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Behind the microphone: the career of an ABC sports journalist

Alumni News

Aaron Bryans is a Curtin graduate living his dream of being paid to report on all things sport.

Aaron Bryans with headphones and microphone interviewing AFL Giants player Dylan Shiel in the club rooms.
Interviewing AFL players like Dylan Shiel from the GWS Giants is just a regular day at the office for sports journalist Aaron Bryans.

“I had always wanted to be a writer while also having a passion for sport. After visiting Open Day at Curtin, I was tossing up between sports science and journalism. I opted for the latter and never looked back.

“I graduated in 2015 with extensive print, radio and TV journalism knowledge and ended up getting a job with the ABC shortly afterwards,” says the young reporter.

In his role with the public broadcaster, Bryans interviews athletes, cuts and archives audio, researches facts on players and teams, and studies numbers ahead of weekend commentary calls for games (Bryans hints that if you want to be a sports commentator, you have to be prepared to give up your Saturdays and Sundays).

“Alongside commentating, weekend days can end up being 12-plus hours long depending on other factors, such as hosting or producing the ABC’s talkback radio show, SportsTalk, or hosting or producing national AFL games.

“During the summer we also have our National Grandstand radio show on the weekends alongside our cricket and basketball coverage.”

The ABC is home to some of Australia’s best sports journalists and commentators, and tuning in to National Grandstand or SportsTalk throughout the year is a revered pastime for many a discerning sports fan.

“From a commentary aspect, the ABC prides itself on its in-depth knowledge of players, teams and history of the sport,” Bryans says.

“Our commentary is descriptive and informative, focusing on the game, not the commentary team itself. We want listeners to know the score and where the ball is at all times while allowing the experts to delve deeper into the analytical aspect of the game.”

Aaron Bryans with fellow ABC sports journalists Clint Wheeldon, Brett Sprigg and SportsDay WA host, Paul Hasleby.

Aaron Bryans (second from left) at the 2016 Football Media Guild Awards with fellow ABC sports journalists (L-R) Clint Wheeldon and Brett Sprigg, and SportsDay WA host Paul Hasleby.

Bryans discovered his passion for sports journalism after racking up hours of work experience in the media industry, which helped him to figure out the areas of journalism he excelled at and enjoyed most.

He says his work experience, which was often organised through Curtin, gave him an advantage when it came to applying for graduate roles.

“When there are so many graduates competing for a position, the easiest way to stand above the rest is to have already done some work within the industry.

“Through networking and relationships with my tutors, I was able to tee up paid and unpaid work with The West Australian, The Sunday Times, Xpress Magazine, ScienceNetwork WA [now Particle], RTRFM and the Fremantle Dockers during my degree.

“The biggest factor in achieving these opportunities was work ethic, taught through real-time newsroom environments during my degree, which stressed speed and efficiency while also striving for accuracy.”

He says working with the Fremantle Dockers was a particular highlight of the journalism course.

“The Sports Media Production/Docker TV unit at Curtin is an incredible opportunity developed through Curtin’s partnership with the Fremantle Dockers. It runs as an advanced work experience unit that enables students to work for the Dockers, have their work edited and published for their portfolio and expose them to the lifestyle of a media worker in the Australian Rules Football landscape.

“It also gave me a chance to work with a team of students, each with unique talents such as writing, filming, editing, lighting and audio.”

Bryans on the production desk at ABC Radio in Perth interviewing two sports professionals.

Bryans works the production desk at ABC Radio in Perth.

While he’s only just cut his teeth in the industry, Bryans has already kicked a few career goals, including assisting with the coverage of the 2016 and 2017 AFL Grand Final, won by the Western Bulldogs and Richmond Tigers respectively.

Although he’s a Richmond fan, Bryans says he was more impressed by the Bulldogs’ 2016 grand final win than the victory of the boys in yellow and black last year.

“As a Richmond supporter, the 2017 grand final was a huge day for me, but as any neutral supporter would tell you, the game itself wasn’t overly entertaining. The Bulldogs 2016 premiership, however, was an incredibly exciting and unpredictable tale – hearing from fans who’d waited decades to see their team reach this point, and being in the crowd when the siren finally sounded for a team who finished 7th on the AFL ladder but won the premiership.”

As well as covering national AFL games, he has also produced Ashes cricket coverage for National Grandstand and worked courtside at National Basketball League games.

Bryans will be back in Melbourne this year for the 2018 AFL Grand Final, where he will cover the game on social media and assist with player interviews and photography. He’ll no doubt also be soaking up the atmosphere and perhaps brushing shoulders with some of the game’s superstars.

He doesn’t take any of it for granted and says there’s still much for him to learn, including the art of calling an AFL grand final game. As long as he’s challenged, he says he’ll never forfeit his passion for sports journalism.

“The best part about the job for me personally is how it’s constantly challenging. I always found with previous jobs I’d get bored once I’d mastered a specific aspect of it.

“In journalism, your job is constantly evolving. I started out as a producer and over the years have moved into hosting and commentating. There are always new things to learn and new stories to delve into.”

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