Here’s a turn up: Bloke spends nearly 48 years as a sport reporter and has no enemies

In the dog-eat-dog world of television, there is one recently retired broadcaster who most assuredly didn’t fit the stereotype, writes Michael Blucher

Feb 10, 2023, updated Feb 10, 2023

“There’s no loyalty in sport today – not like the good old days of pick and stick”.

We hear it often, the old guard in particular wrestling uncomfortably with the notion of players changing clubs almost as often as underpants, now even in mid season. Green jersey one week, blue the next. “Bloody pathetic – didn’t happen back in my day….”

The quick trip down memory lane wasn’t to label the modern day dynamics of sport better or worse – we all understand the reasons. Drafts, salary caps, cultural misalignment, the pursuit of career longevity – the forces of change are omnipresent.

The purpose of the reflection was to contrast the extraordinary career of the bloke who’s been watching it all evolve for the better part of five decades – the original “one club” loyalist himself, Pat Welsh.

It’s difficult to comprehend it’s been 47 years, nine months since Welsh first lobbed at the Channel 7 studios on Mt Coot-tha, a shaggy haired, gap-toothed teenager wearing flared powder blue pants and a short-sleeved gloweave body shirt. Bundaberg’s best and brightest, not much of an athlete himself, but eager to report on the fortunes of the great and gifted.

His hero growing up was Norman May. Norman went everywhere, got to see everything.
I want to be like Norman.

Pretty soon it was apparent Pat was key talent – adept in front of the camera, a broad sporting knowledge, but even more importantly, good with people.

He connected easily and widely, effortlessly earning the trust of many of Australia’s highest profile sports stars, some of them notoriously prickly, or at the very least, guarded.

This conviviality became a consistent thread throughout his decorated career. As one long time station colleague Chris Reason observed – “while most journos were chasing talent, the talent was chasing Pat”.

In 1995, Welsh famously got the exclusive story of Allan Border’s retirement, the Australian cricket captain revealing his plans while the two of them were lunching — after they’d played golf. That “scoop” hardly pleased Kerry Packer, given that Channel 9 had held the TV rights to the cricket for the past 15 years. F-ing hell! Do none of my 20 cricket experts know what’s going on? It was a fair question.

For decades, when Greg Norman jetted into town in his Gulfstream, one of his first calls was routinely to Pat Welsh to organise a steak at the Brekkie Creek. At tournaments in Melbourne, “whispering Pat” was always part of the Shark’s entourage for dinner at the Flower Drum in Chinatown – a Sunday night tradition.

Decades on, Cameron Smith followed Norman’s lead. Last year, with everybody wanting a piece of him after his win in the Open Champion, Smith elected to open up first to the Channel 7 veteran. Pat had been working at Seven for 16 years before Smith was born. The monstrous age gap between the two was inconsequential. Cam trusted Pat.

Even at a personal level, a number of years ago I was helping an errant footballer out of a tight spot. He’d stuffed up but there were blatant mistruths being bandied around the airwaves. We needed somebody to set the record straight. Pat Welsh was given a Sunday night “exclusive”, because he could be trusted to present the story equitably. No fluff, no favours, just the facts.

Amongst all the widespread adulation that Pat Welsh receives publicly, it’s the esteem in which he’s held among his fellow Channel 7 staffers, and the broader media industry that paints the clearest picture.

In the dog-eat-dog world of television, Welsh has not one detractor.

“For decades, we’ve been standing at the feet of a giant,” his long time 7 Sport colleague Ben Davis surmises.

Davis’ introduction to the station came as a wide-eyed “Ippy” Grammar Grade 12 student. He tells of his first day of work experience, driving around to “Mr Welsh’s” apartment with AJ the cameraman, to haul the news hound out of his dark, musty kennel. Pat wasn’t answering his phone – a lot to do with the 12 hour bonding session he’d undertaken with Queensland State of Origin team the previous day. A retrieval mission was required.

“Who the hell are you?’ a bleary-eyed Welsh asked when he eventually emerged from the shower, wrapped in a towel and saw a kid in his kitchen, cooking bacon and eggs.

Big first morning of work experience. Is this really what goes on in a newsroom?

Presenting irrefutable proof of the circle of life, some 25 years on, it was the same bacon and egg cooking kid who taught Pat Welsh how to send text messages on his phone. “From memory it was 2017, but it might have been as early as 2016, “ Davis laughed. “Paddy arrived a little late to the texting party”.

For all his sports knowledge and relationship building skills, technology was the one thing Welsh never quite mastered over the course of his career. For Pat, “IT” simply meant “In Trouble”.

“What’s going on here? How do I do that? What’s this mean? Where’s it gone? It’s disappeared!” The cries for help across the newsroom were as prevalent as they were predictable.

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Early Channel 7 staffers recall him for several years writing his scripts out by hand, and handing them to the News Director’s young “EA” to type up. Sandra Sully always obliged. There’s another television career that turned out OK.

“Laugh all you like, but I kept a lot of people employed,” Welsh says playfully. “What’s the IT department going to do now that I’ve retired? Nothing – they’ll probably be made redundant!”

That self effacing humour remained bubbling at the surface from day one to dot.

In an industry liberally sprinkled with precious prima donnas, insistent on presenting from a particular side of the news desk, or having their name prominently displayed on their executive carpark, Welsh couldn’t give a rats.

He was uncommonly low maintenance, his annual salary review one of the easiest conversations long serving station boss Les Riley had every year. “Ah I dunno mate. What ever you think’s a fair thing. Just give me what the rest of the mob are getting.”

Pat enjoyed the people a lot more than the pennies. As long as he had enough money in his TAB account, life was tracking well.

Everybody who known Pat Welsh for any length of time has a favourite story, an anecdote that sums him up to a tee.

Mine dates back to his surprise 40th birthday party at the Jubilee Hotel – it had been “scripted” for all the girls to be wearing a sash to showcase the fact that Pat (a perennial bachelor at that time) once dated a “Miss Queensland”. They were all there – Miss Bundaberg, Miss Gympie, Miss Murgon, Miss Understood, Miss Givings. Even his Mum, Marie was wearing a sash.

Who crowned her “Miss Nude World, Runner up”, I’ve no idea. What I do know is that Marie didn’t speak to her son again until he was about 47.

Pat reckons she must have been filthy about the “runner-up” bit.

Yes, he’s one kind, Patrick Leonard Welsh. Almost 48 years in the media, and not one enemy.

In his parallel world of punting, “that’s one for the true believers”.


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