'Tireless' Tim Gavel retires from ABC Grandstand after 30 years

Tim Gavel has seen just about everything on his 30-year sporting journey. Three Canberra Raiders premierships, two ACT Brumbies titles, seven Olympic Games, boardroom wars, tears and heartache.

Now the Canberra sports commentator known as 'Tireless Tim' says he'll turn off his microphone for the first time since 1988 and finish his career as an ABC journalist.

Tim Gavel has called almost every Raiders and Brumbies game for the past 30 years.

Photo: Karleen Minney

Gavel has announced he will leave ABC Canberra on September 1, marking another significant change for the broadcaster following the departure of long-time presenter Genevieve Jacobs last year.

Gavel, for decades one of the most respected voices in Canberra sport as a commentator and journalist, was on the sideline when the Raiders won their inaugural premiership in 1989, in the commentary booth when the Brumbies won their first title in 2001 and had tears in his eyes when Kieren Perkins won Olympic swimming gold in 1996.

Not bad for someone who slept in the back of his ute in the 1980s when he drove across country NSW and Queensland searching for a job in radio.

The 56-year-old has also seen the lows. The now-defunct Canberra Cannons, Canberra Cosmos and ACT Bushrangers going bust in national sporting competitions, career-ending injuries and the ugly Super League war.

"I'm excited by the next chapter. I'm not sure what it holds, but I really am looking forward to it. I honestly don't know what is ahead, but I felt like the time was right after almost 30 years to go to the next chapter," Gavel said.

"Hopefully I'll still do some commentating next year, I'm happy to talk about that down the track. I'm walking away from full-time work at the ABC, taking a chance to collect myself and work out what I want to do next.

"The ABC has been a wonderful place to work with incredibly committed people, I will always be grateful for the opportunities the organisation has given me."

Gavel will leave the ABC just two months short of reaching a 30-year milestone in the job. He is also widely respected for his charity work and was a recipient of the Order of Australia Medal in 2014.

He is the patron of the Early Morning Centre, which provides meals and facilities for the homeless, and has been a significant contributor to Ronald McDonald House, School Sport ACT, the Special Olympics and the Every Chance to Play initiative.

But he is most recognisable for his coverage of sport and was nicknamed 'Tireless Tim' by fellow commentator Tim Lane because of his work ethic. Gavel, it's said, used to sleep in the studio when chasing stories.

He has been a commentator at seven Olympics and seven Commonwealth Games for ABC Grandstand on top of his Monday to Friday job as a journalist for ABC Canberra.

Gavel rates the Raiders and Brumbies premierships as two of his highlight moments as well as being the commentator for Ken Wallace's kayak gold medal at the Beijing Olympic and Chloe Esposito's modern pentathlon gold in Rio.

His ability to be a commentator for a wide variety of sports - anything from cricket to baseball, basketball to volleyball, AFL to rugby league or rowing to weightlifting - led to him being a three-time ABC broadcaster of the year.

In his early years, before the internet made research easier, he would get wife Jenny to call out numbers from different teams to test his knowledge of players from different teams.

Tim Gavel has been a Canberra sports commentator for almost 30 years.

Photo: Melissa Adams

But there were also some tough times in the commentary box. Like his refusal to close his Canberra Stadium window in the cold winter months despite his colleagues shivering in the background. Or having to commentate after close friend Jim Maxwell had a stroke during the coverage of the Rio Olympics.

"It feels strange to be walking away because it's been my life. I feel like I've been around for most of the big moments in Canberra sport," he said.

"I virtually had to sink or swim when I got here, and I'm eternally grateful for the people of Canberra who had to listen to me learn for the first 10 years. I love the place and love the people."

TIM'S TOP FIVE ATHLETES

  1. Mal Meninga. "It's hard to separate Mal from Laurie Daley, Ricky Stuart and Bradley Clyde, but I have opted for Mal given the impact he made on Canberra."
  2. Lauren Jackson. "Lauren won five WNBL titles while living in Canberra for the AIS and the Capitals. She then went on to become one of the greatest female players in WNBA history."
  3. George Smith. "Ten times Brumbies player of the year. Could have also gone for Stephen Larkham, George Gregan or Joe Roff."
  4. Petria Thomas. "Petria won three gold medals at the 2004 Olympic Games and nine gold at the Commonwealth Games."
  5. Michael Bevan. "Won World Cups in 1999 and 2003, when he retired he had the world record for one-day international cricket. I could have also gone for Rob de Castella and cyclist Michael Rogers."

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