Warrane College UNSW | college accommodation for students at UNSW
Warrane College UNSW | college accommodation for students at UNSW

Prominent Sports Journalist hands out 2015 Sporting Awards

Tim Gilbert giving his talk after handing out sports awards to Warrane residents

Sporting journalist Tim Gilbert appeared to enjoy visiting Warrane as much as College staff and residents enjoyed having him as guest speaker on Wednesday 28 October 2015.

The Channel 9 journalist shared the highs and lows of his professional career, along with the humour that has made him a household name in sports-mad Aussie homes.

Clearly someone who loves his job – “I tell people it certainly beats working for a living” – he nevertheless values family and friends even more highly:

“I think the highlight of it all has been marrying my wife and having three young children,” he told a rapt audience of residents. “And seeing a college like this I think that hopefully one day my children will come through. An institution like this really makes me feel good. You gentlemen are a credit to your institution.”

Tim, who was introduced to Warrane by old boy and local solicitor Tim Mitchell, said he started out his media career in corporate public relations and found he “hated it”.

The experience moved him to take a course in a radio school to add to his university degree, but when he started applying for jobs he discovered his qualifications were not a great help.

“I applied for jobs all over the place,” he said. “I don’t think it really matters what discipline you move in or what part of life that you can apply this to, but so many people want to knock you back.

“So many people want to say: ‘You can’t do this’ or ‘You are not up to this’ or ‘We don’t accept you’. And I think it is really important unless your goal is to fly by yourself unassisted to the moon, to believe that most things that you want to do are achievable.

“I applied for jobs everywhere. One bloke in Port Augusta, a town of 8000, said: ‘Look we picked up a very slight lisp in your news reading’. I said: ‘Are you serious?’ He said: ‘We have got machinery down here at Port Augusta which is quite advanced.’

Eventually he took a job in the country town of Goulburn and he loved it. It gave him many opportunities that would not have been available to young reporters in the city, allowing him access to many famous people passing through town, including Prime Ministers and other notables.

“You learn things that help you going forward,” he said.

His next step up the media ladder came with a job as a sports reporter with Sydney radio station 2UE which gave him his big break when the station sent him to India to cover the 1996 Cricket World Cup.

“My break came when Australia was playing Kenya and a producer at Channel 9 asked if I had done any television before because their regular commentators were delayed.”

The broadcast went to a TV potential audience of over 2 billion people and although he made mistakes Channel 9 in Sydney offered him an entry-level job and June 1 next year will mark 20 years with the channel.

At first he “hated” television because he was given very little to do – in contrast with his life on radio where there was always something happening. But then he was asked to interview the surviving 11 members of the “invincibles”, the 1948 Australian Cricket team, led by Sir Donald Bradman, remembered as one of the greatest sporting teams in Australia’s history.

“I was asked to do a two-part feature on Wide World of Sports,” he said. “So I researched it and it was one of the great labours of love.”

Mr Gilbert still keeps the video to this day as a family treasure and brought it along to play for Warrane residents.

“It was such a turning point in my career,” he said. “To spend even a short time with these guys and hear their stories and the hardships they went through during the war and then to come back and achieve what they achieved.

“Their general attitude changed my whole attitude. From that time on my career was on an upward spiral.

“I did a Commonwealth Games that year in Kuala Lumpur, went on to start working on The Today Show and since then have had opportunities to do US Golf Opens, the London Olympics, 45 State of Origins, Grand Finals … It has been an extraordinary lucky time since then.”

Mr Gilbert’s success is reflected in the fact that since joining Channel 9 in Sydney in 1996 he has been seen on every one the the channel’s sports programs.

During a Q&A session, he was asked to comment on why sport is such a big presence in Australia life.

“It has always been a part of what we are,” he said. “Even if you look back at some of the wars, they were trying to play AFL and cricket when they had down time. It could be the weather. It could just be the spirit that the country was born on. I’m not quite sure, but very few people don’t like sport.”

Asked how aspiring young reporters could get a start today, he pointed out that there are still country radio stations and community radio stations.

“Get your education and make your mistakes that way,” he said.

[Warrane College offers a lot more than just student accommodation at UNSW: find out about some of our other guest speakers.]