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14 June 2018 Posted by 


Tribute to Coast’s BIG DARRELL
THE passing of the Darrell Eastlake recently was a “huge” loss to the Central Coast’s proud list of Australian media giants.

I well remember Big Darrell arriving at the Central Coast Express in the early 1980s proudly clutching his surf life saving column. You could hear him coming through the “comps” room and past the press room, enthusiastically greeting mates he knew from the surf club fraternity.
Darrell not only entered a room, he owned it, even in those early days before he became the first big voice of Australian TV sport on Channel Nine. Our Sports Editor in those days was a talented young scribe named Steve Crawley.
As everyone knows by now, “Dazza’s” national media career came about by accident rather than design:  after being seconded to commentate on the Commonwealth Games weightlifting, Darrell suddenly became a cult hero with his booming, excited coverage of a normally “conservative” sport.
Now it came to pass Darrell was spotted, or rather heard, by Kerry Packer (who owned the Express) on that very broadcast. While Darrell was being politely asked to commentate from outside of the venue because of his exuberant offerings, Mr Packer quickly figured that his newly acquired Rugby League TV coverage needed a big voice.
A phone call later and Darrell was suddenly snatched from being a local celebrity and thrown into the heady world of national TV sport. Channel Nine’s first match was a club game at Brookvale Oval which got off to the worst possible start when an enthusiastic producer decided to position the main cameras on the eastern side of the ground so that viewers could see the crowd in the grandstand.
Unfortunately, it was a sunny afternoon and with the cameras facing into the sun t was very hard to see the play. However Darrell was a hit and soon he was covering the amazing State of Origin clashes, Australia’s biggest annual sporting event.
He will remembered for all time on the replays of those famous clashes which were like gladiatorial conquests then mere games of footy, as well as Billy Birmingham’s famous takeoffs of his voice.
In a strange twist of fate, Steve Crawley became big Darrell’s boss at Channel Nine. Steve was no stranger to Rugby League: he played in the Gosford High team that won the coveted University Shield in the late 1970s.
He covered the Melbourne Cup for the Sydney Morning Herald and then worked at various positions in Sydney print and TV outlets, before also being head hunted to take over Nine’s sports department. I remember Steve going off to the British Open Golf and not knowing a thing about the game at the elite level.
He phoned me from the media tent at 3am and arranged for a camera shot of the area. “Watch the screen now: see that hand sticking out of the tent...that’s me”. He then made a rude gesture.  “Do you know anything golf? Who’s gonna win?” he enquired.
Steve quickly learnt about all sports and how to cover them. He took the Channel Nine sports coverage to new levels and it became the benchmark of Australian sports coverage. In recent times he was again headhunted by Fox Sports to head their NRL coverage which now rivals his old network.
His brother Paul Crawley worked at the Express as kind of an intern as a youngster in school holidays before becoming a leading sports journalist is his own right at the Daily Telegraph. He regularly appears on Fox Sports, becoming more famous that his boss and brother.
However, it was great friend of the Crawleys and Express cadet Paul Kent who shot to national prominence as a leading sports writer at the Daily Telegraph and then taking on the job as host of NRL 360 at Fox sports.
They are just some of the many coast media types who have gone on to stellar careers at a national level. The legendary Simon Townsend grew up at Woy Woy and his number one ambition as a young student was to one day be the editor of the Central Coast Express.
He sought me out in the late 1980s when one of our cadets, Tim Vincent, became a reporter on Wonder World. “You have the job I always wanted,” he said. “So do you,” I replied,
“Do you want to swap jobs?”
The coast became the home of many media giants down through the years including Peter Sterling, John Laws, Mark Waugh, Ray Hadley, the Fordham family, Graeme Blundell, Little Pattie, Lucky Starr and John Singleton to name just a few.
But none was as big as Darrell, the man who loved surf life saving, loved his footy and being in the spotlight and lived life to the full: a man for all seasons.



Michael Walls
P: 0407 783 413
E: Michael@accessnews.com.au

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Central Coast Business Access (CCBA) covers the business and community issues of the NSW Central Coast region. CCBA is a prime media source for connecting with the pulse of the region and tapping into it's vast opportunities.