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EXCLUSIVE: Bruce McAvaney reflects on his incredible career after being inducted into the TV WEEK Logies Hall of Fame

''To be able to attend and publicly express yourself in big moments is a privilege, a joy, a thrill.''

By Helen Vnuk
Frankie the dog gives a present to everyone who arrives at the door of Bruce McAvaney's home in Adelaide. When the TV WEEK photographer arrives, Frankie gives him a tennis ball.
It's a fitting present from the dog belonging to the first sports broadcaster to be inducted into the TV WEEK Logie Hall Of Fame. Bruce joins the likes of Graham Kennedy and Bert Newton, something he finds "overwhelming".
"They're stars, and I feel like I'm a broadcaster," he says. "So I feel honoured."
Bruce is the first sports broadcaster to be inducted into the TV WEEK Logie Hall Of Fame. (Image: TV WEEK)
Of course, Bruce, who turns 69 this week, is much more than just a broadcaster. To generations of Australians, he's been the voice of the AFL, the Melbourne Cup and some of the greatest Olympic victories.
"To be able to attend and publicly express yourself in big moments is a privilege, a joy, a thrill," he says.
Bruce was just five years old when he declared to his sports-mad family that he would call the Melbourne Cup one day.
"I practised a fair bit when I was a kid," he recalls. "I'd get the racing paper out."
At 11, he wrote to famous race-caller Bill Collins, asking for advice on how to become a race caller himself.
"I think he probably said, 'Get a good education,' which didn't go down well with me at the time! I was hoping he'd say, 'Well, why don't you come to Flemington and join me?'"
To generations of Australians, Bruce has been the voice of the AFL, the Melbourne Cup and some of the greatest Olympic victories. (Image: TV WEEK)
Bruce, who captained his high school's football and cricket teams, didn't have to wait too long to get his chance, beginning as a race caller on Adelaide radio at 23. He prepared meticulously.
"I would write down the horses' names and get out coloured pencils and colour in the colours of the jockeys' silks," he explains. "When the jockeys jumped on the horse, I had a pretty good idea of who was what."
Bruce soon switched to TV sport, getting a job at Channel Seven in Adelaide in 1978. Five years later, he moved to Network 10 in Melbourne, covering the Olympics and calling the Melbourne Cup, just as he'd declared he would aged five.
In 1989, he moved back to Seven, where he covered more Olympics, AFL, tennis and other sports. He started working with producer Anne Johnson, and they married within a year.
Anne is "not a sports fanatic", but Bruce says she's been a huge support, and he relies on her judgement.
"She's been an unbelievable help to me, probably more as we've gone along because I've needed more help. We're a good team."
Son Sam and daughter Alex arrived in the late 1990s, and then the family moved back to Adelaide, which meant Bruce had to be away a lot.
But there were also times he could bring along his children to sporting events and share the excitement with them.
Last year, after calling more than 1000 games and 20 grand finals, Bruce chose to step away from AFL commentary. (Image: TV WEEK)
"I think of them as little tackers at the Sydney Olympics when Cathy Freeman won the 400 metres and came up to us in the stand and gave them a cuddle," he says.
Sam, now 27, and Alex, 25, have both followed their parents into TV production.
Last year, after calling more than 1000 games and 20 grand finals, Bruce chose to step away from AFL commentary.
"I was probably feeling a bit worn down and maybe not as healthy as I wanted to," he explains. "I didn't want to retire, because I felt I wasn't ready, but I just felt I had to give something up."
He misses it a lot ("There have been moments where I've thought, 'What have I done?'") but believes it was the right decision.
Having been diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia seven years ago, he has regular medical check-ups. (Image: TV WEEK)
Having been diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia seven years ago, he has regular medical check-ups. Currently, though, he's feeling good.
"I'm feeling as well as I've felt for a few years," he says. "I'm not young, I know that, but I feel young, except when I first get out of bed in the morning!"
He still prepares as meticulously as ever, and when TV WEEK visits his home, he has his notes out, beginning three days of preparation for an upcoming five hours of racing coverage.
"It doesn't make me not nervous – I'm still nervous – but it gives me confidence when I'm on air," he says. "I'm old school. I'm a slow worker. With the Olympics, I start two or three years out."
Right now, Bruce is looking forward to the Commonwealth Games – to be held in the UK from July 28. (Image: TV WEEK)
Right now, Bruce is looking forward to the Commonwealth Games – to be held in the UK city of Birmingham from July 28 to August 8 – and beyond.
"I'm still enjoying it as much as ever, and I feel like I can improve," he says.
When he looks back over his long and successful career, Bruce considers himself "very, very lucky".
"I feel like I've got the one job I could possibly do at a reasonable level, because I'm pretty useless at everything else," he declares. "I'm a one-trick pony!"

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