When I was a young lad, I absolutely lived for my Saturday and Sunday afternoon football fix. With no Pay TV stations and no Internet, there was only ONE way you could follow the footy throughout the weekend. Sure there was Friday Night Football and the Sunday night equivalent, but since the competition had 16 teams when I started following it, that meant at least six games were not covered each week on free-to-air television. So, enter the (then 2UE) Continuous Call Team.
Ray Hadley, John Gibbs, Bob Fulton and the �sideline eye� Tony Megahey gave the best football coverage a youngster could want � pure footy, sure there was the odd �entertainment gag� but for the most part they covered football whether it on the open line or by calling the game itself. Sadly, one of the other founding members of this team, league scribe Peter Frilingos, suffered a heart attack, and died yesterday at the age of 59.
�Chippy� as his Continuous Call Team colleagues affectionately called him, was I recall often the straw that stirs the drink when it came to talking footy on the show. Whether I was washing Dad�s car or in the backyard kicking a footy back and forth, I always had the radio up as loud as possible so I didn�t miss anything on those weekend afternoons. Now I can�t lie and say I was a major fan of everything Frilingos said, but like very few journalists in the game, you still listened to everything he said. He was often controversial but he always had enough supporting evidence to back his views. Reading Dean Ritchie�s tribute to Frilingos today, you get the impression Frilingos literally never stopped covering the game he loved since he started out as a 19-year-old copy boy.
Although I was a avid listener, I never really entered into the �talkback� world of the show, mainly because I was far too shy but also I had heard far too many listeners cut off by the team for differing reasons (although mostly the right ones). When I finally got the courage up to ring in one day to talk about the Melbourne Storm�s win over Parramatta in early 1998, I hit the jackpot first go. I decided to ask to talk to Peter Frilingos, because no one else had asked to talk to him for a while and I figured it increased my chances of being bumped up the queue. It worked a treat, and at 5:56pm on a Sunday afternoon, Ray uttered those immortal words; �And the final call of the day, Warrick to talk to Peter�.
I sputtered my comment/question out, nervous as, but determined I had a good point, and I�d get it on the air.
�Peter, just watched the Storm beat the Eels today at Parramatta Stadium, and I was wondering if you were as impressed with their forward pack as I was. It reminds me of the way Newcastle played last year when they used a great forward pack to roll over teams and create space for their outside men like the Johns� boys. Brett Kimmorley and Scott Hill are similar players and with that forward pack they can go a long way this year.�
Then there was a pause... and I waited for their rebuttal.
I don�t really remember what was said exactly, but I know that Frilingos didn�t tear my words apart, amazingly he agreed and before he could add much more, Johnny Gibbs got on the blower and took the conversation away from the both of us but thankfully kept agreeing.
It�s not exactly the greatest story ever told but I remember it because barely six months later, I rang up again this time full of bravado.
Talk of merging clubs was the hot topic at the time and I came up with an idea to gauge each clubs interest in a merger.
So I rang up again and this time didn�t ask for Frilingos, but as luck would have it, no one was talking to him and I got asked by the phone switch operator �If you want to get on earlier, you can talk to Peter�. I figured it was worth it given I�d hung on the phone for over an hour at that stage.
My idea was a relatively simple one, each club would set up voting bins at the just inside the gates to the grounds and one would be marked �Yes to a Merger� and the other �No to a Merger�. The fans as they entered would simply place their ticket in the bin of their choice. Now in theory I thought it was a pretty good idea, the club could then tally the votes up and get a clear indication of how their attending fans thought about a merger involving their club.
However, I copped it from Frilingos. He tore strips off me, I barely had the idea out of my mouth when he laid into me and I never got another word in. Won�t work for this reason, mergers aren�t inevitable for this reason, clubs don�t want that for this reason etc. Frilingos ended my burgeoning talkback career in one foul swoop.
So why share that? Well I believe it shows that Peter Frilingos lived for his football. He also stood by how he saw things and yet could agree with other points of view. The Daily Telegraph is the most popular sports section in Sydney for a reason and he was a key component of that appeal. He is a loss to the media and rugby league, but he also left the game with a true example of how to cover rugby league to both current and aspiring journalists, who will ultimately fill the void left by Frilingos a man who truly knew his league.
Warrick NICOLSON ========================= Freelance Sports Journalist NICOLSON SPORTS CONSULTANCY Ph: 0402 851 485 Fax: 02 9653 1483 [email protected] ==========================