The Voice of Rugby League

Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen, and down the mountain side
The summer's gone, and all the flowers are dying
'Tis you, 'tis you must go and I must bide.

At 90 years of age, Frank Hyde has had a good innings. He captained NSW, won a premiership, and has been a captain-coach and a referee. One of life?s true gentlemen, Frank has been awarded an OAM, a MBE and a Dally M ?Life Achievement? Award. His career has seen him as a writer and journalist. In the 1970s, Frank had a top 10 hit with his rendition of ?Danny Boy?. But most memorably, Frank Hyde is known as a radio caller and ?the voice of rugby league?.

But sadly, Australia's most beloved rugby league commentator is gravely ill.

But come ye back when summer's in the meadow
Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow
'Tis I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow
Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so.

Born in 1916, Frank?s family lived on Sydney?s north shore. He began playing rugby league at St Patrick's Marist Brothers school. In 1925 his team won the premiership.

Frank?s contributions as a player and administrator were enormous. He was graded as a centre in 1936, his first opponent being the great Dave Brown. In 1937, Newtown thrashed Easts by a record 57-5 in the City Cup Final and Frank scored three tries. A year later NSWRL Residential Rules forced Frank to switch to Balmain where he was appointed captain. The 22-year-old made a huge impression and was selected for NSW.

In 1939, Frank led the Balmain side to premiership glory. In the same year he toured New Zealand with the Sydney Reps and would have almost certainly played for Australia if not for World War Two.

During the war, Frank transferred to Newcastle where he captain-coached Waratah Mayfield. He later became captain-coach of North Sydney, leading the club to a grand final appearance.

In 1942, Frank somehow found time to marry his sweetheart, Gaby, the couple eventually raising six children together.

And if you come, when all the flowers are dying
And I am dead, as dead I well may be
You'll come and find the place where I am lying
And kneel and say an "Ave" there for me.

As a broadcaster for radio 2SM, Hyde blazed a trail with calls that have gone down in the annals of sports broadcasting. From 1953-1986, he called a record 33 consecutive grand finals and was never defeated in the ratings. Frank?s memorable ?It?s high enough, it?s long enough and it?s straight between the posts?, could be heard across the red roofed suburbs of Sydney. Frank?s dulcet tones brought rugby league into our homes and into our lives.

?Most of today?s callers were smart enough to realise there will only ever be one Frank Hyde and weren?t silly enough to try to copy him,? says columnist Mike Gibson.

?I don?t think any of them will ever be Frank Hyde, nor would they want to be. I think everyone in the radio game accepts that Frank Hyde alone was the voice of rugby league ? and always will be.?

A devout catholic, Frank has pointed to his faith as been the driving force behind his impressive list of achievements.

?I was a product of the Depression, so everything I have achieved in my life is a direct result of my faith,? he says.

Not often publicised was Frank Hyde?s charity work. After calling a game at the SCG, he would sometimes visit the Matthew Talbot Hostel to help those less fortunate.

?It?s funny because I would go down to help and the residents would abuse me for giving the man of the match award to the wrong bloke,? Frank recalls.

?It was all in good fun. But, seriously, helping the less fortunate made me never take things in my life for granted.?

In recent years, Frank has had to curtail his duties.

?I?m still under doctor?s orders, so I have to play it on the safe side,? he said. ?I?m working my way back to health and plan to be around for some time yet.?

And I shall hear, tho' soft you tread above me
And all my dreams will warm and sweeter be
If you'll not fail to tell me that you love me
I'll simply sleep in peace until you come to me.

Catholic Weekly