Dennis Cometti AM has provided the soundtrack to many of Australia’s great sporting moments.
“Rare gold, the best kind of gold,” for Kieren Perkins and “The heart of a lion in the heart of Dixie,” for Susie O’Neill as the Aussie duo charged toward Olympic glory at the Atlanta Games are just two of the lines etched in history alongside the athletes whose names have already entered the Sport Australia Hall of Fame.
His smooth delivery, versatility, immense knowledge, quick wit and a penchant for wordplay for which Cometti became famous, were always ‘centimetre perfect’.
Like his description of Western Bulldogs Tony Liberatore who “went into that last pack optimistically and came out misty optically.”
Cometti’s achievements will be celebrated at the sold-out 35th Induction and Awards Gala Dinner on Thursday, 10th October, 2019 when he is inducted as a General Member of The Sport Australia Hall of Fame and receives one of the highest honours that can be bestowed in Australian sport.
In a long career spanning half a century he became one of Australia’s best-known and most respected TV and radio sports broadcasters.
He started as a radio announcer in Perth in 1968 while he was also trying to forge a playing and coaching career with West Perth in the Western Australian Football League.
“I think the radio people saw some value in having a guy who was playing league football playing the Rolling Stones and the Beatles so I got a gig,” Cometti says as he recalls how his career started.
“It was a state game between Victoria and Western Australia to decide the carnival,” Cometti says. “I got a call from a chap called Ian Major who broadcasted on 3KZ in Melbourne and he thought there was an affiliation between my radio station, which was purely a rock station and the station he worked, he did the football over there with Captain Blood, Jack Dyer.”
“He said is there somebody there that can do the footy and I was sitting in this room, the disc jockeys room if you don’t mind, and I looked around there was nobody else in the room so I sort of brazenly said well I might be able to help you.”
“So I went down and started broadcasting with him. He was very, very generous too and the longer it went the more he gave me to do and I took that as a heartening sign.”
Cometti went on to work for the ABC between 1972 and 1985, the Seven Network from 1986 to 2001, the Nine Network between 2002 and 2006 and returned to Seven from 2007 until his retirement in 2016. He was also the lead football caller for Melbourne radio station 3AW and then for Triple M and wrote sports columns and blogs for the West Australian newspaper.
Commuting regularly between his hometown and the eastern states, Cometti was best-known Australia-wide for his football work, calling the AFL from its inception in 1990, but he also covered cricket and the Olympic Games as well as reading the sports news bulletins for both Seven and Nine in Perth.
He broadcast his first Test cricket match for the ABC in 1973 at age 23, the youngest to do so for the national broadcaster, and continued in this role for the next 13 years alongside iconic commentator Alan McGilvray.
Cometti covered three Summer Olympics for Seven – Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000 – specialising in swimming, and calling more Australian gold medals than any previous Australian television commentator.
His work in Barcelona and Atlanta came during one of the golden periods of Australian swimming.
“I think at the beginning my only qualification for doing the swimming was I had a pool in my back yard,” Cometti joked.
“I really enjoyed it and embraced it and I go back to Dawn Fraser and how exciting that all was. But I really had to study – it was like swotting for an exam because you realise how important those events are. So I thought it was my responsibility to do the best I could.”
He bowed out of full-time TV after the 2016 AFL Grand Final, the 16th that he had called, and the last of his partnership with Bruce McAvaney.
“Well I don’t know if we were perfect, but we aspired to be. There’s no broadcaster in sport that I respect more than Bruce and no one I trust in broadcasting more than Bruce. It’s a lot about trust and I worked as often with Bruce as with anybody else and the chemistry just got better and better.”
“Of course we have sport in common, football in common, Olympics in common, so much and I’m glad he’s my friend and of course he’s in this illustrious group that I’m joining.”
The Sport Australia Hall of Fame media members are the who’s who of Australian sports broadcasting, including the late Tony Charlton AM (2007), Bill Collins OAM (1996), Ron Casey AM MBE (1991), Alan McGilvray AM MBE (1990) and of course Bruce McAvaney OAM (2002).
“You almost have to pinch yourself when you get in that company,” Cometti says.
“I admire all of those people because some of them were role models along the way. Particularly, well I won’t single out names, I think that would be unfair, I think that all in their field clearly were leaders.”
“When you see the people who will be in that room on the night of my induction it’s quite daunting. Some of my idols, right through the years, people I’ve worked with, people I’ve admired in sport, they’re all there. It’s really something special.”
Voted the Television Caller of the Year by the Australian Football Media Association a record 11 times, in 2006 he also won the Alf Potter Award for that season’s most outstanding media personality and the sports category at the West Australian of the Year awards in 2017. In 2018 he was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in sports journalism at the 17th annual Sport Australia Media Awards.
Dennis Cometti is a member of the Melbourne Cricket Ground and Australian Football Media Association Halls of Fame. In 2019 he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to the broadcast media as a sports presenter, and to the community and honoured with a lifetime achievement award by Sport Australia.
Chair of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame Selection Committee Rob de Castella AO MBE said:
“Few have the ability to articulate the incredible drama, tragedy, and beauty that sport presents.”
“Dennis Cometti has been recognised by his peers as being amongst the greatest sports commentators this country has produced. Through his art he has honoured our greatest sports men and women, celebrated the most memorable sporting moments, and inspired and entertained millions of sports lovers.”
Sport Australia Hall of Fame Chair John Bertrand AO said: “The ‘oracle’ of sports broadcasting; AFL, Test cricket, Olympics, over a lifetime of broadcasting Dennis has seen and said it all. We welcome Dennis Cometti into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame.”
Dennis Cometti AM will join Paralympic swimmer Matt Cowdrey OAM, shooter Russell Mark OAM, cyclist Robbie McEwen AM, swimmer Stephanie Rice OAM, former Matilda Cheryl Salisbury and triathlete Emma Snowsill OAM with induction into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame on Australian sport’s “Night of Nights” – the 35th Sport Australia Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Gala Dinner on Thursday, 10th October at Palladium at Crown, Melbourne.
Established in 1985, The Sport Australia Hall of Fame exists to preserve and celebrate the history of Australian sport and to inspire all Australians to achieve their potential both in sport and life.
The Sport Australia Hall of Fame plays a vital role in preserving and perpetuating Australia’s rich sporting heritage, whilst promoting the values of courage, sportsmanship, integrity, mateship, persistence, and excellence, all underpinned by generosity, modesty, pride and ambition.
Along with the seven new inductees, ‘The Don’ Award will be presented to the athlete who has most inspired the nation and the Scholarship and Mentoring program recipients will be presented. In addition, the 41st Legend of Australian sport will be celebrated.