‘I CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S HAPPENING’
Presenter Abbey Gelmi on work and play
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