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Darrell Eastlake

Discussion in 'Rugby League Forum' started by Kiwi Eagle, Jun 27, 2013.

  1. Kiwi Eagle

    Kiwi Eagle Moderator Staff Member 2017 Tipping Competitor

    +3,866 /65
    IT'S a long way from the old Lang Park where the voice of State of Origin was born exactly 30 years ago.

    I'm watching Origin II out of the Chamberlain Gardens nursing home at Wyoming on the NSW Central Coast.

    You walk into Room 129 and it's hard to recognise the unshaven old legend with the long grey hair, looking nothing like the immaculately attired television star he once was.

    Darrell Eastlake has still got the booming voice but is struggling with his mind and memory. He's a month short of his 70th birthday - only six weeks younger than Channel 9's current caller Ray Warren.

    Eastlake has been struck down by dementia, diabetes and emphysema.

    He gets by on a walking stick but is under permanent care at this nursing hospital, his home for the past two years.We settle back to watch to game in a room not much bigger than the old commentary boxes he called from.

    Darrell on his bed, your columnist in the chair next to him. He's had toasted sandwiches for dinner and we're sharing a six-pack of Crown Lagers he insisted I bring.

    He's not happy about the late start to the television coverage because of the leadership challenge in Canberra.

    "C'mon Nine, get to the f---en football, it's half past seven," he yells, "Let the ABC cover the politics."

    He heads to the balcony for a cigarette.

    Finally the action starts. Sam Thaiday scores for the Maroons after two minutes.

    "Too easy, too soft," Darrell says.

    Darius Boyd races over off a Johnathan Thurston pass in the 17th minute.

    "Oh f---, this could be a cricket score. They've come to play tonight."

    Finally, NSW get their first penalty after 23 minutes of virtually all defence.

    Darrell calls out: "About bloody time."

    We break for half-time. Darrell asks for another beer from his mini-fridge.

    I ask him for his thoughts on the Channel 9 coverage.

    "It's excellent, they do a great job," he says. "But I can't stand Fatty, he's a smart arse."

    The Maroons score again early in the second half through Boyd. It's game over.

    Then the four players get sent to the sin-bin. Darrell hasn't got a problem with it. "They were told about the edict before the game."

    A generation of rugby league fans remember this guy as the defining voice of Origin, as big as the game itself. The voice that boomed into millions of lounge rooms around the country.

    Big Darrell was as well-known as Arthur Beetson, Mick Cronin, Jack Gibson, Barry Gomersall and Wally Lewis. He had only one volume level and it was loud.

    Nine legend Kenny Sutcliffe recalls working alongside Eastlake, Jack and Mike Gibson and co-commentator Ian Maurice in the early days.

    "Darrell used to get to a fever pitch from very early on in the game," Sutcliffe said.

    "He'd get so excited that David Hill, our executive producer, stood behind Darrell in the broadcast box at Lang Park with a rolled up Courier Mail.

    "He'd belt him over the head if he started getting too carried away but Darrell just kept on calling in his own unique style."

    These days Eastlake is a lonely figure. "I'm his only regular visitor," says his wife Julie, "plus another good friend, Roy, from Darrell's racing car days."

    Faith, his favourite nurse, treats him to takeaway pizza most weeks.

    "Look, I smoke, I've got a lot of channels on the Tele and I go around on my walking stick and do all the corridors," Eastlake says.

    "That's how I keep fit - my weight's very good.

    "The meals are restaurant quality and the staff can't do enough for me."

    It's a world away from his old broadcasting days in rugby league, surfing and the Olympic weightlifting.

    And the nights when Jack Gibson would say of Andrew Ettingshausen: "He's so quick he can switch off the light and be in bed before it gets dark." Darrell would just bellow: "Heh, heh, heh, good one, Jack."

    As a commentator, Eastlake had his own inimitable style. "He'd be the first to admit he never had the broad knowledge of the game that Rabs has got," Sutcliffe said.

    "But he had his own unique style. You heard his voice and you knew you were watching State of Origin."

    Eastlake' short-term memory these days is a problem but he still loves his footy.

    I ask him if he can recall the first Origin game, testing his memory from a fortnight ago. "Yeah, Rex Mossop called it - it was a one-off game," he says, thinking I meant the very first series in 1980.

    That's the thing about this illness. His long-term memory is unaffected but short term can be a blank.

    I ask him about the Gallen/Myles punch-up. He recalls it because it's been replayed on television so many times.

    "That was just a couple of pussy punches," he says.

    "You wanna see a real fight, that was (Kevin) Tamati and (Greg) Dowling in the Test at Lang Park (1985)."

    As Darrell would call it, that was huuuuuge.

    * * *

    HIGHLIGHT - Watching Origin alongside a true legend. You sat there wishing he was back behind the microphone.

    LOWLIGHT - Nine’s delayed start to the coverage because of the Labor party leadership vote. The network was absolutely hammered on Twitter by frustrated fans.

    SCENIC ROUTE - You’ve got to admire the passion of one NSW fan who travelled from Port Headland via Perth, Sydney and then onto Brisbane to cheer for the Blues.

    SALLY’S SWELL - In case you had any doubts, everyone’s favourite surfer Sally Fitzgibbons outed herself as a massive Blues tragic last night. “Bring it on Queenslandersss!!! A series WhiteWash coming ur way..C’monnn Mighty @NSWRL Blues #UpTheBlues #stateoforigin,’’tweeted Sally, who boasts 60,000 followers. Thankfully, former swimmer Jess Schipper, who goosed herself with a Twitter rant during Origin I, kept her thoughts to herself last night.

    MAN OF THE MATCH - While I was up at Wyoming with big Darrell, the boys at the office were feasting on burritos – and their verdict on Origin II’s standout player was Johnathan Thurston.





    Sad to hear about his current health issues

    Was too young to hear most of his commentary but grew up listening to the "Pearce off Jack, Gibbs on" bit of the 12th Man lol
    • Like Like x 2
    • TWO DOGS

      TWO DOGS Well-Known Member Premium Member 2017 Tipping Competitor

      +536 /2
      Very sad indeed Kiwi. Dementia is such a devastating disease.

      I can vividly recall big Darrell calling the games with Jack Gibson as the expert commentator. Darrell loved the biff.
    • Normie

      Normie Well-Known Member

      +486 /4
      Origin commentary was never the same without Big Darrell Eastlake! He even made weightlifting sound exciting......
      • Like Like x 1
      • Frank

        Frank Well-Known Member 2017 Tipping Competitor

        +1,453 /27
        I remember him well. Can't say I was a big fan but imo everything went downhill after the moose retired. :)
        • Like Like x 1
        • Chip and Chase

          Chip and Chase True Supporter Staff Member Administrator Premium Member 2017 Tipping Competitor

          +8,579 /80
          Don't tell me to piss off **** knuckle
          • Like Like x 3
          • master blaster

            master blaster Well-Known Member

            +857 /5
            Pearce off Jack,lol
          • StuBoot

            StuBoot Well-Known Member 2017 Tipping Competitor

            +1,065 /9
            Gibbs on!
          • Kiwi Eagle

            Kiwi Eagle Moderator Staff Member 2017 Tipping Competitor

            +3,866 /65
            Big punch from the super coach
          • globaleagle

            globaleagle Je saisis mon chapeau. Staff Member Premium Member 2017 Tipping Competitor

            +13,313 /117
            I agree re: Dementia, terrible disease.

            I enjoyed his origin calls as well and liked his weightlifting calls at the olympics but also 'grew up' with him doing the motorcycle racing.

            A pity not more of his old tv 'mates' visit him.

            Oh and get a haircut eastlake ya hippy!
          • Rex

            Rex Well-Known Member

            +2,376 /60
            Dementia, diabetes and emphysema - what a trifecta. Plus a walking stick. But he seems to be getting on with it, and has a loyal wife and a couple of others for support. Can't imagine a disease more scary than emphysema, but apparently not scary enough to stop him smoking.

            Great article about the type of curves balls life eventually throws us if we live long enough.

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