“Some people want to see the world or work part-time in their early 20s. But I wanted to break into the industry as soon as I could.”
It’s people with a mindset like Ben Waterworth’s that go places. The dream place for the 21-year-old is in a commentary box at the MCG, calling the game of AFL as he sees it.
Ambitious, committed, determined and diligent; those are just a few words to describe the budding AFL commentator. Fresh off a Bachelor of Journalism at La Trobe University, Waterworth managed to obtain that break into the industry following his appointment as Media Manager for the Eastern Football League (EFL) at the start of this year.
This full-time job came his way only a few months after graduating from university. Waterworth was “chuffed” and “surprised” to be given the vacant position.
He had been volunteering with the league for three years, which has more players than any other amateur AFL competition in Australia.
Waterworth regards the transition from university straight into full-time work as a “huge change”, but very beneficial.
“Going from eight hours of uni classes a week to at least eight hours of work a day took some time to get used to.”
As Media Manager for the EFL, he is responsible for organising the league’s website, mobile web app, social media accounts, advertising and is the editor for the weekly record.
His job also involves on-air presenting and commentary, providing him with valuable experience in the tough industry he hopes to succeed in.
“It’s a busy gig, but I love it,” Waterworth says.
“I couldn’t have asked for a much better job coming out of uni, in terms of broadness.”
He notes his three years at university as ‘really enjoyable and definitely worthwhile’. It was at La Trobe where he made the most of his spare time by writing for the upstart website. He was the sports editor, compiled more than 100 articles, hosted an AFL round preview program and had his own column, ‘From the Grandstand’. Waterworth significantly benefited from the opportunity and left university as a “confident and capable writer” ready to enter the workforce.
“The more I wrote, the more I learned, not only off the editors, but you learn a lot yourself too,” he says.
“upstart also allowed me to have a go at video and audio platforms, which has helped me dearly with the job I’m in now.”
With only a couple of months left to go on his degree, Waterworth crossed the Tasman to cover the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. He worked with accomplished sports journalists and was fortunate enough to report on the All Blacks for a week while they were in Hamilton for their game against Japan, learning a great deal in the process. The month-long experience was “valuable in more ways than one”, seeing as he remarkably met his girlfriend over there.
This period was immensely rewarding for Waterworth. It would be a few weeks prior to leaving for New Zealand that he would beat hundreds of entrants in an AFL commentary competition ran by NAB. He had the privilege of calling the third quarter of the North Melbourne and Fremantle clash in round 23 for sports radio station, SEN alongside Francis Leach and Scott West.
“It’s a cliché, but it really was a dream come true,” Waterworth says.
“Yet while it was so energising and memorable, it was only a quarter. I wanted another quarter, or a full game, or a whole season. Doing it left me wanting more.”
As a child, he used to impersonate the commentary of Rex Hunt and Bruce McAvaney, longing one day to be in their prominent position. Waterworth’s “childhood dream” of calling sport started in primary school and has remained with him ever since. He finds every facet of sports commentary captivating and enjoyable.
“There’s something really sexy about play-by-play commentary – in any sport. I struggle to watch a sport without commentary. It feels empty, almost unromantic.”
He was told to create his own style as a caller and doesn’t liken himself to any AFL commentator.
“You take bits and pieces from others, but in the end you’re fitting your own jigsaw puzzle together.”
Waterworth is a natural when it comes to sports commentary, as he was also the lucky Victorian to win the 2011 Triple J Cricket Commentator Competition. He got to call two overs and carry out an interview for 774 ABC in the Twenty20 Big Bash League match between the Melbourne Stars and Perth Scorchers at the MCG in January of this year.
Away from his love of sport and commentary, Waterworth admires music. He is a proud Christian and has played the trombone for most of his life through his close involvement with the Salvation Army. As a form of relaxation, he enjoys playing the piano in his spare time.
Waterworth looks up to his parents, who have both had a tremendous influence on his life.
“Dad’s been a ripping example to follow and emulate as a person. Mum has given me enormous support – she would have read, watched or heard nearly everything I’ve done.”
It is well known that the sports journalism field is extremely hard to break into. He suggests that university students get practical if they want to to explore a career as a sports journalist.
“The only way you’ll become known and heard, seen, [or] read is if you produce content – otherwise you’re wasting your time, because it’s a damn competitive industry,” he says adamantly.
All the voluntary writing and work that Waterworth produced throughout his tenure at university gave him vital experience and vastly helped in securing his first full-time job in the industry.
The journalism graduate also recommends students to get practical across all media platforms, including audio, print, social media, video and the web.
“The more strings you’ve got to your bow, the more likely you will score a gig.”
Ben Waterworth has laid the foundations for a successful career in his coveted field of interest. If his attitude and work rate are anything to go by, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him score a gig as the next Bruce McAvaney of AFL commentary.
Having already achieved so much at such a young age, it’s only a matter of time before his childhood dream is turned into a reality.
Mitchell Wood is a first-year Bachelor of Sport Journalism student at La Trobe University. You can follow him on Twitter: @Mitchell_Woody
This piece was originally written for upstart, which is La Trobe University’s student news service.