By TANIA PHILLIPS
HE CAN’T bowl, can’t bat, can’t field – he can’t even play tennis – but that hasn’t stopped Drew Morphett from inspiring others and becoming a major success in his field.
The ABC broadcaster, who along with wife Kaz runs a 54 acre (22 hectare) agistment property in Pakenham South, has received an OAM in the Australia Day Honours list for his services to sport as a radio and television commentator, broadcaster and presenter.
He is one of the voices of AFL and Cricket in Australia, has covered six Olympics and is a senior member of the ABC’s Grandstand team.
Not bad for a boy from Cronulla who knew nothing of Aussie Rules growing up and had a burning desire to wear the baggy green but, by his own admission, lacked the sporting prowess to pull it off.
Mr Morphett described the award as “an honour and a surprise”.
“It’s probably a reward for longevity,” he joked.
“I started in ABC sport in 1966 – that’s nearly 50 years which is a bloody long time.
“I’ve had two stints at the ABC and in the middle I went to Channel Seven for 13 years.
“I’m the luckiest person in the world… other people (who receive the OAM) save lives and change the world but hopefully I’ve given some people entertainment and insight along the way. It is great existence.”
Mr Morphett said growing up he had always loved sport, particular cricket, and when it became apparent that he was never going to bowl or bat for Australia and pull on the baggy green he looked for another way to channel that love finding himself at the ABC working in sport in 1966.
“I started in NSW but then I went to Western Australia and had to learn all about Aussie Rules,” he said.
“I made all of my mistakes over there,” Morphett joked.
He said hopefully people on “the other side of the rabbit proof fence” had forgiven him his early efforts.
“When I went to Perth I didn’t know how many blokes made up an Aussie Rules team – I had to learn from scratch,” he said.
“When I finished I went to Victoria and started doing the VFL in 1977. That’s nearly 40 years – it’s been a great run.”
Not bad for a boy that grew up at Gunnamatta Bay in the Cronulla region, supporting the St George Dragons through their golden era in the Rugby League.
Despite that he joked Victoria and the MCG had now become his home in summer and winter and there was “no better place to be”.
Since then he’s covered grand finals and boxing day tests and has met and sat next to some of the legends of sport in this country from Shane Warne and Keith Miller to Ron Barassi, Leigh Matthews, Jack Newton, Ian Baker Finch and Neal Fraser.
“And I can’t bat, bowl or even play tennis,” he quipped.
So in such a long and illustrious career there must be highlights… and there are… including some that are surprisingly recent – proving that you never stop learning and loving something you are meant to do.
“I often say it’s the 1984 Olympics when the Australian pursuit team won the team pursuit against the US on home ground,” he said.
“It was the thrill of a lifetime; it was the first gold medal of the game for Australia… and my first Olympics.”
However he said being there to call another cycling Olympic golden moment has probably almost eclipsed that now – Anna Meares beating Vicky Pendleton in the sprint in London after Pendleton was the red-hot favourite to take the medal in her home Olympics.“I called Anna’s win and then was able to see Sally Pearson’s victory three hours later,” he laughs.
Of course the recent ashes win – Australia’s 5-0 white-wash is also very very high on his list particularly seeing how much it meant to his ABC colleagues and former players including Geoff Lawson and Terry Alderman.
Mr Morphett joins exclusive ranks himself which include ABC colleague and fellow ABC Grandstand commentator Jim Maxwell, who received an OAM last year.