Leg­end Stevo ready to give re­tire­ment a T-R-Y

Rugby League Week - - Super League - PHIL WILKIN­SON

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.