Roy and H.G.’s State of Origin commentary
(Note: this article is completely off-topic from what I usually write about!)
State of Origin commentary: Roy and H.G.-style!
In 2006 I started a Wikipedia article about an Australian cultural institution. The article was about comedians Roy and H.G., and their annual radio commentary of the three State of Origin rugby league games, broadcast on Triple J.
They were my favourite three nights of the year. Not because I’m a noted rugby league fan. But rather, because of the enthusiasm and comedy that Roy and H.G. provided in their State of Origin broadcast. Following their instructions, I would turn on the Channel 9 TV coverage of the football game, and mute the audio. Then I would turn on Triple J radio, and listen to their alternative commentary of the match at hand.
Roy and H.G. versus the other networks
Roy and H.G.’s State of Origin call was the perfect antidote to the self-important, overblown commentary of Channel Nine’s “panel of experts”. Ray Warren, Peter Sterling and Fatty Vautin would go to hyperbolic lengths about the “gladiatorial” contest between the “immortal” football playing “geniuses”. They would rhapsodise about the players as though they were gods, clashing in a superhuman contest on a galactic stage.
By contrast, Roy and H.G. wouldn’t hesitate to call a player a “goose” for dropping the ball. To complain when the game was too slow-paced and boring. To openly accuse referees of bias, and to draw attention to players who tried to “pull a penalty” by feigning injury. To demand instant lifetime bans against “white flag merchant” players who didn’t compete with full intensity. To draw attention to dackings, wedgies and other indiscretions that serious broadcasters would conceal.
And, of course, there was their infamous twist on the Australian National Anthem. In Roy and H.G.’s universe “Advance Australia Fair” was always replaced by “I Thank You” by Lionel Rose. Despite the obviously-different songs, Roy and H.G. never acknowledged the switch to listeners, and instead unfailingly praised the singer for a fantastic performance.
Here is an example of their in-game commentary style. This is taken from game 2 of the 1993 Origin series.
This irreverence was shocking to many listeners. I know rugby league die-hards who would sooner leave the room, rather than hear Roy and H.G. desecrate the sacred sport of rugby league through humour.
Yet, to me, this less-than-serious tone added to the respect that Roy and H.G. showed the game. Counter-intuitively, by showing the game less respect, Roy and H.G.’s commentary seemed to hold more respect for the essence of State of Origin.
Bringing it back to the clubhouse
Professional sports encourage “involvement” by consumerism. People “participate” in major league sports by shelling out money for stadium seats, and team merchandise. The relationship is impersonal and based around money moreso than personal involvement.
By contrast, community-sport encourages participation by actually running around a field and exercising. Or by volunteering as a coach or manager. By cutting up oranges for half-time or making crepe paper decorations. Things operate on a personal level for the enjoyment of the game, and the benefit of the local team.
Roy and H.G. spoke the language of the dressing sheds. Of the neighbourhood clubhouse funded by chook raffles. The fans who love dacking and argy-bargy. The fans who aren’t shy of criticising the players for brain-snaps and stuff-ups.
My Wikipedia article
I wanted to capture the ephemeral information that was being broadcast via live radio. To create a list of the noteworthy nicknames and features of the Roy and H.G. call, so that future internet users could relive the humour. With no official Triple J website to store this information, Wikipedia seemed a good place to begin.
I am proud of the material that I wrote for Wikipedia, but I now realise that the article is almost completely unsourced. For this reason, it violates Wikipedia’s policies about “no original research” and “no unsourced statements“.
To delete the State of Origin commentary article would be to deprive the web of an important resource. Yet to leave it online without adjustment violates Wikipedia’s guidelines.
Me as a primary souce?
In the eight years since 2006, I have also seen other users make edits to the page, adding unsourced information that I personally cannot remember or verify.
Perhaps this blog post can serve as “source” for the parts of the article that I wrote.
I can personally vouch for all of the information that follows this paragraph. It is information that I typed into Wikipedia, as I was listening to the radio, taking notes of Roy and H.G.’s player nicknames, and their exact wording of items such as Nelson’s “highest principles on the planet” spiel. Ignore the odd formatting of the text that follows.
The Roy and H.G. article, as written by me:
Broadcast on the Triple J radio station to simulcast with the three-game Rugby league State of Origin series, Australian comedians Roy and HG (played by John Doyle and Greig Pickhaver) provide a commentary of the match at hand. An extension of the duo’s This Sporting Life radio program, also on Triple J, Roy and HG’s use of comedy makes their sporting calls unique from that provided by other media sources, and has earned a cult following.
At 7:30pm on the night of a State of Origin match, Triple J interrupts its normal evening broadcasts (Super Request) in New South Wales and Queensland, and the State of Origin coverage begins with a fanfare of horns. A lengthy introduction to State of Origin rugby league is given by “King Wally Otto in the Soundproof Booth” (a pseudonym for well-known Australian voice-over presenter Robbie McGregor). This introduction, which can last for 5 minutes or more, features King Wally Otto enthusiastically reading a Doyle and Pickhaver’s script, which more often than not culminates in a list of Former Origin Greats (“F.O.G.s”), and anecdotes about their achievements or foibles. It is also common for Otto to announce a ‘theme’ for the year’s three game series, often to do with current events (such as the 2003 invasion of Iraq). A twist on this was when the 2006 series was heavily sponsored by fictitious Lakemba-based car dealership Frosty Lahood Motors Australia.
At the end of Otto’s build-up to the game, he usually switches to a rhapsodic introduction for Roy and HG themselves, ending with the question “are you there…HG?” Taking his role of the ‘sports announcer‘ of the pair, HG Nelson thanks King Wally Otto in the Soundproof Booth, welcomes listeners to their State of Origin coverage and provides further build-up to the game at hand. Nelson introduces the State of Origin contest as being played for the “highest principles on the planet”; those principles being “Peace through violence, harmony through brutality and getting everyone to shut-up and behave just like us or they’ll cop a boot up the date and a fist of fives.”
During the first few minutes, Nelson’s broadcasting partner, “Rampaging” Roy Slaven remains silent until eventually introduced to the airwaves by Nelson. Roy’s character, a supposed former player of the game who takes more of an ‘expert commentary’ role to Nelson’s main call, is often restrained with his opening remarks; that is, until his enthusiasm for the game provokes a passionate expression of opinion about the contest to Nelson and the listening audience. The pair talk about the build-up to the game for approximately half an hour, often with Slaven recounting supposed interactions he had with stars of the league (he professes intimate friendships with most every player of Rugby League). An example of one of these (obviously fictional) exchanges was before the first game of the 2006 series which New South Wales was entering after winning the previous three in a row. With many media commentators declaring the concept of State of Origin dead after such one-sided results, Roy contacted Wally Lewis for his thoughts on the upcoming series, to which he replied “oh, are they still playing that?”
At approximately 8:00pm the players enter the field and line up for the singing of the Australian national anthem; an occasion which provides one of Roy and HG’s most infamous twists on traditional sports commentary. As the television pictures show footage of a vocalist singing “Advance Australia Fair“, the Triple J coverage completely replaces the song with Lionel Rose‘s 1969 song “I Thank You”. The choice of this song probably is due to the opening lyrics “When a boy becomes a man…” (signifying young players ‘stepping up’ to the challenge of State of Origin football) as well as the inherent violence associated with the former-boxer, Rose. The Lionel Rose song is faded out by Roy and HG when they sense the real singer is wrapping up their performance (usually after the first chorus of “I Thank You”), with Roy and HG invariably praising the singer for a fantastic performance.
Unlike the more respectful commentary of usual broadcasters Channel 9 and ABC Radio‘s Grandstand, Roy and HG are often not restrained in their criticism of players and teams. This feature of their call is off-putting for sports fans who dislike hearing players in their team criticised (being called a “goose”, etc), and who are opposed to idea of the year’s centrepiece Rugby League event ‘trivialised’ by Roy and HG’s comedy. The duo, particularly Slaven’s, commentary often features sensationalist over-reactions to the game at hand, such as calling for entire teams of players to be sacked after losses, or even questioning whether losing teams will ever win another match in the future.
Though Doyle was born in New South Wales, and both currently reside within the state, it must be said that this gives seemingly little influence to any commentary ‘bias’. Roy and HG tend to support whichever team is winning at the time, and criticise those players having bad performances on the night (although they have picked recurring targets from both Queensland and New South Wales over the years). Roy and HG are also quick to relish in the more ‘unsavoury’ actions of players on the field which are ignored or downplayed by traditional broadcasters. This includes spitting, dacking, wedgies, gouging, groping, fighting and roughhousing in general.
Roy and HG’s State of Origin commentary is also noteworthy for the use of nicknames to refer to many of players on the field, rather than their surnames. Whilst standard, well-known nicknames such as “Sticky” Ricky Stuart and “Mad Dog” MacDougall are used, the duo are renowned for their creation and use of more obscure ‘running joke‘-type nicknames about players. An incomplete, alphabeticised list of nicknames is presented below:
|New South Wales State of Origin Player Nicknames
|Roy and HG nickname
|Reason for nickname
|The Cough Drop
|A play on the pronunciation of Ainscough’s surname.
|The Black Hole
|Roy and HG noted during one match that Anasta’s effectiveness in the New South Wales defence was like a hole that Queensland players could break through with little trouble.
|Possibly because of his poor ball handling in a State of Origin match
|When spoken, “Adolf” Fittler sounds much like Adolf Hitler. This nickname was only used by Roy and HG for a short period of time towards the end of Fittler’s career.
|Fire Up Bitch!
|Gasnier was fired from the 2004 New South Wales State of Origin team for leaving an obscene voice mail message on a woman’s mobile phone after a ‘bonding session'. The transcript of the phone message is as follows:”Where the fuck are you? There’s four toey humans in the cab with sausages ready to spurt sauce. It’s 20 to four…and you’re in bed, fuck me. Fire up, you sad cunt.“. Roy and HG also shorten this nickname to variations such as “the F.U.B.”, “fubby” and “the fubster”.
|During a particular game, Roy and HG noted how most plays involving Terry Hill “fizzed out” due to factors such as his poor ball-handling skills. From that point onwards he was dubbed “Fizzer Hill”, with the pair shouting “FIZZ! FIZZ! FIZZ!” whenever he was passed the ball. During his final appearances for New South Wales, the older Hill was lampooned by Slaven for being “too old, too slow, too stupid” whenever he was brought into play. Slaven and Nelson surmised that Hill wasn’t in the New South Wales side for his sporting talent, but rather for his personal qualities (calling him “the funniest man in rugby league”). In his 1996 book Petrol, Bait, Ammo & Ice, HG Nelson mused “imagine the mayhem the world would have to endure if Terry couldn’t find an outlet for his enthusiasm in the League.”
|Money Box Man
|This nickname is drawn from the term ‘coin slot’ to describe an ‘arse crack’ or buttock cleavage. Hindmarsh’s shorts would often be worn low, with his coin slot exposed to the TV cameras.
|Although he was been described by a 2005 newspaper story as “the most suspended player of the modern era”, Hopoate is best known for the incidents that lead to his sacking from the Wests Tigers in 2001. During a 2001 match against the North Queensland Cowboys, Hopoate attempted to insert his finger into the anuses of his opponents in an effort to unsettle them. This incident, and the following rugby league judiciary decision to ban him for 12 weeks, was widely publicised by the sporting and mainstream media and left Hopoate humiliated. The Roy and HG nickname is possibly drawn from the 1996 Tool song “Stinkfist“.
|The Unmade Bed
|Roy and HG once read a feature story which detailed some of Johns’ on-tour habits. Specifically, the article mentioned Johns’ technique of going to bed fully dressed in his travelling clothes following a late night out on the town. This allowed him to get an extra 15 minutes sleep the next morning, although his crumpled clothes took upon an “unmade bed” appearance for the following day.
|The nickname was given after a comment made by Slaven or Nelson remarking how much Kennedy looks like his namesake, former US President John F. Kennedy. In reality the big, bald-headed Kennedy looks nothing like JFK, but Roy and HG ran with this joke by making references to Air Force One and The White House when Kennedy had possession of the ball. Another nickname for this player was “Ken Bennedy”.
|The Brick With Eyes
|The nickname is because of Glenn’s large, solid physique. Roy and HG have also called him “Dr Death”. The United Kingdom‘s The Sun newspaper once got this name wrong and called him “The Brick with Ears”.
|Mad Dog MacDougall
|The Brains Trust
|The nickname originated in the aftermath of the 2004 Canterbury Bulldogs sex scandal, in which Mason was labelled a central figure. His club later claimed that Mason has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 
|A name given to Menzies by his team names possibly due to his long nose. Other Roy and HG name variations include “Beav” and “The Flying Beaver”. Having played professional rugby league since 1993, the 2000s saw the duo making exaggerated references to Menzies’ age, such as calling him “Methuselah” and claiming he was around 800 years old and had made 400 origin appearances.
|Roy and HG drag out the pronunciation of Tommy’s name to “Raw-doh-ny-cuss” or “Raw-doh-knee-cuss”.
|A variation of his normal nickname, “Blocker”.
|“Totally” Ian Roberts
|Named after a fictitious fashion label that Slaven and Nelson invented for the well dressed, homosexual Ian Roberts.
|A crude nickname which was used after Stevens made a number of mistakes in a match.
|Tim Tam Tahu
|Named after the Australian chocolate biscuit brand.
|Tea bag Timmins
|Queensland State of Origin Player Nicknames
|Roy and HG nickname
|Reason for nickname
|Ding Dong Bell
|Fridge and a freezer
|Rhyming slang with Petro’s actual surname. Roy and HG also usually intentionally mispronounce his name as “siv-ee-ya-see-na”, and sometimes introduce other variations such as Petrol SeventyCentsALitre and Petero SecondReceiver.
|John Doyle is the real name of the actor behind the Roy Slaven character, so the duo nicknamed the rugby league player accordingly.
|The Penalty Puller
|Roy and HG regarded Hearn as a player who frequently faked injury to fool the referee into penalising the New South Wales team. To this day, Roy and HG refer to Hearn as a mentor-like figure who coaches young players how to best ‘pull penalties’ in State of Origin matches.
|Derived from the homophonic qualities of ‘Ikin’ and ‘Ike and Tina‘.
|“Baa baa” Lam
|The Ungrateful Head
|The head of Martin Lang, who ran with an erratic style, would be violently and spectacularly whiplashed backwards after a collision with a tackling opponent.
|Actress Deborah Kerr starred opposite Yul Brynner in the 1956 movie The King and I. This nickname is derived from Allan Langer’s on-field partnership with Broncos / Maroons five-eighth Wally Lewis, who was nicknamed “The King”.
|The Far Side
|Rugby League player Gary Larson shares the same name as the cartoonist responsible for the popular strip The Far Side.
|Adam Mogg’s debut origin match was the second game of the 2006 series, which was being played at the same time as the football World Cup. Adam Mogg scored two tries in an unexpected Queensland thrashing which lead Roy to declare “you can talk about Wogball, but this is Moggball“.
|The Poo in the Shoe
|O’Neill, who has a history of off-field misconduct, including two DUI charges and urinating under casino blackjack tables own two separate occasions, was involved in a 1999 pre-season incident which lead to his South Sydney Rabbitohs being banned from a Dubbo hotel. Following years of personal and professional turmoil, O’Neill trashed the Dubbo hotel room by smearing the walls with faeces. A direct quote from the horse’s mouth describing a further bad deed from the night was “hey Schlossie, I just shat in your shoe”. 
|Named after the Australian discount haircare and beauty chain, Price Attack, Roy and HG would make the “woo woo woo!” noise of a storefront siren whenever Price would take a hit up.
|Also, at one point in time, Roy and HG would should “HELLO SAILOR!” every time Wendell was passed the ball.
|The 180B Man
|Named after a late 70s model of car, Roy and HG would remark how Shearer “offers so many options on the park he’s like a Datsun 180B“. An extension of this joke was that Shearer offered “too many options”, which lead to no action because of indecision.
|Cheese and Chives
|Smiths Chips is a large manufacturer of potato chips in Australia.
|Salt and Vinegar
|Jason Smith is the brother of Darren Smith (see above)
|“Show us ya date” Tate
|Roy and HG were instrumental in popularising the usage of the slang term ‘date’, which means anus. After scoring two tries in the third 2003 State of Origin match, Roy and HG proclaimed “everybody’s talking Tate!” This would prove to be a popular phrase which would be modified to “nobody’s talking Tate” during less impressive performances.
|Thorn in the side
|A nickname derived from Lote’s unusual Fijian surname. Another version is “Strawberry Daiquiri“.
|Named because of his squashed facial features.
|The brother of Kerrod Walters (see above), Kevin’s nickname also was derived simply because of his warped facial features.
|Telstra BigPond is a popular web provider in Australia.
Roy and HG’s commentary also makes use of a number of sayings which are infrequently used by the majority of rugby league broadcasters.
Play of game
- “Chilli on the stick” – Analogous to the saying “rubbing salt in the wound“, “chilli on the stick” is referred to by Roy and HG when a team already trailing on the scoreboard is further humiliated by the opposition scoring subsequent tries. Roy and HG metaphorically refer to the winning team grabbing a cricket stump applying chilli and rubbing it “in, out, in, out” of the losing team’s date (a slang word for anus).
- “Defusing a bomb” – a player (usually the fullback) catching an opposing team’s bomb kick in the in-goal area, and thus giving their team a 20-metre restart. This saying is especially used in high-pressure situations where there is a contest from an opposing player for the mark.
- “Hospital pass” – a pass to a team-mate who is closely marked by another player. This ensures that the player is swiftly tackled (often with great force because of the defender’s available time to prepare) soon after catching the ball.
- “Johnny on the spot” – a lucky player. This saying is usually reserved to describe a someone who scores because of being in the right place at the right time to receive a pass from a player who had done more work to manufacture the try.
- “Reception committee” – terminology for a group of defending players who ‘greet’ an advancing player with a tackle.
- “Squirrel grip” – referring to a player grabbing an opponent’s testicles.
- “Surrendered tackle” – see “white flag merchant”, below.
- “Turtled” – A tackling style where more than one opponent lift the ball carrier in such a way that they end up on their back like a turtle trapped on its shell.
- “White flag merchant” – someone who ‘surrenders’ to allow their opponents to easily tackle them. Roy Slaven is a strong believer that this should be stomped out of the game (“I HATE it!”), with suggested punishments for white flag merchants being as extreme as an instant life ban from playing the code. Brett Hodgson has been accused of being a white flag merchant during Roy and HG’s State of Origin commentary.
- Advertising – Due to the ABC Charter, presenters are not allowed to voice support for commercial organisations. Pickhaver and Doyle also show an aversion to legitimately mentioning the names of corporations who have bought naming rights for venues and events (see “Stadia”, below). Comically, Nelson also twists the reality of the sponsors who have their logos painted on the grass of the field. When players have been tackled on painted sections of grass (especially the red Harvey Norman logos), Slaven often refers to the players as being “tackled on the Triple J signage”.
- Stadia – Roy and HG usually avoid mentioning the sponsors’ names during their broadcast, calling Suncorp Stadium “The Cauldron” (or its traditional name, Lang Park), and calling Telstra Stadium (the venue which hosted the 2000 Olympics; formerly known as Stadium Australia) “The Grand Old Girl” (or sometimes “The G.O.G.”).
- “Ted Mulry” – the head trainer to the New South Wales Blues throughout most of the 1990s and 2000s bears a strong resemblance to Australian singer Ted Mulry (best known for the hit “Jump in My Car” with his band the Ted Mulry Gang). When the doppelganger trainer enters the field and is seen in the background of the TV coverage, Roy and HG often remark at their amazement that Ted Mulry is now involved in rugby league.
- “The kids” – A theme that Roy and HG often return to with their State of Origin commentary is attempting to create interest in Rugby League with school-aged children. Impressive plays (as well as unsavoury acts of violence, etc) are often described by Roy and HG as something that will “get the kiddies interested in Rugby League”. Slaven, in particular, is a proponent of asking parents of “stupid” kids if they have considered Rugby League as a future path for their children (citing players such as Willie Mason as role models).
- “They can’t run without legs” – an example of Roy Slaven’s expert commentary, said when a player is ‘cut down’ to the ground by being tackled around the legs. This saying is also modified to “they can’t run without a head”, when a head-high tackle is attempted.
Relationship with television coverage
By their own account, Roy and HG’s commentary of the match is broadcast live from a card table adjacent to the halfway line of the playing field. In reality, their call is very much centred around the pictures that Channel 9 broadcast on their TV coverage with, for example, the duo being unsure of who won a penalty from the referee until the TV pictures change to a shot of the restart of play happening. Roy and HG use this aspect to add further comedy to their commentary, for example by calling the Channel 9 commentary team “men eating ice cream cones” for their unnecessary use of hand-held microphones during studio broadcasts. Another memorable example of the TV-centric flow of Slaven and Nelson’s commentary was during the 2004 series when Channel 9 introduced the “Skycam” camera-on-wires which ‘hovered’ above the players’ heads. This expensive technology, which had notably poor picture quality, often could not keep up with the flow of play was over-used by Channel 9 during the broadcast, was frequently blasted by Roy and HG for disorientating them with the “telecast from the lunar surface“. Slaven and Nelson also give back-handed criticism to Channel 9’s low-brow “football entertainment” show The Footy Show, sarcastically remarking what a “funny show” it is.
Though many listen to the call without accompaniment, HG Nelson’s introductory comments always invite listeners to “tickle your television to the league channel down your end of the swamp, turn down the sound and turn up Triple J”. Since the early 2000s, the spread of digital television throughout Australia has caused some technical issues for the Triple J State of Origin broadcast. Roy and HG’s commentary had previously arrived at approximately arrived to viewers in synch with the television pictures (although generally, regional viewers suffered a short delay between the radio and television signals). The digital delay that came with the introduction of digital TV created a noticeable gap between the analogue radio broadcast and the slower digital TV signal. HG Nelson had to preclude their broadcast that “unfortunately we live with the digital divide, and there’s nothing we can do about it”. In later years, however, Nelson would add that digital TV viewers should try tuning in to their online stream via the Triple J website, which has its own slight delay behind the airwaves. Therefore, it is recommended that analogue TV viewers listen to the analogue radio broadcast, and digital TV viewers stream the commentary from the Triple J website.