Excuse us if we’re a little self-indulgent with this edition of Off The Pitch thanks to Soccer World but everyone at QSN is proud of an achievement by one of our very own. The FFA Cup has provided players and coaches with a chance to display their wares on the national stage but it’s also given some of the state-based commentators a chance to test themselves at another level with the Fox Sports broadcasts. One of those is Rafe Griffin who steps up to the biggest achievement of his career to date, broadcasting Wednesday night’s main fixture between Redlands United and Adelaide United.
QSN: How were you introduced to the game?
RG: I was first exposed to football when my brother and cousins started playing at under 7 level at Virginia United. I’m five years older than them and my two uncles were also co-coaches of the team so I used to help them out a bit. It was strange at the time because our whole family were very staunch rugby league people so I’m not sure how we got into the ’round-ball’ game in the first place.
QSN: Tell us about your footballing involvement.
RG: We spent a year at Virginia and then my cousins went and played rugby league. My brother continued to play football but moved to Grange Thistle to be closer to our family home. I was playing junior squash at the time so I’d play that on a Saturday morning and come back to the club on a Saturday afternoon and help out in the canteen with Norma and Noel Williams who put in an amazing amount of hours in volunteer roles. There were some great club people around Grange Thistle at the time and I think it rubbed off on me. It was a great club to hang around.
I eventually drifted out of squash and got into football refereeing. I did for three years in the Brisbane junior leagues, including being selected as a linesman at the 1993 under 13 state titles.
There was a time when I fell out of love for the game, I even missed the establishment of the A-League. It was really only once I came back to Brisbane in 2009, after spending nine years in Canberra, that I got back involved again. I lived close to Olympic and used to go and watch them on Sunday nights and that sparked the love of the game returning.
QSN: What opportunities has football given you?
RG: It’s a common theme in the responses to our Off The Pitch articles that football has provided the opportunities to meet so many great people but it’s so true. I’d have to say that is the most enjoyable thing about being involved again. Seeing so many people passionate about the game and their club and putting in countless hours quite unselfishly.
In a more practical sense, the ability to travel with football has been quite appealing. I was a big Brisbane Roar supporter in recent years so I followed them in Japan when they played in the AFC Champions League. That was a great week to experience a new culture. The Japanese are so friendly and polite and the experience I had in Japan is one of the reasons I enjoy watching them in matches.
QSN: So how did you get into commentary?
RG: I’d always held a bit of an interest in it and Football Brisbane held a competition/audition process at the end of the 2012 season which I put in an entry into.
Months passed and I didn’t really think much more of it but just before the start of the 2013 season, I got a phone call from them asking me in for a chat. The NPL was starting up at that time and Football Queensland were looking for someone to commentate on that so that’s the direction I eventually ended up going in.
QSN: And how were the early experiences in commentary?
RG: In one word, horrible! I copped a lot of criticism at the time and rightly so. Robert Blanch (former Football Brisbane TV commentator) set a high standard and it took a while to find my groove. I took on board plenty of advice at the time, worked on things and made gradual improvement.
It was a big learning curve and it’s a difficult skill to master. Not everyone can do it but I learned a lot of valuable lessons out of it.
QSN: How did the opportunity come about to be part of the Fox Sports team for the FFA Cup?
RG: A couple of years ago, I made contact with the Executive Producer of Fox Football and I organised to spend a day ‘behind the scenes’ at an A-League match observing the various pieces of the broadcast. The first half I spent in the commentary box with Brenton Speed and Robbie Slater.
During the second half, I sat in the production truck which was just an amazing experience. Until you actually see it all in action, it’s hard to appreciate what actually goes into bringing the pictures that you see on screen at home. The replays and the speed they can bring them up in is what impressed me most.
From there, I kept in contact and that’s what landed me the Lions v Perth Glory gig last year.
QSN: What goes into a broadcast and what is the hardest part?
RG: The funny thing is that the time taken to research a game is actually more than the broadcast itself. For example, I probably put at least four hours research into the FNQ Heat v Edgeworth Eagles match last week. That involves trying to find the playing history of each player, some fun facts , talking points with the co-commentator and each team’s form. I’ll also try and watch back some footage of a previous game.
The hardest part probably sounds pretty obvious. When I was doing the NPL live streams last year, it got pretty easy identifying players because I was seeing them from week to week but identifying new teams and players is difficult and you try and pick out something that might easily identify them like a captain’s armband or a bright pair of boots.
QSN: And what sparked your interest in the media more generally?
RG: I’ve always enjoyed conveying information onto others so that side of the media has appealed to me.
QSN started in its various iterations when I turned up to the first night of the 2012 Brisbane Premier League between Brisbane City and Lions and started a Twitter account to provide live updates of BPL matches during that season.
That extended in 2013 with the introduction of the NPL and then in 2014, Shane Jeynes and I came together when we discovered we were doing similar things. That’s when QSN really started getting going. There were so many news sources from around Queensland and we brought those into one spot so that people could see what was going on in other areas.
The response we received from the footballing public was extraordinary and we’re eternally gratefully for the support we receive on a daily basis. Everyone involved gets an immense sense of satisfaction.
QSN: What have been your greatest moments in football?
RG: Broadcasting the main match on Wednesday night will be my biggest achievement to date. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever believed that I would be commentating a game on a main Fox Sports channel. Before this, it was the Lions v Perth Glory match last year. What an effort Lions put up sending it to extra time only for heartbreak at the end.
The most enjoyable game I’ve commentated on was the 2014 NPL semi-final between FNQ Heat and Olympic in Cairns. The matched see-sawed, no player left anything out on the park and Olympic came away with a 5-4 win in an absolute bottler. I called it live for QSN Radio and then the video highlights for the official NPL website and it’s a game I never tire of reliving. I’ll watch it at least a couple of times each year.
I’ll never forget the 2011 A-League Grand Final. To see how Ange Postecoglou completely rebuilt the Roar and made them so dominant through that period was such an amazing feat. What a roller-coaster that match was with a wide array of emotions. Bright sunshine to start the match then a heavy shower just after halftime. The match going into extra time and all seemingly lost when the Mariners went 2-0 ahead but then the amazing comeback from the Roar to win in penalties. I’ll never forget the crowd going crazy after the second Roar goal, I just feel sorry for those that left the ground early.
QSN: What do you do with yourself away from the football pitch?
RG: I think a lot of people think that QSN is my full-time job but all those involved do it for the love of the game on a voluntary basis. We do put a lot of hours in each week which probably fools everybody.
I’m actually a project manager outside the footballing sphere. I’m also the lead commentator for Football Brisbane matches in amongst whatever spare time I have.
QSN: What are your long term aspirations?
RG: I’m not really one to set goals, I generally take things as they come. In saying that though, it would be good if the commentary work did lead to a full-time role in football. As everyone knows, that is a tough ask because there’s limited opportunities so you just have to grasp them when you can.
QSN: Time for 5 rapid fire questions! Your favourite drink, music, food, football idol and which football club do you support?
Cider, I’m not big into music – I’m more a boring AM radio listener, Lasagne, Craig Johnston (who I bumped into in the mens at the Roar v Liverpool match last year – strange story) and Liverpool FC
Thanks very much for joining us Rafe and best wishes for the call on Wednesday night.
It’s a big time test for Redlands and you can’t come up against any bigger opponents than the current A-League Champions in Adelaide United. It would be good to see as many people as possible at Perry Park but if you can’t make it, the game will be the night’s feature match live on Fox Sports Channel 506 from 7:30pm.