Tragic de­tails emerge

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - Front Page - AN­NETTE SHARP & SARAH CRAW­FORD

HE was one of the greats of Aus­tralian sports jour­nal­ism who achieved icon sta­tus in his four decades on tele­vi­sion screens but when Mike Gib­son re­tired in 2013 he was a bro­ken man.

Gib­son — who be­came a house­hold name in the 1980s when he hosted Wide World of Sports with Ian Chap­pell — was in the midst of a break-up with part­ner of eight years Lisa Bin­ney as his ca­reer was end­ing.

Sources yes­ter­day said a num­ber of is­sues, in­clud­ing on­go­ing prop­erty dis­putes with Ms Bin­ney — and frus­tra­tion that he was no longer in de­mand pro­fes­sion­ally — had seen Gib­son, 75, lapse into a deep de­pres­sion. He ul­ti­mately de­cided to take his own life on Wed­nes­day.

Af­ter quit­ting jour­nal­ism in May 2013 and leav­ing a men­tor­ing role cre­ated for him at Fox Sports, Gib­son’s re­la­tion­ship with Ms Bin­ney ended af­ter she at­tempted, with­out suc­cess, to re­boot his ca­reer as a pub­lic speaker.

At one stage Gib­son was ad­mit­ted into a men­tal health fa­cil­ity.

Yes­ter­day trib­utes con­tin­ued to flow for the sports jour­nal­ism leg­end who was found dead in his Cen­tral Coast home on Wed­nes­day by his brother Chris. The scene was later at­tended by po­lice of­fi­cers from Bris­bane Wa­ters.

Gib­son had five chil­dren and had been mar­ried three times when he met Ms Bin­ney in 2005.

They moved in to­gether the fol­low­ing year.

How­ever af­ter a se­ries of prob­lems, the cou­ple sep­a­rated and Ms Bin­ney, then aged 54, moved out of their Cen­tral Coast house and into a unit on the north shore. The cou­ple be­came em­broiled in a dis­pute when Gib­son tried to sell the unit. Sev­eral at­tempts at re­solv­ing the dis­pute failed.

Yes­ter­day a fam­ily friend said Gib­son’s de­pres­sion fi­nally over­came him, although there had been signs in re­cent weeks that he may have been fi­nally turn­ing a corner. “He went into a very, very black place and his brother started drop­ping in on him ev­ery day to check he was OK,” said a friend yes­ter­day.

“When his brother Chris phoned Gibbo on Wed­nes­day and the phone went unan­swered, he went around and dis­cov­ered the body.”

Ms Bin­ney was yes­ter­day de­scribed as be­ing in a “very frag­ile place”. Thos Hodg­son, Ms Bin­ney’s bar­ris­ter, last night said: “Lisa is very sad and dis­tressed.”

His was one of the most recog­nis­able bald­ing pates (paired with a push broom mous­tache) on TV in the 1980s. The late, great sports fa­natic who made a liv­ing from his pas­sion, Mike “Gibbo” Gib­son died this week at the age of 75. He will be fondly re­mem­bered by those who en­joyed his col­umns, ra­dio shows and TV broad­casts over his long and var­ied ca­reer.

He once de­scribed his birth in 1940 as “an emo­tional re­ac­tion to Robert Men­zies’ an­nounce­ment that we were sud­denly at war”. Hail­ing from North Syd­ney, his par­ents were not well off and they did it tough in the early years.

Gib­son’s pas­sion for sports started early, but he quickly re­alised he was more cut out to be an au­di­ence mem­ber rather than an ath­lete.

He said: “I was a very or­di­nary foot­ball player. I used to love foot­ball. I love play­ing tennis — that was the only sport you could say I was a fair to av­er­age player at.” He also tried box­ing a cou­ple of times at the lo­cal Po­lice Boys club, but “I got my nose knocked off so I gave that away pretty quickly”.

Know­ing he was never go­ing to be a great sports star, he dis­cov­ered he had a flair for writ­ing com­po­si­tions in school and de­cided to make a ca­reer as a writer. At the age of 18 he got a cadet­ship on The Daily Mir­ror, which, at the time, was rather old for a cadet. But the ex­tra years of school­ing stood him in good stead, broad­en­ing his in­ter­ests and al­low­ing him to add a depth to his writ­ing that would help him move up the ranks.

With a steady, al­beit mea­gre, in­come com­ing in from his news­pa­per job, he mar­ried his 16-year-old girl­friend He­len in 1959. They would have five chil­dren to­gether.

Gib­son set his sight on be­com­ing a sports writer, a role many other journos in Aus­tralia then con­sid­ered sec­ond rate. “Ev­ery­one seemed to think that the ad­mirable thing to do was to go to Can­berra and be­come a po­lit­i­cal cor­re­spon­dent,” he said.

Still, those who had made sports writ­ing their job were reluc­tant to move on, so when he was of­fered the chance to com­pile de­tails for r The Daily Tele­graph rac­ing form guide,e, he grabbed it. From there he wasas able to move on to other things and soon was writ­ing a daily sports col­umn.

When he went to Lon­don n in 1963, to cover the Aus­tralian rugby league teamm tour, he no­ticed that sports jour­nal­ists there were treated like “princes”.

He de­cided to stay for a while. He­len soon joined him, and he cov­ered many ma­jor sports events across Europe in­clud­ing Wim­ble­don.

When he re­turned to Aus­tralia he fo­cused on be­ing the best there was at sports writ­ing. He worked for sev­eral papers be­fore, in the mid-1970s, he was of­fered three times what he was earn­ing as a colum­nist to work at 2SM.

He later said: “I got hooked on it and I be­gan to swing away from the writ­ten word and into the elec­tronic me­dia.”

He didn’t aban­don writ­ing al­to­gether, turn­ingt out var­i­ous col­umns, in­cluding­in­clud one in the Aus­tralian Women’sWo Weekly that talked aboutab his home life.

Peo­ple took to this unashamed­lyu uA or­di­nary Aus­tralianA voice on ra­dio. He won awards for his work, and even Kerry Packer was im­pressedim im­press — he hired Gib­son as a re­porter for Chan­nel 9 in 1980.

He was not your typ­i­cal lantern­jawed re­porter. From about the age of 25 he had been thin­ning on top, but he es­chewed the usual comb-over, toupee or hair trans­plants to which many celebri­ties suc­cumbed. He once said that Chan­nel 9 was the “world cen­tre” for hair trans­plants.

In 1981 he took on the job of host­ing Nine’s flag­ship sports pro­gram Wide World Of Sports. Gib­son’s phi­los­o­phy was to keep it en­ter­tain­ing to grab a wide au­di­ence.

At the age of 41, bald­ing, podgy but with an in­fec­tious grin and a dis­tinc­tive singsong de­liv­ery, he had be­come a star. In 1988 he was lured away from Nine to host Good Morn­ing Aus­tralia on Chan­nel 10. It was a time of up­heaval and he split from his wife He­len in 1989.

Through­out his re­main­ing years Gib­son moved from one medium to the other, at times strad­dling them, in­clud­ing a 16-year stint on Fox Sports’ The Back Page.

He was an or­di­nary bloke, with a great turn of phrase.

He once said “I just can’t be­lieve peo­ple pay me to write and talk and give my im­pres­sions on things. I mean I can’t see why peo­ple would find my im­pres­sions all that in­ter­est­ing.”

Mike Gib­son.

Mike Gib­son says farewell to his sta­tionpromo por­trait on leav­ing Chan­nel 9 for Chan­nel 10 in 1988,and (in­set) with fel­low 2SM an­nouncer Ge­orge Moore.

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