Australia: 24m people, but not one decent rugby commentator

Australia is one of the better rugby nations on the face of the earth, with two World Cup wins to show for its efforts in the game, the same as South Africa and just one behind New Zealand.

But despite its producing a number of truly great players – Nick Farr-Jones, David Campese and Mark Ella are three who come to mind – the country still lacks a decent rugby commentator and has made do with Gordon Bray for a long, long time.

Surprisingly, Bray has been commentating for more than 40 years, despite the fact that there are obvious deficiencies in his performance. His commentary sounds more like a coaching class for Australia, and a list of instances where he feels the rub of the green has gone against the Australians. Whinging is the word they use in Australia to describe his complaining.

Bray has issues with pronouncing names that are not Western. Some South African and Maori names, for example, truly pose a challenge to him. That he does not take the trouble to meet team officials from these players’ teams and find out how to pronounce such names correctly speaks to his lack of professionalism.

Additionally, Bray periodically comes up with truly ridiculous trivia, things which are really silly. Plus, the bias in his commentary is there for all to see; maybe he has survived so long because there is nobody better among the 24 million in the country. That is a depressing thought.

A good commentator makes listening to a game a joy. Across the ditch, in New Zealand, the TV commentator is a man named Grant Nisbett. Boy, is he the diametric opposite of Bray. Nisbett has excellent command of the language, never screws up on getting players’ names right, and is not there to conduct a coaching class for the All Blacks.

He is quick to praise good play by either team and while he, no doubt, supports New Zealand, he never lets his colours show during a game.

One cannot cite more experience as the reason why Nisbett is so much better at his job than Bray, even though he has now commentated on more than 300 Tests. Bray has been around for longer, and Wikipedia claims he has commentated on more than 400 games, including in all eight World Cups to date.

It is an indication that one can hang around for an eternity provided one has the right connections. Australia often reminds me of a famous saying by the late W. Somerset Maugham: “In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”


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