Bruce McAvaney: Football’s greatest inspiration

Bruce McAvaney announced on Sunday he will be stepping away from AFL commentary, Image: AFL Photos

There’s no voice more synonymous with Australian Rules Football than that of Bruce McAvaney. 

Channel Seven’s premier caller across the past four decades, McAvaney has been a staple inside the living rooms of Australian’s and brought the game to life in his own very unique and special way. 

Whether it be Darren Jarman kicking the Adelaide Crows to their maiden premiership in the 1997 Grand Final or Chris Yarran tight roping the boundary line and taking “a cheeky little bounce” on his way to the goal of the year in 2012, Bruce has constantly enriched football fans with his innate description of the game. 

Hence, when the news came through that the veteran had decided to give up his football commentary commitments the AFL world entered a sense of shock as tributes flew for a man that had touched so many lives. 

So what was it that made the great Bruce McAvaney tick?

Speaking to the Press Box podcast in 2019, McAvaney gave fantastic insight into his incredible drive to succeed and produce the “perfect call”. 

“My main goal is to just get better really,” McAvaney said. 

“I’ve got a great job and I love going to whatever I get to go to whether it be an interview with an athlete or a football match, so [what drives me] really is that quest for the perfect call.

“It’s learning to prepare better, trying to deliver a more emotional or clear way of speaking, just to become a more experienced and better caller.

“I am far from finished in trying to develop, I think I can get better and that’s what drives me.”

Working as a broadcaster for over 40 years, McAvaney has had the opportunity to call a host of different sports with stints at the the Olympics, the annual spring carnival and Australian Open proving his remarkable versatility. 

Reflecting on his career, he says he is content with the range of events he has been fortunate enough to broadcast over the journey. 

“I’ve done most of the things I dreamt I’d never do, I’ve been very fortunate,” he said. 

“There’s a bucket list of things I want to go to when I retire, I’d love to spend a week at the Tour De France, I’d love to go Royal Ascot, a Kentucky Derby, a Lord’s test match, a rugby test match in France, there’s a million things I am very curious [to see].

“In terms of calling however, here I am getting closer to the end than the start by a long way and I’m not satisfied in terms of my performance but I’d have to be satisfied with the opportunities I’ve been given.” 

When it comes to a call that stands out however he cannot go past one fateful day at Sydney Olympic Park in 2000. 

“[The call that stands out most] is probably Cathy Freeman and not because it was a good call or anything, that’s for other people to judge,” he said.

“It was the moment, it was the Olympic Games in your own country and the sport I love the most at the Olympics, I knew her well we’re good friends, it was her moment with her whole career revolving around 49 seconds.

“I love those moments, so for me that was probably the one race that at the end of the day if someone made a gravestone and it’d said that’s the bloke that called Cathy’s race that would be very nice.” 

Having experienced the highs and lows of life as a broadcaster, McAvaney believes the most important aspect of his working life is preparation.

“I’m one of these people where as long as I’ve prepared well and feel I’ve given myself every chance I am pretty happy with the end result,” he said. 

“If I don’t do well so be it I’ll try and do better the next time, but if I don’t give myself the best chance that’s when I would really be annoyed and angry.

“That’s the thing I base my whole working life around, I call only for myself, I don’t want to please anyone else and I want to give myself every possibility to be as good as I can be.” 

For all he has achieved in an industry that is admired upon by many, McAvaney loves nothing more than giving back and helping inspire the next generation of broadcasters. 

When asked about the tips he would give a young person starting out in the profession, he emphasised the importance of self confidence and perseverance. 

“It’s having a dream and doing everything you can to fulfil it,” he said.

“It’s having a vision and saying how can I put myself in a position where if I get an opportunity I can take advantage of it, so you hone your skills.

“What you do is you give yourself every opportunity, knowledge is everything, having a rhythm as a caller is so important, having a curiosity and being well read to do interviews is most important, so it’s honing skills, having an imagination and not ever saying to yourself I’m not good enough.

“Always back yourself in and give yourself a chance, be there and try and create some opportunities for yourself through networking, asking and being slightly a pest so when the door opens you are prepared to walk through.” 

You will not find a more humble and giving man than Bruce McAvaney, with his impact on the game of football as far reaching as any player ever to grace the field. 

So, although this announcement comes with great sadness, it also provides a fantastic opportunity for the next generation of broadcaster to fill his shoes and forge their own journey as the voice of Friday Night Football. 

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