I was absolutely gobsmacked the first time I saw Ron Casey and Frank Hyde lock horns on the set of the old Channel 9 World Of Sport. I’m talking early 70’s, and I was waiting in Studio 2 to do my racing bit, as soon as the Rugby League segment finished.
I saw Casey deliberately “bait” Hyde on a contentious football issue, to which they had opposing views. They ranted and raved, and screamed at one another for maybe three minutes, and to all intents and purposes, there was little love lost between them. Suddenly Ron threw to a commercial break, and the instant they were off camera, they laughed until the tears ran down their cheeks.
Case loved to stage a fight, and Frank was happy to go along with it, and this happened most Sundays. I think Case realised pretty early in his career, he needed to be “different” if he were to go ahead in the business.
He had to contend with his famous speech defect, which made it difficult for him to pronounce the letter “R”, and he really didn’t specialise in any field of sports commentary.
He concentrated on sports he liked, honed his speech impediment to suit himself, and constantly searched for the opportunity to ruffle somebody’s feathers. His views on immigration may not have been as bitter as they appeared, but gave him the perfect vehicle for controversy. You see Case wanted you to notice him, and would play whatever cards were needed at the time.
My relationship with him was completely uncomplicated. He knew nothing about racing, and left that part of the show entirely to me. He might make the odd comment about presentation from time to time, but nothing more than that.
I’ve got to declare right here, that the Ron Casey you saw in aggressive mode on television was very different to the one who walked out of the studio. He was polite, generous, softly spoken and interested in others.
He treated women with respect, and his beaming smile could melt the coldest heart. He helped me out at a few charity functions, and on one occasion in the 1970’s I was very proud to take him to the two day Lismore Cup carnival, where I was guest commentator. He was an absolute smash hit! He was born and reared in Coraki, just up the road from Lismore, and I think he felt he had come home for a few days.
Everybody has a Ron Casey story to tell, and most of them have a humorous twist. Here is mine.
I pulled into the Channel 9 car park one afternoon around 4.30pm, to take care of a commitment in the Newsroom. “Case” got out of a taxi only metres from my parking spot, and I could tell he was the worse for wear.
A very long lunch had left him “listing to starboard”, and the news chiefs were horrified at the prospect of his attempting to do the sports report in just 90 minutes.
They stuck his head under a cold tap, and poured a gallon of black coffee down his neck, and by News time he was half human. He read the first couple of items with reasonable clarity, and then came the big sports story of the night.
American tennis star Billie Jean King was in Melbourne for the Toyota Women’s Classic at Kooyong, and had won her opening match.
CASEY. “And now to the Toyota Women’s Classic in Melbourne where fans were treated to a brilliant display by the legendary Jelly Bean King”.
Had it not been for two members of the studio crew laying on the floor splitting their sides, I don’t think Case would have known what he said.
He laughed about it later, and to this day you’ll hear it mentioned from time to time.
I’m not going to mention the infamous scuffle he had with Normie Rowe on the Midday Show, because it’s been done to death. Even Normie says Ron deserves to be remembered for much more than that.
I haven’t seen Case in several years, and the talk was that he’d become a recluse as his health faded. He would have been pretty satisfied with his final score of 89, and the legacy he left in the Australian media.
I’ll remember him as a unique character who left his mark on the radio and television audiences of his generation, whether they agreed or not.
I’ll remember him as an actor who rivalled the talents of Errol Flynn or Peter Finch- because he was acting most of the time he was in front of a camera.
Most of all I’ll remember him as a decent bloke with a good heart.
I’m very pleased he was around in my time.