Radio’s “Duel In the Sun” is going into the final round with the title still up for grabs

Frank Avis by | October 21, 2023 | 2020s

Radio's "Duel In the Sun" – the battle between AM's heavyweight 2GB and FM challenger KIIS FM – is going into the final round with the title still up for grabs. Survey 6, '23 has another dramatic script change for us with Kyle and Jackie O re-taking the breakfast crown from GB's Ben Fordham. But it is oh so close – 14.7 to 14.2%. And GB hangs on to the overall leadership but – again – it is finely balanced 11.1 to 10.9%. It's a nervous end to the year as the two continue locked in battle with SMOOTH FM just sitting back in third spot, watching the carnage going on above them.

I have this faint, distant memory, probably going back to the '40s – I must have been 8 or 9 – recalling the first kids' show captured in my memory bank... The Search for the Golden Boomerang. I was probably listening on the old 2UW. It was centered on the adventures on a young Aboriginal boy, Tuckonie, his white pal, Peggy, and an older buddy, Lucky Dan. I can't recall the plot but Tuckonie and the Golden Boomerang clearly made an early impression on this young bloke. I've subsequently learned that it was produced by George Edwards, the company that gave us the classic Dad and Dave. The Search for the Golden Boomerang ran from l941, through the war, until 1948.

I don't know where this came from but I suddenly remembered the name Dick Fair, one of the greats of radio during the Golden Age of the 40s and 50s. If I remember correctly, Dick was a commanding figure... Tall, good-looking with a fine voice. He did breakfast on 2SM in the mid-30s, then switched to do the early shift on 2GB, sang on the old Jack Davey Show and did a couple of movie appearances, including On Our Selection. It was then on to 2UE for Lux Radio Theatre and 2GB's Australia's Amateur Hour before 2UW and 2CH for productions like Australia's Hour of Song. You have no idea how big Australia's Amateur Hour was back in the day... For a while, Dick was nearly as big as Jack Davey. Australia's Amateur Hour is one of the iconic shows of the era, indelibly written into the history of the Golden Age. It is included among the most evocative memories of the times, with 925 episodes running from 1940 to 1958. Harry Dearth launched AAH and was followed by Dick Fair and eventually Terry Dear. Remember as you look at this old pic of AAH team, you're not only watching a classic moment in Australian radio but are revisiting a massive time in Australian history. This is the age when we're transitioning out of the idyllic "Bulletin image" of our nation – with the farmer, his wife and children standing proudly on the verandah of the homestead, with drovers mounting their horses in the nearby paddocks and the Cobb and Co coach careering down the bush track throwing up dust and gibbers. Australians are about to enter a totally different era – of huge cities, sprawling suburbs, train networks and the ubiquitous mobile phone. We were watching this change virtually happen in front of us.


So the great, $450m vote for THE VOICE is over with the NO's refusing to alter our constitution via a thumping rejection 60 to 40%. Actually, the last comment I remember on Saturday night was a political analyst telling a commentator, "It won't be 40% by the time the postal votes are counted. You'll be looking at a YES vote with a 3 in front of it." It was overwhelming with a majority national vote and a majority of states agreeing to retain a constitution which promises that all citizens will be treated equally: nobody is going to get special access to Federal Parliament. That battle I suspect is over forever. Now we wade through the results as the experts try to answer the obvious question... Why did Australia vote that way? I love this stuff. I can't get out there and do this on-the-ground research but I can read the work of the experts who are out there at the coalface searching for the answers – the pollsters, analysts, market specialists – who are sharing their results in the public arena. People will spill their heart out face to face out in the field, with stuff they would never never say in public. And the researchers discovered massive anger, right across the nation, festering just below the surface. The average voter was "sick and tired of smoking ceremonies and watching the footy only to be forced to watch the Welcome to Country, sick and tired of being constantly made to feel guilty". Millions of these people, remember, come from Central Europe, The Middle East, Africa even South America. They couldn't care less about all this Colonial angst... They just want to live in Australia, a free country where you can make a quid for a fair day's work. What do they have to feel guilty about? Even the day after the vote count we had aboriginal flags flying at half mast. Many of the YES organizers retreated for a week, shattered by the outcome. More guilt... More anguish... More division. I was actually lucky for the last six months in having two family members on a caravan tour of the country, talking to all of the aboriginal communities in outback Queensland, The Northern Territory, South Australia and out the back of the Never Never in NSW. Their last major stop where they had chance to talk to the Indigenous Community was in Wilcannia. And both were astonished. Generally few Aborigines thought THE VOICE would make any difference to their lives. They thought any resources that the government could come up with would be eaten up by the bureaucracies and indigenous middle-men on the way. They had little confidence in the system. Our family members returned to tell us they thought the YES campaign would be lucky if they got a break-even, 50/50 return in most of the aboriginal areas. In the end the only YES victories were in the ACT and the Green and Teal enclaves in the inner-cities, where we have these political covens lost somewhere on the Yellow Brick Road, searching for the ever-elusive Wizard of Oz. Paul Kelly, in a pre-poll commentary, described the backbone for the YES vote as, "the inner-city progressive class and arrogant institutional elites."

You'll understand that I was suitably stunned recently, while thumbing through the financial press, and finding that the national funerals company, InvoCare, had just emerged with a slim, $5.1m profit. The main reason, apparently, was a 9% improvement in the number of pet cremations. You'll forgive me if I slip into the darkened room next door and sit down for a while with a wet cloth over my forehead. Back soon.

We've recently emerged from a weekend of footy with Collingwood winning the AFL Grand Final thanks to its defence clogging-up the run-and–carry of the Lions around the contest. Really the Woods should have triumphed by three or four goals. The NRL GF was a totally different beast. I'm not a league man but this game was transported beyond sport by the astonishing display of one player. It was an amazing performance especially for somebody like me, so interested in the psychology of individuals and teams. The Penrith Panthers – going for a three-peat – threw everything they had at the Broncos in the first ten minutes of the second half, but couldn't crack them. Suddenly momentum shifted and the brilliant Broncos full back, Reece Walsh, instinctively knew it was time for the kill. Hemingway would have loved this finale. And Walsh knew as well that to kill the beast completely he had to cut off the head... The great playmaker, Nathan Cleary. So he launched a dramatic run from defence, right past Cleary who was clutching at air as Brisbane scored. Suddenly, the invaders from the North had scored again and momentum was well and truly in the hands of the Queenslanders. Once again Walsh got hold of the ball and sent a runner straight into the path of Cleary who tried valiantly to tackle but was left sitting on the grass watching the Broncos set up a 16-point lead with 20 minutes to go. It was all over. And Walsh had executed the perfect play... By cutting off the head of the beast. It was like watching Joe Louis deal with a challenger in the tenth... Kapow, one big right hand to the jaw and that's all she wrote. I looked at Nathan Cleary. Of course he HAD to be defeated... His head had to be down and out. There was no way back for the Panthers: the end of all those dreams of three in a row. Where's Nathan? He's standing up... Erect... Eyeballing his troops... Breathing fire. Why would you bother mate... You're done. Nobody comes back from here... 24-8 in a Grand Final in front of 80,000? Well, this bloke is now possessed. He's actually got the entire team on his shoulders and he clearly intends carrying the lot of them over the try line if that's what it takes. Nobody is turning to Cleary telling him it's all too hard... Nobody's got the courage to surrender. It's easier to collapse and get carried away by the medics than face Cleary's icy stare. So, EVERYBODY is on board here as Cleary grabs the pill 40m out, splits the defence and sends a forward crashing through under the posts. 24-14. Still gone... Bit of drama but she's bolted... Surely. Cleary then grabs the ball deep in defence and sends an unbelievable 40-20 down into opposition territory. There is now massive heat on the Bronco's defence as the Panthers cross again leaving it 24-20 with minutes to go. Cleary is now truly possessed... The only recall for the Broncos is to bring in an Exorcist. Of course, Cleary crosses the line himself, kicks the conversion and sends the faithful into raptures, at 26-24. they're calling it the greatest ever Grand Final. It's certainly the greatest comeback in the history of the NRL. Sometimes you just have to shake your head and admit there's stuff going on out there that mere humans simply can't understand.

Funny, isn't it, how many of the great one-liners in memory come from cricket? Mind you I guess we can forgive a batsman for developing a rather droll sense of humour while waiting for Harold Larwood to run in bowling at a touch over 90 mph. One of my all time favourites came from national Captain and Prince of modern stroke players, Greg Chappell. The champ had endured an extremely barren patch and was asked by one of the press gallery how he felt about his poor form. "I can't really say I'm batting badly," Greg responded, "I'm not batting long enough to be batting badly." (1982)

"The strange, as it were , 'invisible' beauty of Australia... Which seems to lurk just beyond the range of our white vision... It is so aboriginal, out of our ken, and it hangs back so aloof..."
"You feel free in Australia... There is a great relief, in the atmosphere, a relief from tension, a relief from pressure... The sky is open above you, and the air is open around you."
– Kangaroo by David (DH) Lawrence (1885-1930)

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This is the history of radio newsman Frank Avis who worked in the Australian electronic media from 1954 to 1996.


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