990AM's glorious decade

By Lincoln Bertelli 

990AM Information Radio is celebrating 10 years of broadcasting WAFL football in season 2012, and it is an appropriate opportunity to look back at the history of the station’s coverage.

The station’s association with WAFL started with the first game being called in 2003 by Russell Dower, who has been the man responsible for keeping the coverage going ever since the beginning.

“It initially came about when there was a niche in the market during 2002 with little WAFL coverage on radio,” he explained.

“During the year I approached 990AM station manager Peter Luckett and our discussion eventually came to bear fruit, and our first season calling was in 2003.”

The station has broadcast over 310 live games during that time, and received acclaim last season with the Football Media Guild awarding 990AM the best WAFL radio coverage for 2011.

Long-serving Claremont Tigers CEO Todd Shimmon has been a keen observer of 990AM’s coverage during the last decade.

“I congratulate the station on 10 years of WAFL coverage, and Russell Dower and his team should be very proud of their coverage on a competition that has lasted the test of time,” he said.

“The WAFL attendances have grown over the last 10 years and that also can be contributed to 990AM coverage and exposure of the WAFL competition over that time and Claremont is always happy to get a 990AM broadcast game.”

It would be obvious to all WAFL supporters that the league has changed drastically in the last decade, and that rings true for the station’s coverage too, as in the early days, there was sometimes three games to call on one weekend.

“We once had a game at Bassendean, we then had to quickly pack up and race to Claremont Showgrounds to call another game. And then we had another game the following day!” Dower said.

“Another time we went to cover a match in Denmark, and then had to drive back to do a second game the next day.”

“When we called the game in Denmark we were in the South Fremantle strapping room and there was the smell of linament to deal with.

“In Donnybrook we had a small commentary box that was many decades old. I precariously climbed the ladder to the top of the clubroom roof with great trepidation and didn’t move until we finished the broadcast!”

Country matches are undoubtedly a challenging experience, and the station’s willingness to commit to these drew praise from Shimmon.

“They are always the first ones to put up their hand to do the difficult venues or times for WAFL games such as Friday nights, Sunday games or country trips,” he said.

“990AM are an integral part of our WAFL broadcasting team, and we hope they are here for many years to come.

The station’s WAFL coverage has been about much more than just the straight broadcasting of matches. 990AM has also broadcasted the prestigious Sandover Medal night, with exclusive live radio coverage since 2003.

“This is a massive part of our coverage. It was always religiously telecast on the ABC, and when that ceased we picked it up on radio,” Dower said.

“We broadcast it live, and run the gauntlet whenever we do so. It is three-and-a-half to four hours on air, it’s a lot of work and is true live radio.”

“We also took public talkback one year and had 16 calls in 45 minutes, we literally couldn’t have taken any more.”

“On Thursdays we also had a team selection show for a little while as well.”

Another unique element of the coverage since the beginning has been around-the-grounds, with live and detailed updates given from all WAFL matches throughout the call.

“It’s quite an extensive coverage, we’re the only station with reporters at all of the other grounds,” Todd Breman, former WAFL star and commentator with the station since its inception, said.

“A day in July 2011 epitomised the extent of our coverage. We went from Rushton Park up to Joondalup, then down to Esperance and then to Etihad Stadium in Melbourne for the Foxtel Cup.

“That shows the magnitude of what we do.”

Promotions have been regular, and one at the state game of 2003 saw a major prize giveaway, with $6,000 worth of whitegoods and electrical appliances won.

Another, through station sponsor Golden Eggs, saw cartons of eggs given out at a game in Bassendean.

That weekend saw Essendon in town to play the following day, and then-Bombers coach Kevin Sheedy left the WAFL match with a promotional carton of the eggs in hand.

Another promotion in 2007 saw a $5000 cash prize given to a WAFL club, which was won by Swan Districts, and presented at half time on grand final day.

990AM has run two awards since the beginning, the player of the year (now sponsored by Work Clobber) and rising star (now sponsored by Bic), with winners revealed during grand final day coverage. Some of the rising star recipients have then gone on to play AFL.

Being a community station, their numerous sponsors have been critical to 990AM’s ability to broadcast WAFL.

“Our core sponsors have been an integral part of the journey with their never ending support throughout the ten years,” Dower said.

990AM’s esteemed list of expert commentators has included Todd Bremen, who has been with the station since the inception, Wayne Blackwell, Warren Ralph, Neil Lester-Smith, Gavin Rose, Jon Kerr plus, more recently, Jaxon Crabb.

Like many WAFL observers, Dower describes the 2010 grand final as a highlight, but also mentions a Sunday game where Andrew Browne goaled after the siren for a Claremont win as another of the many memorable on-air moments during the last decade.

Shimmon also has plenty of memories of 990AM’s coverage, and plenty of personal connection to the station’s calls.

“Big Russ Dower always questioning my attendance figures in the last quarter of each game at Claremont Oval is something I remember,” he said.

“And the smooth special comments by our own Jaxon Crabb moving into the media area after a wonderful career at Tigerland.”

Reflecting on the station’s 10 years of broadcasting, Dower said it had been an enjoyable journey.

“From the inception to now, the package we have offered has been integral to the media coverage of WAFL,” he said.

“We’re a portable vehicle, whether you’re driving, gardening or at an AFL or WAFL match, you can always tune in to 990AM as a staple diet.

“We’re a one stop shop for WAFL information on not only the match we are covering, but the others through our around-the-grounds.”

“I’ve had a wonderful working relationship with 990AM during that time.”

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