I used to break into a cold sweat if I ever received the phone call that the Saturday afternoon announcer was sick and I had to fill in.
Saturdays on radio were chock full of sport and co-ordinating football and racing and whatever else was happening was a nightmare.
There were those like the legendary John Vertiganat 3UZ who made it sound so easy, seamlessly leaving the footy at Glenferrie Oval to crossing just before they jumped at Moonee Valley, then giving the approximate TAB dividends, before linking up with the fourth from Rosehill.
This was all before video monitors so all the information was relayed to you from a producer in the booth through you headphones – split cans as we called them. You could have the football in one ear and racing in the other and you had to talk while listening to both, and at times a there was a third source.
To think this went on continuously for four or five hours it was mentally and physically taxing.
Thankfully I was rarely called on to host sporting shifts but one I did on a number of occasions was at 7LA Launceston. On those nights we covered two greyhound meeting one from White City in Launceston and the other Glenorchy in Hobart.
As it was a commercial radio station we had to weave ads in between the races. There was nothing worse than to be 15 seconds into a 30 second commercial only to hear “they’re racing…” very sloppy cutting out of the ad (upsetting the sponsor) and into the race already underway (upsetting the punters). So you had to rely on the caller.
“Hey Ron, How long til they jump can I squeeze a couple of ads in?” Usually they got it right but now and again the dogs would jump early.
But on particular caller (name withheld) was uncanny, he never missed. “Hey ####, I’m running way behind can I slip an ad in before crossing to you?” “No worries mate.” He’d give me the OK even if an event was well passed its scheduled starting time.
One night I said “Look I’m three ads behind can we squeeze them in?” “Not a problem.” I fully expected to have to cut out during the ad break but no, last ad finished. “Now over the White City” and instantly “They’re off.”
This caller was uncanny.
It was only years later that I found out his secret. Not only was he calling the dogs for us but he was also the official starter for the Greyhound Club.