Ave Maria, it’s a girl!
Conversation: A life of faith ‘straight between the posts’ - Frank Hyde, football player, coach, journalist, broadcaster
By Damir Govorcin
Frank Hyde, MBE, OAM, regarded as the doyen of rugby league broadcasters, has packed a great deal of living into his 86 years.
He has been a player, coach, administrator, journalist (he wrote a sporting column for The Catholic Weekly for 25 years), pop star (he had a top 10 hit in the 1970s with Danny Boy), charity worker, family man (he and wife Gaby – married for 60 years – have six children) and devout Catholic.
Only a recent heart attack has threatened to slow down one of life’s true gentleman.
Frank says that, on reflection, his faith has been the driving force behind his impressive list of achievements.
“I was a product of the Depression, so everything I have achieved in my life is a direct result of my faith,” he says.
“I hate to think where I would have ended up if I didn’t believe in Christ. It helped me get through some tough times, and I have never forgotten the sacrifices my parents made.”
Frank has never been one to beat his own drum, but his contribution to the game of rugby league in particular and to society in general has been enormous.
As a broadcaster, Hyde was seen as a trail-blazer, revolutionising the way the game was called.
His memorable “It’s high enough, it’s long enough and it’s straight between the posts”, will go down in the annals of sports broadcasting.
Frank ruled the airwaves with radio station 2SM for 31 years, never being beaten in the ratings. Sports broadcasters in Australia today will tell you they owe him a great debt.
“Most of today’s callers were smart enough to realise there will only ever be one Frank Hyde and weren’t silly enough to try to copy him,” says columnist Mike Gibson.
“In the business of calling football matches, Frank created a wonderful tradition that today’s commentators have carried on.
“I don’t think any of them will ever be Frank Hyde, nor would they want to be. I think everyone in the radio game accepts that Frank Hyde alone was the voice of rugby league … and always will be.”
As a devout Catholic Frank has spent all his life helping the less fortunate. It was not uncommon for him to finish calling a game at the Sydney Cricket Ground, then venture across to the Matthew Talbot Hostel where his duties would include arranging the beds for the night and helping residents wash.
“It’s funny because I would go down to help and the
residents would abuse me for giving the man of the match award to the wrong bloke,” he recalls. “It was all in good fun.
“But, seriously, helping the less fortunate made me never take things in my life for granted.”
Long-time friend and fellow broadcaster John Brennan says Hyde should be classified by the National Trust as an Australian treasure.
“He’s a national icon, a sacred personage, and I don’t think other commentators have ever had the vision that Frank had,” he says.
“Frank had a profound influence on my life. He upheld all the great traditional Christian values. He stood, and still stands, for all that is good in life. He is disciplined, a loving family man, a devout Christian.”
Come December, Frank and his wife Gaby will be celebrating their 60th anniversary.
Frank says jokingly that he doesn’t know why Gaby has stayed with him for so long. But he adds that he would be nothing without her. Tolerance and love have been the cornerstones of their relationship, he says.
“We have had our ups and downs, but I have grown to love Gaby even more,” he says.
“God has been so good to me in many respects, and everything I have in life would mean nothing without her.
“We have learnt to be tolerant of one another, and to never forget that we love each other.”
Last month, Frank sent a scare through his family and friends when he suffered a heart attack.
He has been in and out of hospital ever since, but insists that he is slowly on the road to recovery.
His poor health forced him to turn down an invitation to a Kangaroo Tour reunion dinner and to miss the one-off Test match in which Australia defeated Great Britain 64-10.
“I’m still under doctor’s orders, so I have to play it on the safe side,” he said. “I’m working my way back to health and plan to be around for some time yet.”
Such is his standing in the game that even though he never made a Kangaroo Tour to Great Britain and France, Frank continually gets invited to the reunion dinners.
Former Australian Rugby League boss Ken Arthurson says: “The Kangaroos are a pretty select club, as they should be, and they do not welcome outsiders to their annual get-together.
“But Frank is asked, and on a regular basis.
“I think the thing that appeals to me most about Frank Hyde, and why I genuinely like him, like listening to him speak, and why I am so interested in his views on things, is that the man is so sincere.
“He is a very decent, highly principled person and it’s that quality of sincerity in the way he speaks and the way in which he conducts his life that endears him to people.”