MIKE COLMAN reveals the NRL’s best and worst commentators

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We are at 10 games, Magic Round is upon us and Paul Kent has left his radio station. This can only mean one thing: it’s time for the most brilliant event in the world’s universally respected NRL media – the annual League Awards.

Yes folks, put on your best club hats and scarves, grab a meat pie and some cold ones from the Esky and settle in for a night of mystery, mayhem and weird fake spitting as we announce the best , the worst and most annoying rugby league commentator of the year.

Can anyone knock Gus Gould off his well-padded perch as the most one-eyed caller on the small screen? Will Cooper Cronk win back-to-back Kevin Pietersen Awards as rugby league’s most irritating voice and, most importantly, who will win the coveted Gold League as the game’s number one commentator?

Last season’s worst commentator in winning country Cooper Cronk (pictured) has stiff competition for the title of rugby league’s most irritating voice

There are some big names engraved on the magnificent trophies that are presented each year at the Darrell Eastlake Memorial Arena in the Henson Park parking lot, and this year will be no exception.

And so, without further ado as the accents of the great Frank Hyde singing “Danny Boy” echo through the auditorium, let’s kick this show off on the road.

First up, it’s the “Brad Arthur Award for Nepotism,” and the judges didn’t have to spend a lot of time on this one. This goes to anyone who thought it was a good idea to let Bulldogs boss Phil Gould comment on the Bulldogs-Rabbitohs game.

The award is being accepted on behalf of Channel 9 by a high profile executive who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal.

Attention Channel Nine: Anyone who thought it was a good idea to have Bulldogs supremo Phil Gould comment on his team's games needs to read.

Attention Channel Nine: Anyone who thought it was a good idea to have Bulldogs supremo Phil Gould comment on his team’s games needs to read.

“Many of us thought this might leave the network open to allegations of bias,” he said, using electronic voice distortion through a full-face mask while standing behind a curtain, “but as one member of our HR staff put it, “What could possibly be worse than the way he favored the Panthers in the Grand Finals last year? Besides, we are all afraid of him. We let him do what he wants”.

The Next Step is an award that has been won by some of the industry’s best-known voices over the years, including legends such as Ron ‘Won’ Casey, Darrell ‘Big Dazza’ Eastlake and Rex ‘Moose’ Mossop (who has won it four times, describing it as “like deja vu over and over again”).

It is, of course, the “Kevin Pietersen-Fingernails Down the Blackboard Award” for the most irritating commentator of the year.

After his stunning debut award last season, Cooper Cronk was set to dominate the pitch for many years to come, but in a surprisingly shrewd move by Fox League bosses, he switched from live commentary to studio analysis, which which means viewers who like (and can relate to) Cronk’s intricate thoughts can choose to tune in or not, which is good news for those who just want to watch the footy.

What’s not good news is that they replaced him with Shane Flanagan. Listen I get that Flanno knows more about rugby league than all of us put together but could someone at Fox please point out that we don’t need him to tell us in detail what we just saw ?

He was a tough player for 78 games with the Dragons, Magpies and Eels, a great premiership-winning coach with the Sharks... but Shane Flanagan would be downright making a reserve team as a pundit of television.

He was a tough player for 78 games with the Dragons, Magpies and Eels, a great premiership-winning coach with the Sharks… but Shane Flanagan would be downright making a reserve team as a pundit of television.

And talk long. In the brilliant Foxtel miniseries “Winning Time”, LA Lakers announcer Chick Hearn raises a clenched fist whenever he wants his co-commentator to stop talking. Maybe commentators working with Flanagan should give it a try.

Needless to say, Flanno won the prize, but it was by no means a one-horse race. On his heels came Michael Ennis and Johnathan Thurston.

Ennis gets points for his enthusiasm, but man, what can this guy do to the English language (“Aww, that’s noyce, he took him to the loyne, twoyce”) and as for Thursto… We all loved it those goofy, absurd, crazy laughs from the post-game interviews he gave when he was the game’s best player, but when it’s him in the blue blazer trying to ask the questions? Not really.

So all that’s left to say is congratulations to Flanno… and now could someone give him another coaching job so he can return his microphone?

Moy-cal Ennis (pictured right with fellow Fox commentator Corey Parker) faced heavy criticism for his style behind the moy-crophone - but he ended up as one of the finalists for the highest award irritant.

Moy-cal Ennis (pictured right with fellow Fox commentator Corey Parker) faced heavy criticism for his style behind the moy-crophone – but he ended up as one of the finalists for the highest award irritant.

Which brings us to the “Top Gun II Award for Best Wingman”. The Best Co-Commentator award was split between Peter Sterling and Fatty Vautin for many years, but a new breed took over and the judges struggled to separate them.

Given his recent form, it looked like Fox League’s Greg Alexander had a great chance to return back-to-back, but he received surprisingly strong competition from newcomer Billy Slater and rapidly improving Joey Johns. .

Individually, Slater and Johns are good, but working as a team – as they did for the recent blockbuster Panthers-Eels – they are exceptional.

Slater is knowledgeable, sharp and fun to listen to, while Joey’s instant assessment of tryout prep and predictions of what’s about to unfold is up there with Sterlo at his best.

If, as reported, Nine pushed Joey aside as a first step to show him the door, it will prove to be Souths’ worst decision since releasing Adam Reynolds.

And the winner is… drum roll please… Billy Slater. Well done Billy, hope this huge honor softens the blow if your Maroons get run over by the Blues.

Queensland and Kangaroo champions Johnathan Thurston (left), Cameron Smith (middle) and Billy Slater (right) have all moved onto the cover of Nine – with very mixed results

Queensland and Kangaroo champions Johnathan Thurston (left), Cameron Smith (middle) and Billy Slater (right) have all moved onto the cover of Nine – with very mixed results

‘Thursto’ specialized in cheeky post-match interviews as a player and the fans loved it. But now that he’s a commentator? Not really

Which brings us to the major prize of the evening, the NRL’s Best Commentator Gold League and, while it’s a great occasion for all the rugby league luminaries gathered here in their finest mauve dinner suits and smart 1970s, frilly shirts and velvet bow ties, it’s also poignant.

For the first time in living memory, the great Ray ‘Rabbits’ Warren is not eligible. Arguably the nicest man to ever call the game, and certainly the funniest, Rabs stepped down from weekly commentary and while he was supposed to get back behind the mic during Origin, he didn’t do enough to justify an appointment. .

In its place, Channel 9 has introduced new voices over the past two seasons, including Mat Thompson and Peter Psaltis. While Thompson can tend to get a little excited and crank up the volume to 11 in an obvious attempt to boost energy levels, he and Psaltis are precise and professional.

To their credit, they haven’t tried to instantly replicate the chemistry Rabbits has built with his co-callers over many years, but by the same token, that may leave their calls sounding a little flat in comparison.

Yet what can you do? Following Rabs, who many believe was called the first game of rugby league in 1908, is like stepping on stage after the Beatles.

On Fox, they also struggle to find the right balance between concise and comedic. Main callers Warren Smith, Matt Russell and Brenton Speed ​​are all, like their Channel 9 counterparts, totally professional. They call the action with precision without any sugar coating and let the action on the pitch do the talking.

At the other end of the scale, Andrew Voss – who learned his skills at the feet of the legendary Rabbits – puts a lot of personality. Too much personality, some might say, with what was once considered ‘color’ now bordering on squeaky.

Dan Ginnane isn't Ray 'Rabbits' Warren, but he's not half bad at doing the same job as the big man

Andrew Voss brings excitement to the game like no other caller...sometimes too much excitement

Ray ‘Rabbits’ Warren remains the grand master of play-by-play calls. Dan Ginnane makes a good fist of it – and if richer excitement is what you’re looking for, Vossy is your man

A few seasons ago, Voss was a real contender for the Gold League. This year he was lucky not to be nominated for the Kevin Pietersen Award.

Which leaves only one competitor. Some might say a shock winner, but one who has come on leaps and bounds in recent seasons. Someone who exhibits a combination of knowledge, enthusiasm, and a touch of ockerism, as well as a smooth working relationship with her co-callers, especially Brandy Alexander.

I am pleased to announce that the winner of the 2022 Gold League is… Dan Ginnane.

Thank you for your presence ladies and gentlemen. Fights between disgruntled losers will begin at the bar in five minutes.


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