TRINITY TODAY 31 CORDNER ORATION Sports journalist Tim Lane was this year’s speaker at the breakfast. In this excerpt, he shares how he went from being a ‘disastrously unsuccessful’ science student at the University of Tasmania to one of Australia’s best- known sports commentators. The centralised nature of tertiary education in Tassie 50-odd years ago meant I was forced to leave home aged 17 to continue studying the chemistry, physics and maths I’d handled with reasonable competence at school. Alas, uni was a different ball game and, although I survived into a third year, I eventually came a dismal cropper. With no money or motivation to continue, I headed home to Devonport and worked in the warehouse of an Edgell vegetable cannery through the following year. It was on the Monday of the March long weekend of that year, 1972, while boozing and playing pool in a pub with a mate, that I found a career. I happened into a rambling conversation with a man I knew to be the local radio footy commentator, and, in a clunky way, things began falling into place. One day late the previous year, as my academic world had been caving in, a senior resident of our college had noticed me loudly talking sport between hands in a card game. He asked me if I’d ever thought of a career in sports journalism. And while the answer was: ‘No, I haven’t’, because I didn’t realise people like me could get jobs like that, the question posed by this wise elder of our institution opened a window for me. Fast-forward five or six months and a fateful moment was at hand. Notwithstanding that much beer was being consumed and I was a million miles from imagining this could be a moment of destiny, I asked lots of questions. To the point that my new friend asked me if I’d like to give footy- calling a shot. ‘Too right’, I declared, or words to that effect, and it was thereby agreed he would have as his co-commentator for the opening game of the new season this uni drop-out he’d met just once before and knew little about. Which helps explain what happened next: I didn’t ring him to follow up on the deal, as the whole scenario seemed so implausible. It wasn’t until the end of April – the season now well underway – that our paths crossed again … again in a pub! This time, he approached me to enquire what had happened. I explained that I hadn’t been sure, the morning after our earlier chat, whether he would still have thought it was such a good idea and I hadn’t wanted to embarrass him. He told me he wouldn’t have suggested it had he not meant it, and said if I wanted to pursue the offer I would need to be in the commentary box at the Devonport Oval the following Saturday afternoon. Which I was. And I’ve called a football match most winter Saturdays in the 47 years since. As the years have passed I’ve reflected often on this sequence of events. My role in it isn’t much of a model for anyone aspiring to anything. Perhaps the fact that I identified an opportunity and, albeit uncertainly, pursued it – at a time and in a place when few young people were trying to become sports broadcasters – gets me a tick. But the person whose contribution to my career, indeed my life, shines through is the senior college resident who was sufficiently perceptive, thoughtful and caring to open the window for me that day as I was playing cards. I’m forever in his debt and have taken pleasure in conveying that to him on the three or four occasions we’ve met over the subsequent years. His simple question to me that day in 1971 serves as a reminder that one caring moment can sometimes have a profound effect on a life. Calling the shots The annual Cordner Oration AFL Preliminary Finals Breakfast honours renowned footballing family the Cordners, whose association with Trinity College and the University of Melbourne has been unbroken since 1903.