The death of Television sporting icon Tony Charlton from bowel cancer closes a chapter of the early days of sports TV coverage in Australia.
As a boy growing up in sports-mad Melbourne the viewing highlights of my week were the Sunday Sports shows. World of Sport with Ron Casey on 7 and Tony Charlton’s Football Show on 9. Both had great appeal, for very different reasons.
World of Sport was a blokey show with knockabout crew and “okker” sporting guests which seemed to lurch from one segment to the next, basically free-fall entertainment. It had “pass me another beer” charm.
Meanwhile, over at 9 Charlton’s Show was far more formal. Charlton’s beautiful voice and masterful command of the language gave his show a touch of class. A diamond among the rough and tumble of footballers who, in those days, had few media skills and many had little education. Charlton’s journalistic skills got the best out of every situation.
It was blue singlet versus bow tie television every Sunday.
I leant towards Casey’s World of Sport with it’s woochopping, bike races on rollers and the mandatory handball competition,but if there was a big news-sports story we’d turn over to Tony Charlton’s Show.
One case in point was the shock sacking of Melbourne coach Norm Smith who after winning six premierships in ten years was dumped after round 13 in 1965.
Even as teenager I couldn’t help thinking what powerful television it was as Charlton asked all the tough questions.
Charlton had a wonderful career – after starting in radio and advertising he went to Channel 9 to work on the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games.
When Channel 7 broadcast the football Charlton became their first commentator.
Channel 9 saw his worth and lured him to Bendigo Street where he spend more than a decade presenting as well as producing football shows and other general programs.
He could turn his hand to any sport be it tennis, golf, motor racing, athletics. He was the true all rounder who brought his commanding sporting knowledge to any event he covered and delivered with an old world charm.
Tony Charlton fell to bowel cancer aged 83, but even to the end he was doing volunteer work for the Prince Alfred Hospital. He was that kind of bloke.
I never met Tony Charlton, my only contact with him was via the small screen, but he made a huge and life-long impression on me.
On hearing news of his death Mebourne broadcaster 3AW’s Neil Mitchell, a friend of Charlton’s, said Australia had lost a great man, a great Australian and a gentleman of the media.
The end of an era.