It’s one of Matt Clinch’s last days in Melbourne, as I sit down with him at the ABC Radio café in Southbank. After spending more than five years at the ABC’s Melbourne office, Clinch has finally been rewarded for the hard yards that he has put in: he has been given a full-time position as a sports commentator for the ABC in Adelaide.
‘Roger Wills recently retired out of South Australia; he was 63 years of age and has been with the ABC for about 25 years. Through him retiring I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to head over to South Australia,’ Matt Clinch says.
‘I’m 28 years of age, so it comes at the right time. I’ve been commentating for about five years now.
‘This is just a tremendous opportunity to work alongside Peter Walsh, who’s a great broadcaster in his own right, so to learn from him, and also to get the opportunity to do other sports which we don’t cover as strongly in Melbourne.’
Yet it has taken a long time for Clinch to get his dream job. Like many sports commentators, Clinch had his sights set on a career on the field, and when that didn’t eventuate, he looked for ways to remain involved in sport off the field.
‘I looked at sports medicine and physio, and looked at a few other areas and media was one area which always appealed to me, the idea of doing match reports or going along and commentating games,’ Clinch says.
‘So once I’d decided at 16 or 17 that that was the sort of avenue I wanted to take, I looked at avenues as far as what’s involved in sports journalism to get an understanding of how the industry works.’
The next step for Clinch was to gain the appropriate qualifications and also to prove to his parents that his interest in sports journalism wasn’t ‘a little bit of a fad’.
As a result, Clinch did a 12-month broadcast journalism TAFE course, before moving on to study journalism at La Trobe University. The move to La Trobe helped Clinch get a foot in the door at the ABC, through a meeting arranged by one of his lecturers.
‘We had Susie Robinson, our EP (executive producer) for radio at ABC, come out and introduce herself and had a chat about how ABC radio worked. And from that point of view, I sort of always knew I had to find somewhere where they would give you an opportunity as a young person trying to get into the industry, and so the ABC turned out to be a great starting point for me,’ Clinch says.
The chat with Robinson, and a meeting with ABC sports commentator Gerard Whateley, culminated in Clinch doing an informal internship with the ABC after completing his studies. While he may have been working for free, the experience was invaluable for Clinch and it led to bigger and better things.
‘I was sort of fortunate that I’d done my internship, they were looking for someone to help out extra on weekends, Saturday night, and I picked up producing Gerard’s show on a Sunday, so from there went from doing free work under an internship to getting a little bit of paid work and was sort of able to develop from there,’ Clinch says.
Clinch’s rapid career development is due to the assistance that people like Gerard Whateley, Drew Morphett and Susie Robinson have had in mentoring him. However, in a highly competitive field, Clinch’s determination and self-belief have also helped him to rise up the ranks at the ABC.
So, from someone whose road to the commentary box is very recent, what advice does Matt Clinch have for aspiring sports commentators?
‘You need to get early experience in the industry and then find someone who will steer you in the right direction, so contacts are great.’
‘Keep in touch with your lecturers so they can keep you in the loop if there’s any opportunities coming up. You’ll have plenty of coffees along the way and find some good people to chat to.’
Edward Sadler is a first-year student at La Trobe University. This is his first article on upstart. You can follow him on Twitter: @edward_sadler.