Roy and HG's State of Origin commentary

Roy and HG's State of Origin commentary

Broadcast on the Triple J radio station to simulcast with the annual three-game rugby league State of Origin series, Australian comedians Roy and HG (played by John Doyle and Greig Pickhaver) provide a commentary of the match at hand. An extension of the duo's "This Sporting Life" radio program, also on Triple J, Roy and HG's use of comedy makes their sporting calls unique from that provided by other media sources, and has earned a cult following.


A unique deviation from the usual format of the Triple J State of Origin coverage occurred in Game One of the 2007 Series, when Roy Slaven was unavailable to be present for the commentary. As a replacement, HG Nelson was joined by former New South Wales player Jason Stevens and Triple J radio personality Scott Dooley. King Wally Otto's pre-game build-up was replaced by Triple J presenter Jason Whalley, dubbed "The Ancient Voice of the Rhomb".



At 7:30pm on the night of a State of Origin match, Triple J interrupts its normal evening broadcasts ("Super Request") in New South Wales and Queensland, and the State of Origin coverage begins with a fanfare of horns. A lengthy introduction to State of Origin rugby league is given by "King Wally Otto in the Soundproof Booth" (a pseudonym for well-known Australian voice-over presenter Robbie McGregor). This introduction, which can last for 5 minutes or more, features King Wally Otto enthusiastically reading an elaborate Doyle and Pickhaver script, which more often than not culminates in a list of Former Origin Greats ("F.O.G.s"), and anecdotes about their achievements or foibles. It is also common for Otto to announce a 'theme' for the year's three game series, often to do with current events (such as the 2003 invasion of Iraq). A twist on this was when the 2006 series was heavily "sponsored" by fictitious Lakemba-based car dealership "Frosty Lahood Motors Australia".

At the end of Otto's build-up to the game, he usually switches to a rhapsodic introduction for Roy and HG themselves, ending with the question "are you there...HG?" Taking his role of the 'sports announcer' of the pair, HG Nelson thanks King Wally Otto in the Soundproof Booth, welcomes listeners to their State of Origin coverage and provides further build-up to the game at hand. Nelson introduces the State of Origin contest as being played for the "highest principles on the planet"; those principles being "Peace through violence, harmony through brutality and getting everyone to "shut-up" and behave just like us or they’ll cop a boot up the date and a fist of fives."

During the first few minutes, Nelson's broadcasting partner, "Rampaging" Roy Slaven remains silent until eventually introduced to the airwaves by Nelson. Roy's character, a supposed former player of the game who takes more of an 'expert commentary' role to Nelson's main call [ Roy Slaven on the Rampage] ] , is often restrained with his opening remarks; that is, until his enthusiasm for the game provokes a passionate expression of opinion about the contest to Nelson and the listening audience. The pair talk about the build-up to the game for approximately half an hour, often with Slaven recounting supposed interactions he had with stars of the league (he professes intimate friendships with virtually every current and former player of rugby league). An example of one of these (obviously fictional) exchanges was before the first game of the 2006 series which New South Wales was entering after winning the previous three in a row. With many media commentators declaring the concept of State of Origin dead after such one-sided results, Roy contacted Wally Lewis for his thoughts on the upcoming series, to which he replied "oh, are they still playing that?"

National anthem

At approximately 8:00pm the players enter the field and line up for the singing of the Australian national anthem; an occasion which provides one of Roy and HG's most infamous twists on traditional sports commentary. As the television pictures show footage of a vocalist singing "Advance Australia Fair", the Triple J coverage completely replaces the song with Lionel Rose's 1969 song "I Thank You". The choice of this song probably is due to the opening lyrics "When a boy becomes a man..." (signifying young players 'stepping up' to the challenge of State of Origin football) as well as the inherent violence associated with the former-boxer, Rose. The Lionel Rose song is faded out by Roy and HG when they sense the real singer is wrapping up their performance (usually after the first chorus of "I Thank You"), with Roy and HG invariably praising the singer for a fantastic performance.

Game commentary

Compared to the more traditional commentary on Channel 9 and ABC Radio's Grandstand, Roy and HG are often less restrained in their criticism of players and teams. This feature of their call may be off-putting for certain fans who are sensitive to hearing players in their team criticised (being called a "goose", etc), but is generally taken in the humorous way it is intended. The duo's commentary, and particularly Slaven's, often features over the top reactions to the game at hand, such as calling for entire teams of players to be sacked after losses, or even questioning whether losing teams will ever win another match in the future.

Though Doyle was born in New South Wales, and both currently reside within the state, this gives seemingly little influence to any commentary 'bias'. Roy and HG are also quick to relish in the more 'unsavoury' actions of players on the field which are ignored or downplayed by more traditional commentators. This includes spitting, dacking, wedgies, gouging, groping, pig-rooting, fighting and roughhousing in general.

Roy and HG's State of Origin commentary is also noteworthy for the use of nicknames to refer to many of players on the field, rather than their surnames. Whilst standard, well-known nicknames such as "Sticky" Ricky Stuart and "Mad Dog" MacDougall are used, the duo are renowned for their creation and use of more obscure 'running joke'-type nicknames about players. An partial list of nicknames is presented below:

Player nicknames

In addition to the players, Roy & H.G. frequently refer to two former top grade referees: Kelvin Jeffes and Moghseen Jadwat, ironically describing them as the two best officials ever to grace the sport (actually, Jadwat's top-grade career was decidedly short (1997-8), whilst Jeffes has only controlled one Origin fixture.)

Other sayings

Roy and HG's commentary also makes use of a number of sayings which are infrequently used by the majority of rugby league broadcasters.

Play of game

* "Chilli on the stick" - Analogous to the saying "rubbing salt in the wound", "chilli on the stick" is referred to by Roy and HG when a team already trailing on the scoreboard is further humiliated by the opposition scoring subsequent tries. Roy and HG metaphorically refer to the winning team grabbing a cricket stump applying chilli and rubbing it "in, out, in, out" of the losing team's "date" (a slang word for anus).
* "Defusing a bomb" - a player (usually the fullback) catching an opposing team's bomb kick in the in-goal area, and thus giving their team a 20-metre restart. This saying is especially used in high-pressure situations where there is a contest from an opposing player for the mark.
* "Face massage" - pressume put on the face of a tackled player by the palm of an opponent.
* "Hospital pass" - a pass to a team-mate who is closely marked by another player. This ensures that the player is swiftly tackled (often with great force because of the defender's available time to prepare) soon after catching the ball.
* "Johnny on the spot" - a lucky player. This saying is usually reserved to describe a someone who scores because of being in the right place at the right time to receive a pass from a player who had done more work to manufacture the try.
* "Reception committee" - terminology for a group of defending players who 'greet' an advancing player with a tackle.
* "Squirrel grip" - referring to a player grabbing an opponent's testicles.
* "Surrendered tackle" - see "white flag merchant", below.
* "Turtled" - A tackling style where more than one opponent lift the ball carrier in such a way that they end up on their back like a turtle trapped on its shell.
* "White flag merchant" - someone who ‘surrenders’ to allow their opponents to easily tackle them. Roy Slaven is a strong believer that this should be stomped out of the game ("I "HATE" it!"), with suggested punishments for white flag merchants being as extreme as an instant life ban from playing the code. Brett Hodgson has been accused of being a white flag merchant during Roy and HG’s State of Origin commentary.
* "Traditional softening up period" - The first 10 minutes of the match in which the aim is to hurt or 'soften up' to opposition as much as possible.


* Advertising - Due to the ABC Charter, presenters are not allowed to voice support for commercial organisations. Pickhaver and Doyle also show an aversion to legitimately mentioning the names of corporations who have bought naming rights for venues and events (see "Stadia", below). Comically, Nelson also twists the reality of the sponsors who have their logos painted on the grass of the field. When players have been tackled on painted sections of grass (especially the red Harvey Norman logos), Slaven often refers to the players as being "tackled on the Triple J signage".
* Stadia - Roy and HG usually avoid mentioning the sponsors' names during their broadcast, calling Suncorp Stadium "The Cauldron" (or its traditional name, Lang Park), and calling Telstra Stadium (the venue which hosted the 2000 Olympics; formerly known as Stadium Australia) "The Grand Old Girl" (or sometimes "The G.O.G.").
* Surrendered Tackles - Roy quite often voices his opinions of "surrendered tackles", in which a player either falls over accidentally, or dives before getting tackled by the opposition. Roy believes this should be given a penalty to the opposing team.
* "Ted Mulry" - Ron Palmer, who is the head trainer to the New South Wales Blues throughout most of the 1990s and 2000s bears a strong resemblance to Australian singer Ted Mulry (best known for the hit "Jump in My Car" with his band the Ted Mulry Gang). When the doppelganger trainer enters the field and is seen in the background of the TV coverage, Roy and HG often remark at their amazement that Ted Mulry is now involved in rugby league. Palmer is aware of the nickname and appears to take it in a good nature.
* "The kids" - A theme that Roy and HG often return to with their State of Origin commentary is attempting to create interest in Rugby League with school-aged children. Impressive plays (as well as unsavoury acts of violence, etc) are often described by Roy and HG as something that will "get the kiddies interested in Rugby League". Slaven, in particular, is a proponent of asking parents of "stupid" kids if they have considered Rugby League as a future path for their children (citing players such as Willie Mason as role models).
* "They can't run without legs" - an example of Roy Slaven's expert commentary, said when a player is 'cut down' to the ground by being tackled around the legs. This saying is also modified to "they can't run without a head", when a head-high tackle is attempted.
* "Triple J Card Table" - Roy and HG often allude to calling the game from a temporary card table, set up near the sideline of the field when in fact they are calling from a radio studio, watching the same pictures that are broadcast to the television audience. This is also a reference to legendary rugby league player and broadcaster Frank Hyde, who started calling games on radio in the 1950's, from a card table set up on the side of the field.

Relationship with television coverage

By their own account, Roy and HG's commentary of the match is broadcast live from a card table adjacent to the halfway line of the playing field. In reality, their call is very much centred around the pictures that Channel 9 broadcast on their TV coverage with, for example, the duo being unsure of who won a penalty from the referee until the TV pictures change to a shot of the restart of play happening. Roy and HG use this aspect to add further comedy to their commentary, for example by calling the Channel 9 commentary team "men eating ice cream cones" for their unnecessary use of hand-held microphones during studio broadcasts. Another memorable example of the TV-centric flow of Slaven and Nelson's commentary was during the 2004 series when Channel 9 introduced the "Skycam" camera-on-wires which 'hovered' above the players' heads. This expensive technology, which had notably poor picture quality, often could not keep up with the flow of play was over-used by Channel 9 during the broadcast, was frequently blasted by Roy and HG for disorientating them with the "telecast from the lunar surface". Slaven and Nelson also give back-handed criticism to Channel 9's low-brow "football entertainment" show "The Footy Show", sarcastically remarking what a "funny show" it is.

Digital divide

Though many listen to the call without accompaniment, HG Nelson's introductory comments always invite listeners to "tickle your television to the league channel down your end of the swamp, turn down the sound and turn up Triple J". Since the early 2000s, the spread of digital television throughout Australia has caused some technical issues for the Triple J State of Origin broadcast. Roy and HG's commentary had previously arrived to viewers approximately in synch with the television pictures (although generally, regional viewers suffered a short delay between the radio and television signals). The digital delay that came with the introduction of digital TV created a noticeable gap between the analogue radio broadcast and the slower digital TV signal. HG Nelson had to preclude their broadcast that "unfortunately we live with the digital divide, and there’s nothing we can do about it". In later years, however, Nelson would add that digital TV viewers should try tuning in to their online stream via the [ Triple J website] , which has its own slight delay behind the airwaves. Therefore, it is recommended that analogue TV viewers listen to the analogue radio broadcast, and digital TV viewers stream the commentary from the Triple J website.

External links

* [ Roy and HG's recount of the 1988 Rugby League grand final] featuring vintage audio of their 1988 Balmain Tigers versus Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs commentary


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