Dennis Cometti delivered many famous lines that brilliantly captured the moment on the football field and will remain timeless. The popular caller explains how.
Dennis Cometti delivered many famous lines that brilliantly captured the moment on the football field and will remain timeless. The popular caller explains how.

Cometti recognised for his classic one-liners?

Dennis Cometti started the sentence not particularly sure how he would finish it.

But as Heath Shaw charged towards an unsuspecting Nick Riewoldt in the 2010 Grand Final replay, unsurprisingly, Cometti found the magic.

"He came up behind him like a librarian," Cometti said. "He never heard him."

And just like that "the smother of the century" had its perfect backing track.

There are hundreds of golden lines to choose from when you are talking about a man widely known as "the voice of football" after almost 50 years of superb footy broadcasting.

You have heard the famous "centimeter perfect" and the Guy McKenna-inspired "as cool as the other side of the pillow".

"Like a cork in the ocean" as Peter Wilson snapped over his head.

But what about when Tom Boyd's long-range bomb zeroed towards the goal line in the final minutes of the 2016 Grand Final?

"A stadium holds its breath", Cometti summed up beautifully.

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Dennis Cometti delivered the perfect line when Heath Shaw smothered a certain goal from Nick Riewoldt in the 2010 Grand Final replay.
Dennis Cometti delivered the perfect line when Heath Shaw smothered a certain goal from Nick Riewoldt in the 2010 Grand Final replay.

 

Or when former Saint Jason Gram got dacked in a tackle? "A strip-o-gram", Cometti said as it sprang to mind.

In the 1989 Grand Final, after a dominant start from Hawthorn, Cometti called the Geelong comeback before it clicked into gear.

And when Gary Ablett took that one-handed mark falling near the boundary line and then casually threaded the eye of the needle, Cometti nailed another timeless moment in 22 words.

"Ablett. Oh, what a mark. Cleared by Hawthorn to Geelong in 1983. Will he come back to haunt them? Checkside kick. Nonchalant."

We could go on. We'd love to.

Cometti's style was most certainly his own.

Dry. Witty. Cool. Accurate.

If ever he got a player identification wrong in the muddle of jumpers it would burn him for days.

Rarely did it ever happen.

More than anything, Cometti tried to treat the moment as something that would stand proud in time.

It is why some of his calls were on-the-spot genius, and others were patiently and painstakingly crafted for months.

 

Dennis Cometti became known as “the voice of football” in a broadcasting career that spanned nearly 50 years.
Dennis Cometti became known as “the voice of football” in a broadcasting career that spanned nearly 50 years.

 

He'd think of the line, store it away, and then when the opportunity arrived, out it came with that deep, smooth-as-silk voice.

And it was that constant drip-feed of clever and humorous one-liners that has made him one of the most popular callers of the AFL era.

"There is always a tempo in games of football, it's like a dance," he said.

"There are gaps, there are breaks, boundary throw-ins and balls-ups, so there are a million places to put something which you think is mildly amusing.

"Not every game is a one-point thriller or a cliffhanger.

"So, you've got to be careful where you inject humour, but at the same time I think there is a place for it."

The legendary broadcaster has won the AFL Media Association caller of the year 11 times and was last night inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame for his stellar and lifelong contribution to Australian Rules football.

It follows his induction into the Order of Australia last year, as well as the MCG and Sport Australia Hall of Fame.

Was it "work"? Sort of.

"I've had fun," Cometti said.

"I always went to the footy optimistically, I always felt good about it.

"I mean, what a job."

 

 

Cometti made the senior list at Footscray but his media commitments prevented him from playing a VFL senior match.
Cometti made the senior list at Footscray but his media commitments prevented him from playing a VFL senior match.

 

He also had flair.

And not just at the ends of his pants to match the 70s sideburns.

When Cometti watched games at home to practice, he would put the telly on, turn the volume down, and crank his own pop or rock music up.

It was dedication, with a difference.

"I enjoyed watching a lot of tape," he said.

"But if you watch or listen too much of people doing what you do, I think you pick up some habits.

"What I tried to do was detach myself from the (commentary) group and do what I have always done.

"So I always had the sound down and the music up."

He was, after all, a disc jockey who played good footy in the WAFL for West Perth, and under Ted Whitten at Footscray, when his radio career started to blossom in the early 70s.

"I loved my time at the Bulldogs, but there was no hope of me playing league footy because I would be leaving (the club) about 6.30pm to go to work - to do the radio," he said.

"I was happy to have a kick, and really enjoyed it. But I would pass Ted Whitten, who was the coach at the time, and he would just laugh at me and shake his head, because I was going to work as he would be heading out to take team training.

"So one thing requires dedication (playing), the other requires none. All you needed to know was where the night clubs were."

Dennis Cometti began his media career as a disc jockey at radio station 6KY in the late 1960s.
Dennis Cometti began his media career as a disc jockey at radio station 6KY in the late 1960s.

 

 

Before that, he had his best year in the WAFL in 1968 when he was a dangerous forward playing alongside champion ruckman Polly Farmer.

But then the gangly goal kicker suffered a pair of serious hamstring injuries, firstly in a semi-final and then in the warm-up before a game early the next season.

His father also passed away suddenly in March 1969. Cometti was on the track training when police officers approached him to pass on the news.

Cometti had learned the game sitting next to his dad at WAFL games, or listening to it on the wireless next to the fire in the family lounge room.

But after his father passed, playing footy took a back seat to his work behind the mic.

And his big break came in 1972 when he was working for radio station 6KY.

He just happened to be the one in the office on his own when the chance phone call came.

It was Ian Major from 3KZ, looking for someone to chip-in on the call of the WA versus Victoria state game. Someone to give him an occasional breather during the stop-plays.

 

 

 

 

Cometti was only 22 at the time.

"He says is there anyone who can do the footy? There was no one else around, and I knew the Western Australian players, so I said unassumingly 'I might be able to help'," Cometti said.

"So we did it and the longer the game went, the better it was as far as I was concerned because he let me do more. He was a very generous broadcaster.

"And I came away from that day feeling really excited. I really enjoyed it."

From about the third quarter, it was clear the kid Cometti had something. And from there he got a job at the ABC in late 1972 and then flourished at Channel 7 alongside Drew Mophett and Sandy Roberts from 1986.

As a distinguished Olympic swimming caller, he unforgettably called home Susie O'Neill "the heart of a lion in the 'heart of Dixie'" and then Kieran Perkins "this is rare gold, the best kind of gold" in Atlanta in 1996.

But it was when he moved to Channel 9 between 2002-2006 and stepped in for Tim Lane that things went to another level on the footy front.

Back at Channel 7 from 2007 he partnered Bruce McAvaney. They were the Torvill and Dean, or the Lillee and Marsh of the commentary box.

 

Cometti and Bruce McAvaney formed the perfect combination at Channel 7.
Cometti and Bruce McAvaney formed the perfect combination at Channel 7.

 

 

McAvaney, with his remarkable statistical recall and guttural excitement, and Cometti's dry humour made the perfect blend.

"Everyone has been terrific, but it has become a special association with Bruce because we did so many games together, and he is an outstanding bloke, an outstanding commentator," he said.

"The strength of our getting together, I think, was that we were so different. It always just felt comfortable to me.

"I'm not good with stats, any stat I have in a game I would have written down beforehand, or was something that Josh Kay, our statistician told me.

"Bruce is like Albus Dumbledore (Harry Potter character) when he arrives, he's got this huge book, and it's the only computer he trusts, so as a result he's got everything.

"He's got this steel trap mind and I just love listening to him because he can recall events. He says so often, how about such and such, I say to him, was I there?

"But I have a lot of people to thank, I have been very lucky. Lucky to have been born into sport and into a sporting family and it has been terrific to have sport as a companion my whole life."

Originally published as How did Cometti produce classic one-liners?



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