at the Basin Reserve, might not have yet heard for themselves who of the current team in Wellington were to be included for the England tour - and who were not included. The tour was to follow in only a few weeks time.
'Surely they would have received their own telegram,' I thought.
Accordingly on the fifth and final day of the test match, when the tea break came at the Basin Reserve and both teams had headed for their dressing rooms the radio commentary (no live TV sets in those days) was audible in the rooms for all the players to hear as they sat down for their 20 minute rest.
In my mind’s eye I now see someone in the West Indies room. on hearing a callow youth (that's me!) start to read from the telegram. The whole room would have shushed down as the implications of what was being said were taken in by the team.
The West Indies had had a tough time in Australia and accordingly, listening back home the WI selectors were not impressed. Changes were seen as being needed from the Australian to the English conditions. So right there on the radio were the changes .the home selectors were making (five out of 16 of the Australian tourists were dropped);
They were read out very publicly by an ego-driven youth who was busting to make a name for himself; rather than checking to see if it was appropriate for him to do so.
Of course after tea apparently on the field at the Basin Reserve all hell broke loose. When the West Indies went back into the fray the most angry ones came from among their pace bowling attack, five had been callously and cold-heartedly and publicly dismissed. Accordingly the bowlers ignored their previous tactics and just charged in, wildly flinging ball after ball loosely at the New Zealand batsmen. The tenor of the game quickly changed totally.
New Zealand had been set 166 to win and at one point were down to 39-3; so a tough last session lay ahead. But with Charlie Griffith and Richard Edwards, two of their speed bowlers both in a rage at being dropped - along with the injured great Wesley Hall New Zealand cruised on to a six-wicket win.
The clipping I kept for my files is not of a glaring next day one; I don't think the reporters at the ground were aware of the 'background drama.' Rather the clipping I have kept it is a 'reflective' interview the captain Garfield Sobers gave to Gabriel David of The Evening Post in which Sobers spoke of being '"bitterly disappointed" with the West Indies selectors and their method of choosing and announcing the side (for the England tour.)
When Sobers added 'the team was subsequently announced on Monday afternoon, with the players hearing the side during the tea break in the second test, 'and the entire pace attack having been dropped' he said he had 'threatened to quit' as West Indies captain.
I (the secret announcer)was quietly thrilled.
So you be the judge; had I had played my part for my country? Maybe I did = or maybe I didn't.
(As I have often said 'it is my story and I'm sticking to it!')
Great Britain beat NZ 6-3 in the first of a four test series. From Carisbrook in Dunedin a local 4YA staff member Alfred Laurie Canter was the commentator.
The famous New Zealand radio commentator who revolutionised the way rugby commentary was done all over the world.
The Wellington born McCarthy had essentially an outward personality; he loved talking, and he had had time on stage as a lad in the early 1930s in New Zealand. It followed then that he was not phased by nerves when he became a rugby commentator. He broadcast his games with a style so different from the conservative way callers had been first commentated the game in Britain. McCarthy was loud and brazen not afraid to raise his voice and ‘let go’ on the air.
When he was sent by the New Zealand Government to broadcast the 1945-46 Kiwi Army rugby of Britain back to New Zealand his style fascinated the conformist BBC. They took his broadcasts and put them on their stations. They were amazed that he could engender so much excitement. The BBC wanted him to stay on. Instead McCarthy came back to New Zealand, but his style lingered in Britain. Gone were the stuffy, some might say plum-in-the-mouth callers and encouraged was the McCarthy style. The great Scottish TV commentator, Bill McLaren, recalls how, as a young fledgling radio man, he was sent by the BBC to Cardiff in 1954 to stand behind McCarthy and watch ‘how’ he broadcast a game.
Because of the high peaks of emotion surrounding the 1956 Springbok tour of New Zealand Winston’s words of description and catchphrases became the catchphrases of the New Zealand nation. His most famous call was ‘listen….it’s a goal!’ when a shot at goal was taken. He would allow the cheering of the crowd to tell the radio audience first whether a kick was on target or not.
In his time, in the 1940s and ‘50s Winston McCarthy became one of the best-known New Zealanders. He became the eyes and ears of New Zealand’s voracious appetite for listening to their All Black team on tour. It was commonly said around the country that if the All Black selectors of the time could not see every game being played each week they were influenced in their selection of test teams by what McCarthy had said on the air. His words weighed that heavily.
When Ireland played Australia in Dublin in 1958 what coloured jerseys did each team wear?