‘I CAN’T BE­LIEVE IT’S HAP­PEN­ING’

Pre­sen­ter Abbey Gelmi on work and play

WHO - - Contents - By Stephen Downie

It was a spur of the mo­ment thing. Abbey Gelmi was host­ing the red car­pet of this year’s Brown­low Medal cer­e­mony in Mel­bourne on Sept. 24, and look­ing daz­zling in a sil­ver Leah Da Glo­ria gown. Then her col­league, Hamish Mclach­lan, threw the Chan­nel Seven sports pre­sen­ter a foot­ball. “Of course, I grabbed the footy and that’s what the cam­eras caught,” Gelmi laughs. “There I was glammed up in a frock and throw­ing around a foot­ball. But it prob­a­bly best re­flects who I am.” As much as she loves sports – all sports – there is an­other side to ever-glam­orous, but down-to-earth jour­nal­ist. “I also love my fash­ion – I’m a bit of an all-rounder in that sense,” she says. “I’ve al­ways en­joyed fash­ion grow­ing up, but un­til re­cently I felt I couldn’t be too vo­cal about lov­ing fash­ion be­cause peo­ple as­sume you can’t be that strong on sport. Or vice versa, some peo­ple think if you’re into sport you can’t have a pres­ence in the fash­ion space. I think fash­ion is es­capism and a bit of fun. But I re­ally en­joy it.”

Get used to see­ing a lot of Gelmi on our screens. The sports pre­sen­ter, who for four years read the morn­ing news on Fox Sports, is new to Seven, and is this year part of Seven’s cricket com­men­tary team, along­side le­gends such as Glenn Mc­grath and Ricky Ponting. And for an unashamed sports nut, that re­ally is a dream gig. “I can’t be­lieve it’s hap­pen­ing,” she en­thuses of her co-host­ing job. “If I could tell a 12-year-old me that I’d one day be on a team with peo­ple like this…”

When she was a young “tomboy” grow­ing up in Perth, Gelmi would fol­low her brother around, copy­ing what­ever he did. He played AFL, so she tried or­gan­is­ing a girls’ AFL side at her school, to no avail. She played cricket un­til she was 12, as well as net­ball. Of course, peo­ple will say sport is in Gelmi’s blood. She is the grand­daugh­ter of cham­pion mid­dledis­tance run­ner, Herb El­liott.

“Pa” as she calls El­liott, never gave her any strong-handed guid­ance on the sport­ing field. “He used to come along to my sports car­ni­vals but for me he’s just Grandpa, and a re­ally lov­ing one,” she says. “He doesn’t talk about his run­ning days that of­ten. He sees it as a chap­ter of his life that’s over now and he’s gone [on] to be quite a suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man. He has fam­ily now that is more im­por­tant [than his sport­ing ca­reer], which I think says a lot about his char­ac­ter.”

Gelmi stayed with El­liott when she moved to Syd­ney to work at Fox Sports. It was while at this job Gelmi met her beau, Ben Way, who has since moved to Sky Rac­ing. “He was the an­chor and I was the one rolling his au­tocue,” she re­calls. “He is eas­ily the best thing that’s come out of my in­volve­ment in any sports me­dia, so it’s nice.” For nine months, Way would drive Gelmi to work at 3am, then go to his own job at 7am and “he never

“[Ben] is eas­ily the best thing that’s come out of my job”

com­plained”. Clearly, it was love.

Now they’ve been to­gether for three-anda-half years (“I al­ways try to round it up to five”), Gelmi says wed­ding bells may one day chime for the cou­ple. “He keeps say­ing he’s wait­ing for me to ask,” she laughs. “But I asked him out and kissed him first, so I think he can do it. If I fin­ish off the tri­fecta I’d never for­give my­self.” Gelmi is one of six women on Seven’s cricket com­men­tary team this year. This is cer­tainly a gi­ant leap for cov­er­age of Test cricket, which starts on Dec. 6 with Aus­tralia tak­ing on In­dia. For so long, the sport has been dom­i­nated by men. Gelmi looks for­ward to a time when women in sports com­men­tat­ing, es­pe­cially cricket, will no longer be seen as a “to­ken” ges­ture. “That’s what we’re head­ing to­wards,” she says. “Rather than it be­ing a po­lit­i­cal state­ment, you just want it to be nor­mal.”

First Test: Aus­tralia V In­dia airs Thurs., Dec. 6 at 10am on Chan­nel Seven

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