there is a guy on twitter (he'll know who he is) who has been telling me
for four seasons that I shouldnít be on the radio. I've never played the
game after all and Iím just ďMr Message Board ModeratorĒ as he put it the
four seasons Iíve been part of a Rugby League sports output that has won a
Sony Radio Award (the radio equivalent of the BAFTAs), a IRN Radio Award,
had a great written letter of appreciation and Iíve had over 100 messages
expressing disappointment and sadness at my decision since I decided to
step down from doing match commentaries. Thatís not bad Iíd say.
that guy isnít wrong. Iíve never played the game, so if his view is that I
canít understand the ins and outs of the sport without having been on the
field then I respect his opinion. I then get baffled when I point out
ďalternatives are availableĒ, particularly with ex-players for
summarisers, for radio commentary but he still chooses to listen to me who
knows nothing. You canít win them all can you?
thatís actually been a reason why I ended up on the radio in the first
place. I donít think Iím blinkered to my own clubs view and when someone
else offers a differing opinion to me I listen to it and sometimes have my
own view persuaded by that view.
ďBilkoĒ come about though? It may seem daft to some that Iím known as
ďBilkoĒ but let me tell you itís even dafter to me. It was a very random
message board name I decided to use way back in about 1999 and the way
itís stuck over the 17 years has been baffling to me.
started writing ďblogsĒ on Wigan in 2001 before the term blog was even
reality. I grew my own website up from nothing since 2002 and I was early
on to twitter. I mean in 2010 I was probably the first to use twitter as a
way of updating fans at home with the score of a preseason game at
Wakefield. Back then I had to do that by texting a certain number to
update my twitter feed. Seems daft now when the world and his wife updates
on twitter with simple easy of 4g internet.
I was asked into Wish FM by Chris Milow who organises all the sports
coverage to offer my opinion on how I thought they could improve the
coverage. Theyíd been on air two years with Wigan commentaries at that
point but I remember suggesting at the time that having the same
commentary team every week breeds familiarity and that familiarity will
see listeners returning.
that Iíd be part of the commentary at that point never even entered my
head and it wasnít until a few months later that I was even asked.
done by then Wigan commentator Mark Wilson. I think itís fair to say for
all radio stations that finding summarisers isnít that easy. Budgets are
not huge, even within some quarters of the BBC Iíd say, and a lot of it to
me seems to be on an asking favours level.
only assume he was struggling for someone when he first asked me if Iíd
like to do it. This was shortly before Wigan were due to play Leeds at
Headingley in March 2013. Unfortunately, I was a few pints in when he
asked (it was Cheltenham Gold Cup day in the afternoon) and well on the
way to being pissed so it never happened that night and I was glad because
Wigan lost 18-14.
weeks later on Easter Monday and Iím on a coach over to Hull KR and I
deliberately didnít drink because I had a feeling he would ask me again if
Iíd like to do it.
an hour before kick-off he asks and within about 30 minutes Iím speaking
live on the radio. No training, no prep, no idea what Iím doing, just
headset onÖ.off you go.
never have imagined that my first game on the radio would turn out to be
Wiganís biggest ever league victory in their then 118-year history Ė 84-6
over Hull KR. I remember pointing out, completely off the top of my head,
that Wigan had set a new record away victory (beating 72-6 at Wakefield in
1987) but sadly in all the drama I missed that Wigan had also set a new
record for biggest league victory full stop (beating 78-6 v Workington in
that was a learning curve was an understatement. Games when the scoreboard
runs away are actually the hardest to summarise because conversions mean a
lot of time to fill and itís very difficult to not keep repeating
yourself, especially when Wigan had scored 42 points in the final 20
minutes of that game.
that match I was told that Wish FM had received record listening figures
online (FM listening canít really be gauged that well) for Rugby League
coverage. Three records in one first broadcast, not bad eh?
second commentary I did was not quite as successful. We were blighted by a
false start due to the line failing at Bradford but itís hard to get
across to the frustrated listener at home that the fault was being
suffered by BBC Leeds behind us as well. We did eventually get on air but
about 15 minutes into the game.
after that they decided to stick me on all away games and eventually after
a couple of months the home games as well. The rest the say has been
the abrupt end with the season so close to ending?
blunt truth is that my heart is not really in Rugby League at the moment.
Giving up the commentary has been on my mind for a while because Iíve kind
of realised that Iíve been going through the motions watching the sport in
recent times. I honestly feel a lot of Wigan fans are in that same
bracket. The Widnes match and the reaction to it was kind of a final nadir
for me at the moment.
attending games tiring. The Rugby on display is poor and the fact most
games are played on Thursdays and Fridays is becoming quite a chore. This
is not a Wigan thing, I feel this is a thing with the sport. Even tv games
are poor to watch.
problem for the sport started in 2011 and 2012 in my eyes when Leeds won
the title TWICE from 5th place in the table. This was lauded as
a magnificent achievement by a great Leeds team that at that point had won
Five Super League Titles in Six Seasons.
and I said it at the time, I thought that was a load of shite. Warrington
may have the rise taken out of them in the ďalways your yearĒ type sense
but they were outstanding in 2011. Likewise, Wigan in 2012. Superb quality
at the top of the table but yet neither of them even reached the Grand
Final in the end whilst the Champions came from FIFTH PLACE! Absolutely
blame Leeds. They won when it ultimately mattered but I feel those two
achievements have set the sport back to the mediocrity it has become
today. I feel since then that teams have kind of followed Leeds lead so to
speak and that the regular season has just become a long drawn out
qualifying tournament for the play offs.
just that though. Iíd also argue the moving of the Challenge Cup Final has
played itís part in setting the sport back. It has totally ruined the play
off race and at times even the play off campaign itself at times.
2013 won a magnificent double but they also lost six of their last eight
league games in the regular season that year. I didnít think Saints were
particularly good champions in 2014 either. Leeds to be fair bucked the
trend a little in 2015 but even they ended the regular season poorly but
for that one Ryan Hall try.
instead of a huge bursting climax, we generally end the regular season
with full impotence and this kills the mood towards Old Trafford.
Warrington or Hull fans wonít care about that, because theyíve never won a
Grand Final, but Warrington could still finish 1st, yet
personally I donít think their current side has been anywhere near the
quality of the side they had in 2011.
attack has been amongst the lowest standards ever since the sport changed
from three to four points for a try in 1982/83, but yet they can still be
declared champions in three weeksí time.
think that is great and Iím entirely honest on that. In fact, I declared
after that Widnes game debacle three weeks ago that ďIíll be embarrassed
if we win at Old Trafford. Awful, Awful, Awful SeasonĒ.
Victories over Hull and Warrington have made that seem a bit daft since
but I still donít regret saying it. I have to point out that I was on the
emotional side that day after hearing that my dadís cancer had returned. I
also actually meant that from a league sense rather than a club sense to
be honest but obviously context can easily be lost in 140 characters or
wake of that tweet three players came out to point out, one of them
quoting me personally, that it hasnít been such awful a season, we are in
the top 4 after all and still have a chance of winning at Old Trafford.
Which is fair comment isnít it?
actually disagree with that point of view. We have had tons of injuries
and it has been tough to cope with at times. Maybe it is remarkable we
have done so well and turning nine losing positions into victories is very
commendable indeed but it also leaves an impression, from a fans point of
view, that weíve actually been getting out of jail a lot. I suppose thatís
one of those glass half full or empty mindsets though.
In a way
though the reaction to that tweet actually confirmed what I feel. That it
is a long drawn out qualifying tournament and as long as youíre in there,
the fact the attack has been laborious doesnít matter until two games in
the season remain. Thatís how much the mindset seems to have shifted and
it is making for very stale rugby in my eyes. The Super 8s have been a
total garbage spectacle apart from Wiganís dramatic comeback last Friday.
suppose what Iím saying is that in the wake of that Widnes game I got to a
point where the idea of me commentating towards a potential Old Trafford
victory and declaring it a great season wasnít sitting well with me. I
think itís been fairly average at best. I say that with nothing against
anyone at Wigan but more about the sport in general. I think the standard
has become mediocre.
heart though in the number of people that have appreciated that Iíve
commentated with total fairness and honesty throughout my time on the
radio. You may not realise but Iíve actually tried over the years to keep
my profile as low as possible and I found it a bit weird that profile had
risen to such an extent that I was having myself quoted by a player in the
might think, Iíve been a bit too honest, or harsh, but I canít help how I
feel about the sport at the moment. I hope Wigan win the Grand Final by
all means but if Iím comparing this at the moment to the rugby I grew up
watching then itís like comparing Jennifer Aniston to Ann Widdecombe. I
find the academy level pretty disappointing as well since they reduced
that to one level of Under 19s.
someone said recently to me that ďah youíre a Wigan fan, you just expect
to turn up and win everythingĒ Ö.but I donít. My top 3 favourite seasons
watching Wigan were 2000, 2003 and 2006 seasons in which we won bugger
all. I do expect a high standard though and making the top 4 such be a
bare minimum standard for a club like Wigan.
reflecting, I want you to know that the majority of my opinions have
always been weighted towards being from a fans point of view because at
the end of the day, coaches come and go at sporting clubs, players come
and go at sporting clubs, owners come and go at sporting clubs, sponsors
come and go at sporting clubs. The only constant within a sporting club is
though Iíve been ďin the mediaĒ for four seasons, I still look at myself
as a supporter rather than a journalist. Mainly because Iíve done the
radio stuff totally voluntarily. Fair enough having a media pass entitles
you to get into games for free but I havenít been paid a single penny for
helping out Wish FM whose commentaries are also used quite significantly
by Wigan TV.
Iíve been supplying dvds to Wigan TV to put a weekly old ďretro matchĒ
online. Again nothing in it for me but I have done that out of the
goodness of my heart for supporters to enjoy and if the club want me to
keep doing that Iíll be happy to do so.
been doing cherryandwhite.co.uk for 15 seasons and radio for 4 seasons.
Thatís a big chunk of my life, my feelings, watching Wigan being recorded
in writing on in audio. But all good things come to an end. Frankly Iíve
had enough. Life is changing, so much that this week my dad is having
quite a major operation in regards to his cancer.
League in its current form is not the love that it once was. Iím tired.
Tired of watching dull games being played mainly on Thursdays and Fridays
when itís an absolute chore to attend. Maybe Iíll get reinvigorated one
day. Maybe I just need a good stiff drink. But for now that is my honest
opinion and Iím actually not sad about it. Iím relieved. Strange perhaps
but thatís my frame of mind.
Iíd just like to take the opportunity to thank a few people.
Chris Milowís drive and commitment, on top of presenting the breakfast
show twenty hours a week, I doubt sport would even get covered on Wish FM.
On top of covering Wigan the station also covers Saints and Latics whilst
sister stations Wire and Tower FM also cover Warrington, Widnes and Bolton
Wanderers with full match commentary. To bring all that together,
particularly at this time of the year when seasons overlap, canít be easy
and I tip my hat off to him. In commercial radio to have six teams all
covered with full commentary is pretty unheard of and you are damn lucky
to have a superb service from a radio station that still is local for most
of the day.
ended up doing a few games with Mark Wilson in the end before he moved on
to build up coverage of a new station Radio Yorkshire from 2014, and then
on to TalkSPORT this year. I could claim that he went on to better things
off the back of working with me but having listened to his efforts on Wish
since 2011 he was always Ö..
Obviously the majority of my time with Wish FM will be remembered for the
commentaries spent with Joe Mills as part of ďMilkoĒ has he ended up
branding us. Before I first worked with Joe someone told me that he was
ďthe most disorganised personĒ going and I quickly learned that wasnít
with him often with full incredulity at some of the quirks he came out
with, especially that damn moose impression, but although I appreciate his
style isnít to everyoneís cup of tea he deserves a hell of a lot of credit
for building up the ďfamilyĒ of listeners that now regularly tune in.
amount of interaction we have had on our commentaries says an awful lot.
Even when games are on Sky now it is huge. Joe has created that. Not me.
He has had a great knack of making a huge amount of solo individual
listeners as much as part of the commentary as I was or he is. Thatís
pretty special and he should be hugely proud of that. He has a great heart
for the listeners that join him and I hope that will continue.
big person to thank is Ste Crook. He is our regular producer back at Wish
FM. You never get to hear him on air but he is the one who presses the
buttons to play out all the pre match clips and also the one to blame for
the song choices that end up airing whilst we take breaks at half time.
to thank include our regular Saints commentators Chris Price, Dave Lyon
and Mike Bennett and our Warrington team of Matt Horton and Rob Croston.
Obviously we spend most of our time at different places covering our own
individual teams but yet to me itís always felt like weíve been together
every week. Strange that but I shall miss the interaction.
like to thank anyone else whoís been involved, i.e sub commentators etc,
and also a mention for Chris Kirk a producer from the early days.
thank you has to go to every listener who has tuned in. Iím proud that a
very large chunk of you tuned in every week, especially with so many games
televised. I shall miss that.
Eventually, I will look forward to returning to the terraces. I have
missed that dearly in recent years. When that will be though, who knows
but mine will be a lager!