GIBSON TOOK HIS OWN LIFE
Tragic details emerge
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 says farewell to his stationpromo portrait on leaving Channel 9 for Channel 10 in 1988,and (inset) with fellow 2SM announcer George Moore.