Dif­fer­ent strokes

Grant Hack­ett dives into the deep end of news, writes Dar­ren Devlyn

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Guide -

IN a 12-year in­ter­na­tional swim­ming ca­reer Grant Hack­ett per­fected the art of si­lenc­ing crit­ics. Never was this more ap­par­ent than at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

With a par­tially col­lapsed lung, Hack­ett beat ou­tra­geous odds to win that most phys­i­cally and men­tally gru­elling race, the 1500m freestyle.

Those who know him in­ti­mately have long been in awe of Hack­ett’s enor­mous heart and self-be­lief.

‘‘The amaz­ing thing about Grant is the in­ten­sity in which he does his work. He loves the hard work, he loves the hard miles, he just thrives on it,’’ a coach said of Hack­ett.

Un­til Hack­ett’s re­cent re­tire­ment, he was swim­ming an av­er­age 70km a week. It’s es­ti­mated that he clocked up al­most 44,000km over those 12 ex­traor­di­nary years.

That work ethic and pre­pared­ness to do what­ever it takes to make be­liev­ers of his doubters is al­ready at play in his new ca­reer at Chan­nel 9.

The ink was still wet on his fouryear con­tract with Nine when view­ers wrote to news­pa­per let­ters pages with pens dipped in poi­son.

Guide reader Gela Tay­lor threw this lit­tle gre­nade: ‘‘When will the net­works stop giv­ing celebri­ties pre­sent­ing jobs just be­cause they’re fa­mous? The lat­est is swim­mer Grant Hack­ett, who presents Nine’s week­end sports re­port. He was so wooden I thought I saw ter­mites com­ing out of his ears’’.

An­other reader Max Adams wrote: ‘‘Grant Hack­ett was a great ath­lete. How­ever, stand­ing like a statue with no warmth or per­son­al­ity, recit­ing par­rot-fash­ion from cue cards will never make him an in­ter­est­ing sports­caster’’.

Bru­tal stuff, but Hack­ett’s smart enough to know he’s go­ing to have some de­trac­tors. It comes with the ter­ri­tory when you’re raw and pre­sent­ing news to a mass mar­ket.

Asked about the ‘‘ter­mites’’ let­ter, Hack­ett con­fesses he was thrown in the deep end af­ter just two re­hearsal ses­sions at the net­work.

‘‘It was very ex­cit­ing, but ob­vi­ously I was ner­vous in the sit­u­a­tion be­cause I had the sup­port from peo­ple at Nine and wanted to do a good job,’’ Hack­ett says.

‘‘Par­tic­u­larly in live TV, any mis­take you make, things you don’t do cor­rectly, are seen by a mass au­di­ence. I’d had two days (prac­tice) to do it and thought I got through it and I hope it’s (pre­sent­ing) a bit more ex­cit­ing now.

‘‘I think peo­ple (crit­ics) need to give you a bit more time be­fore they make their com­ments. If peo­ple are go­ing to judge you af­ter just one read, I think that’s ridicu­lous and un­just.

‘‘I’ve had won­der­ful feed­back, but I know there are peo­ple who have been do­ing this 30 years who have peo­ple that like them and oth­ers who can’t stand them.

‘‘Can I cut it? Time will tell, but I’m en­joy­ing it and feel the fun­da­men­tals are there.

‘‘I’m on a steep learn­ing curve, but as long as I can im­prove and find my own nat­u­ral style, that’s the most im­por­tant thing.’’

Nine has taken a punt with Hack­ett when it could have re­placed his pre­de­ces­sor Heath O’Lough­lin with a sea­soned jour­nal­ist. It’s be­lieved Nine jour­nal­ists Chris­tine Ah­ern and James Talia were con­sid­ered for the job.

Asked if he walked into Nine con­cerned that noses could be out of joint, Hack­ett says: ‘‘I’m con­scious of the fact I have to prove my­self and feel I’ve im­proved in what I’ve been able to bring to the news­room. I don’t walk around with a chip on my shoul­der try­ing to be dis­liked.

‘‘I try to have a pos­i­tive im­pact on the place. Whether some­one is up­set with some­thing or de­ci­sions that have been made, that’s not for me to worry about. My fo­cus is be­ing pos­i­tive and try­ing to be part of a team.

‘‘I’ve had great men­tor­ing from peo­ple in the news team since I’ve been there.

‘‘I’m at the bot­tom rungs of the lad­der af­ter be­ing top of some­thing else (swim­ming) and I’ve got to work ex­tremely hard over time to de­velop a skill. I’m will­ing to put in 100 per cent to see it through.’’

Nine’s Mel­bourne news di­rec­tor Michael Venus says: ‘‘When­ever changes are made, there’s a chance feathers will be ruf­fled. I’ve spo­ken to Chris­tine and she was nat­u­rally dis­ap­pointed. I’ve also spo­ken to James and he’ll be back (from an over­seas post­ing) on Jan­uary 5 in a se­nior re­port­ing role.

‘‘It’s fair to say he (Hack­ett) be­came avail­able quite un­ex­pect­edly and (net­work chief) David Gyn­gell and Jeff Browne (Mel­bourne manag­ing di­rec­tor) both asked if I felt there was a role for him pre­sent­ing sport on week­ends and I jumped.

‘‘He came in, we did some tests and tri­als and all of us saw enough to re­alise he could be­come an out­stand­ing TV tal­ent.

‘‘I hope those same peo­ple who wrote in (and crit­i­cised Hack­ett) are, sev­eral weeks on, writ­ing to say how much he’s im­proved.’’

Hack­ett was un­til re­cently con­tracted to Chan­nel 7.

It’s be­lieved Seven chief David Leckie gave Hack­ett’s man­age­ment the ul­ti­ma­tum for the swim­mer to ac­cept a job as a con­tes­tant on Danc­ing with the Stars or move on.

Hack­ett, who had ap­peared as a com­men­ta­tor on var­i­ous Seven shows, was edg­ing to­wards re­tire­ment from the pool.

His heart was set on a ca­reer in news and pre­sent­ing and felt a light en­ter­tain­ment show such as Danc­ing could com­pro­mise his plans.

‘‘You can build your cred­i­bil­ity over a life­time, but it can be lost in five min­utes,’’ Hack­ett says.

‘‘I thought join­ing a news team was the most cred­i­ble thing I could do.’’

Feet first:

he may be new to news but Grant Hack­ett’s not wet be­hind the ears.

Pic­ture: MANUELA CIFRA

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.