Channel 7’s broadcast of last Friday’s game between Geelong and Brisbane Lions was thrown into chaos when key members of the commentary team were forced to leave in the middle of the game to isolate as an outbreak of Covid-19 in Queensland was discovered.
This forced regular boundary rider Abbey Holmes into Channel 7 commentary team to replace Wayne Carey, who had to go home due to being in a hotspot around the time of the outbreak.
On the Press Box Podcast, Holmes spoke about the events of that Friday night.
“I was, obviously doing my standard boundary role for channel 7 at Geelong and Brissy,” she said.
“Everything was pretty normal, we had BT [Brian Taylor] and JB [James Brayshaw] calling the game, and Hodgey [Luke Hodge] and Duck [Wayne Carey] in the expert chair.
“The Victorian government had announced that anyone from Brisbane had to immediately isolate and get tested.
“Hodgey had been with us pre-game when that announcement happened, and obviously following government regulations, he had to go.”
Holmes said the broadcast was thrown into further disarray when Carey recalled he’d been to the Queensland capital midway through the opening term.
“And then just during the first quarter was when they released the date, so anyone that had been in Brisbane from the 12th of March, and then Duck, you know said ‘I’ve been in Brisbane since then so I’ve gotta go.’
“This is all happening in the first quarter as well, I was oblivious, because I was down on the boundary, I was completely and utterly oblivious.”
Once the situation developed, Holmes said she was told to go upstairs to the commentary box.
“I had the producer in my ear telling me ‘Abs get upstairs as quick as you can’ you’re going into specials,” she said.
“I can’t even recall that moment because I had all of two minutes to get up there and prepare myself.
“It was a pretty crazy night.”
The daunting change of scenery could have thrown even the most professional broadcaster of their game, but as it turned out, Holmes had over-prepared for what the night would go on to have in store.
“For some reason, and I said this to my EP on the Saturday when he rang me – because I was on the desk with Hamish McLachlan straight off the top, I just wanted to kind of over prepare for this game,” she said.
“I wanted to be prepared in case Hamish asked me any curly questions.
“And then all of a sudden, you’re up in the special’s chair and I actually felt quite comfortable with everything I had prepared.
“Unbelievable how everything happened but yeah it was a great experience.”
Holmes also said with how quickly everything happened, she didn’t have time to think, which lead to a strong performance.
“If Gav, my EP said, ‘hey Abs we’re gonna throw you in the special comments chair in three weeks’ time’- I’m an over-thinker about everything,” she said.
“So, I think it actually helped me having no time to actually think, just do it, you know.”
Holmes also spoke about the gesture made by one of her colleagues in Brian Taylor.
“So, BT, Brian’s calling the game of footy, I’m upstairs at this point in time,” she said.
“And he took off his headset, game still happening, and he walked over to me, and took off my headset, and said ‘just take your time, you’re good at this.’
“I love that man so much, he’s just, he’s brilliant. Just that moment from our leader, the spiritual leader of the AFL commentary team, to come over and say that immediately made me feel comfortable.”
Despite getting met with wide-spread acclaim across social media, Holmes said a move to a permanent special comments position on Friday night isn’t on the cards.
“I’m happy where I am,” she said.
“I know that you completely and utterly have to earn your stripes to be given those opportunities, and when you are given those opportunities it’s because you earnt them.
“I’ve done expert commentary for AFLW for many years, for channel 7.
“And it’s an area that I would love to be involved in – in AFL in the Men’s comp, there’s no doubt about it, that’s certainly a goal of mine. But what happened on Friday night was a pretty unusual circumstance.
“It’s proven that I am capable, and I can do it, that I know my footy, and I love my footy. So now if an opportunity does open up and they tap me on the shoulder, I’ll hopefully be ready for it again.”