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Opinion - Listening to Phil Kearns has become intolerable

By Ben Smith
Phil Kearns. (Photos by Getty Images)

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The ex-Wallabies captain and one-eyed Fox Sports commentator Phil Kearns has come under criticism this week for his ill-thought remarks around Ireland’s halves, accusing them of time wasting while offering a poor mimic imitation.


The incident caused a stir amongst a section of Irish fans, with some suggesting that it was racist. While that is a heavy accusation, ‘idiot’ is a more appropriate label and the incident is nothing new if you’ve been forced to listen to him for years. Listening to the biased, arrogant and lazy thoughts of Phil Kearns during either a Waratahs or Wallabies game has become intolerable and painful, even for Australian rugby fans.

Kearns rounds out a panel of ex-Australian players on a commentary team headlined by legendary broadcaster Greg Clark. Nick McArdle hosts a panel of ‘experts’ in Rod Kafer, Phil Kearns, Greg Martin and Tim Horan in pre and post-match shows. While Horan and Kafer look to add a fair amount of depth to their comments, the impact of Kearns & Martin is overwhelming and often leaves Horan or Kafer with the job of counter-arguing instead of providing more insightful takes on the game.

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Kearns outrage at every single call that goes against Australia is pathetic cheerleading, and only the balance of Horan provides some sort of fair commentary. Greg ‘Marto’ Martin is cut from a similar cloth. While providing enthusiasm to the call he cannot provide any level of insight into the game whatsoever aside from pointing out the obvious ‘big collision there’ or ‘he missed a golden opportunity’.

The problem is these two do more damage to rugby in Australia than good by severely impacting the quality of the broadcast. With the vast majority of the Australian public having limited access and knowledge of rugby, those that do stumble across a game will leave with no further appreciation for what is a complex sport with compelling strategies by listening to these two.

Both Greg Martin and Phil Kearns played the game in an amateur era as it entered professionalism and piggybacked it into media careers. While Kearns had the more successful playing career of the two, the insight he brings to the table is astoundingly low for someone who played 67 tests.


The reality is the game has evolved twenty-fold since these two played. If Fox wants to continue with having ex-players on the call, they should look to recruit from the recently retired crop of those who have played up until the 2010’s, who will have a greater idea of what the modern game involves. Horan and Kafer continue to add value, it seems they are prepared to actually do some research and prepare for games.

Phil Kearns and Greg Martin struggle as professional commentators and are better described as professional complainers – either about the referee or the opposition. It’s time for the game to move on and leave these relics from the amateur days behind.

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