Legendary AFL commentator Dennis Cometti retires at the end of the 2016 football season. Famous for his ‘Cometti-isms’, spur-of-the-moment sporting quips, Dennis is the only commentator to have covered AFL from its inception as a national game. In his oral history interview with Jen Jewel Brown (NFSA title: 1143169), he shares insights from his 40-year career in sports broadcasting.
In the 1960s Dennis was a player for the West Perth Football Club. Then in 1971 he was selected to play for Footscray in the Victorian Football League (VFL). Repeated hamstring injuries and media commitments, however, meant that he did not play a senior VFL match.
Returning to Perth, he became captain-coach of Maddington Bulls Football Club and led the team to three successive grand final victories in the 1970s. He also had a stint coaching West Perth and as Chair of Selectors for the Western Australia state of origin team.
Dennis started his radio career in Perth in 1968 as a Top 40 disc jockey for radio station 6KY. In this excerpt from his oral history, Dennis discusses what radio was like in the 1960s:
It was a chance phone call that led to an opportunity to commentate a state VFL game between Western Australia and Victoria at Subiaco Oval in the 1970s. It was his first foray into sports radio broadcasting, as he discusses in this clip:
A labour of love
In 1986 Dennis joined the Seven Network as a television AFL commentator. Appearing on TV had additional challenges as viewers could easily see if you got a player’s name wrong. There are 18 players on an AFL team with a further four on the interchange bench for each game. Add to that the coaching staff and umpires and there being 18 teams in the competition and you have a lot of names, positions and backstories to remember. In this clip, Dennis talks about how he prepares for a broadcast:
Game for a laugh
Dennis is legendary not only for his knowledge of the game but also for his ‘Cometti-isms’, quick–witted comments often making bad puns or ‘Dad jokes’ about players, teams and others:
Collingwood know they’re in trouble. It’s like being in the bathtub with the Loch Ness Monster!
The Cats (Geelong players) are all around him, like a bowl of milk.
There is something magnetic about his aura. Paul Roos should be covered in fridge magnets.
Gaspar, from 40 metres out, hits the post! Gaspar the unfriendly post.
There is even a Facebook page dedicated to his one-liners.
In this final clip Dennis discusses humour in sports broadcasting and also his opinion that we often take AFL, and sport in general, too seriously: