Legend Stevo ready to give retirement a T-R-Y
IT’S NOT UNUSUAL FOR A LEGEND to retire after a grand final, and this weekend there’ll be a rugby league icon bowing out . . . from the commentary box.
England’s Mike “Stevo” Stephenson is calling time on his own broadcasting career.
The colourful and occasionally controversial figure has fronted and commentated on the UK’s league coverage for nearly three decades.
“It’s sad, of course it is,” he tells RLW. “But I’m approaching my 70th birthday and I’ve had a good trot. I’d like to think I’m going out at the top, when I’m not forgetting people’s names – or at least, no more than I ever was!
“It’s the same as when you’re a player – too many people hang around too long, and the last memories of someone are always the strongest. I’ve had my time.”
A tryscorer in Great Britain’s 1972 World Cup win, Stevo began his media career two years later — while still playing for Penrith — when he walked into the offices of Sydney’s The Sun newspaper and asked for a job.
“I wrote a column and John Benaud, the sports editor, said, ‘It’s shit . . . but it’s good shit’,” he says. “John offered me a job on the spot.”
He moved into radio with 2UE, 2GB and 2SM, progressed to the ABC, before a chance encounter with Eddie Hemmings at the BBC offices in Manchester eventually led to a 28-year commentary partnership.
They have provided the soundtrack of Super League’s 20 years, as well as many Test matches, with Stevo’s distinctive gravelly tone, shoot-fromthe-hip views and catchphrases making him a divisive but unignorable figure.
“Even in Australia I get people saying, ‘You don’t half-irritate me with that ‘It’s a T-R-Y’,” the 69-year-old smiles.
“I never looked at it as just commentary, and everything being perfect — I wanted it to be enjoyable and entertaining for the fans. Eddie and I, we don’t feel special, we’re just two mates who are passionate about the game.
“I know some people get upset at times, but I just call it as I see it. A spade is a spade.”
Stevo lists Lesley Vainikolo as Super League’s greatest overseas player, while current St Helens coach Keiron Cunningham just shades GB greats Paul Sculthorpe and Jason Robinson as the best player he’s commentated on. “But I’m biased, as a former hooker,” he admits.
While Hemmings will continue to front Super League coverage — backed by former players such as Phil Clarke and Brian Carney — Stevo will be retiring to Sydney’s northern beaches, where he’s spent his off-seasons for the last 30 years.
“But I’ve got family and business interests in England, so I’ll be back,” he says. “I’ve got some charity work lined up with the injured players fund [RL Cares] and I’m good mates with David Hughes, the owner of London Broncos. If he wants my help, I’m happy to.
“My plan is to chase the summer, spend most of my time in Australia and then go back to England for a few months . . . I want to relax and enjoy life.
“I’ve had an amazing journey and I like to think I’ll retire knowing I’ve tried my best, been honest and done a decent job.”
‘I’VE HAD A GOOD TROT’ The voice of Super League, Mike Stephenson will hang up the microphone this weekend.