Bill Lawry’s graceful broadcasting exit

Bill Lawry, the former Australian captain and longtime commentator, has confirmed his retirement from cricket broadcasting after knocking back offers from the Seven and Fox Sports networks to cover the game after Channel Nine’s loss of free-to-air television rights after 40 years.
Ultimately, it was the connection to Nine that stopped Lawry from going elsewhere to continue as a commentator, where even at the age of 81 he remained one of the most vibrant and compelling of the network’s cricket callers. He leaves behind a legacy of joining Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket revolution, followed by years behind the microphone alongside the likes of Richie Benaud, Tony Greig and Ian Chappell, setting a standard of enthusiasm and showmanship that many have tried unsuccessfully to emulate.
“Yes I am [retiring]. I’ve had 40 great years at Channel Nine and been very lucky and I think the time’s just right,” Lawry told SEN Radio. “I think it’s just been such a wonderful journey and I don’t want to spoil a great journey. I’ve seen the best cricketers for the last 40 years, I’ve been through the Packer years, I’ve commentated with guys like Ian Healy and Mark Taylor and all the new boys and it’s just been a wonderful journey I never really expected.
“I’ve had a phone call or two, which is fair enough, and I said no because Channel Nine’s been my home, I’ve been very happy there and I think when you’ve had such an enjoyable trip, at 81 years of age I think it’s just the time to call it quits. My wife hasn’t been well for probably five or six years so it was either call it quits or cut it short and Channel Nine have been very good. I certainly have enjoyed the Boxing Day Tests and the final Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground, it’s just a great atmosphere, the best cricketers in the world playing on the two best grounds probably in Australia, and it’s just been a magnificent journey, almost a dream come true.
“I think the time Packer called us together way back in 1975-76, I remember Keith Stackpole and I went to the first meeting or two and I said ‘this will only last for a couple of years, let’s enjoy ourselves’, so we were way off the mark there. But I think we’ve seen the change of cricket, from basically being amateurs, I played 17 years of first-class cricket for virtually nothing, which I would’ve done again because I didn’t know anything different. But the modern era brought on by Packer and Richie leading Channel Nine into a new era and all the others popping up, it’s just been a fabulous time.”
Lawry said he was saddened for Nine and its employees having lost the rights to cover cricket, with two of three international formats to now go behind Fox Sports’ paywall, while Seven chimes in to cover Test matches and 43 of 59 Big Bash League games. “It was disappointing for all the people who work there because they’ve just been fantastic, from the CEO down to the boy who runs around with the sandwiches,” Lawry said.
“It’s just been a great team effort, some wonderful producers and directors and cameramen and guys down in that horrible [outside broadcast] van, freezing cold for six or seven hours getting the best replays in the world, it’s just been a wonderful effort by Channel Nine and everybody involved.
“It brought modern cricket into the home, their replays, the third umpires, stump cam and all that rubbish, Greigy and his pitch report way back in the early days sticking a key into the pitch, it just brought people right into their home how Test and one-day cricket’s played and then Twenty20 cricket. Modern-day cricket’s been fantastic I think for all sports – golf’s improved, tennis has improved, and I think it all goes back to Kerry Packer throwing a lot of money at a project he wanted to win.”