Stephen Rowe is this year celebrating 25 years on air at FIVEaa. He spoke to OTR contributor Tom Basso about viral on-air moments and how being himself and hard work have served him well. (Image source: FIVEaa’s “Rowey Cam”)
By Tom Basso | @_TomBasso
The voice of sport on the Adelaide airwaves is this year celebrating his 25th year behind the microphone at commercial talkback radio station, FIVEaa. But that does not mean it all comes naturally to Stephen Rowe.
“How the hell am I sitting here?” laughs the former Adelaide Crows footballer-turned-broadcaster, affectionally known as ‘Rowey’, as we sat down in the FIVEaa studios to begin our chat.
Rowey is fronting the radio juggernaut of the FIVEaa sports drive show solo for the first time in 2021. Previously, he teamed up with co-hosts such as inaugural Adelaide Crows coach Graham Cornes, inaugural Crows captain Chris McDermott and dual premiership Crows skipper Mark Bickley.
That is not the only big change for Rowey in 2021, this year he is also forced to cover his beloved Adelaide Crows in a new light after his son, James Rowe, was drafted to his former club late last year.
How exactly is that going for Rowey, who has had to call his son playing for the Crows every weekend?
“Hard, not enjoying it, hate it. There’s no other way to put it!” Rowey said.
“We rang [former legendary Essendon footballer] Tim Watson because he worked in the media when his son Jobe, who won a Brownlow and got it taken off him, captained the club. [Jobe] had a wonderful career [playing at Essendon] and [Tim] had to call Essendon games.
“We rang him the day James got drafted for some advice, on air, and I said, ‘what’s it like having your son play in the AFL and it’s your club?’ because James is the first father-son at the Crows.
“And he said ‘Rowey I have no advice, but I can assure you of this, you will never enjoy football again.’
“And he is spot on.”
However, despite the challenges, there was at least one moment that Rowey definitely enjoyed and that was watching his son, James, kick his first goal on debut for the Adelaide Crows, live from the FIVEaa commentary box at Adelaide Oval.
Rowey’s reaction to the goal – an emotion filled yell of “Good Boy!” – quickly went viral as one of the feel-good sporting moments of the year, beautifully encapsulating the joy of a proud father.
Rowey described what was happening behind the scenes in that moment.
“My entire family was sitting just in front of me… my whole family, my parents flew over [from Western Australia] who we hadn’t seen for 18 months because of COVID, I could see them.”
“So, I’m sitting, James kicked that goal and my wife turned around to me and mouthed ‘good boy’ and then I just yelled it… and that’s all I could say.
“People don’t know that part of it but that’s what happened.
“He kicked a goal and I said, ‘good boy’, whoopie-doo!”
Rowey said the moment connected with listeners because it was natural and genuine, which are traits he believes are critical to when he is at his best as a broadcaster.
“The collective listening audience can work out what’s bullshit, they know when you’re not believing in [a] topic or believing in what you’re saying, you’re making it up, you’re trying to be something you’re not,” Rowey said.
“You [have] got to be true to who you are and what you say, and I’d like to think that over 25 years, I’ve been that and maybe that’s why I’m still here.”
The first of Rowey’s 25 years on-air at FIVEaa began when he “got asked out of the blue” while he was playing for the premiership-winning Norwood in the SANFL in 1997.
“We won the flag that year – make sure that goes in there!”
Rowey played 185 games for Norwood where he won a best and fairest, in a career that also included a five-year stint of 29 games at AFL level for the Adelaide Crows.
Playing as a rover, a specialist midfield position that has largely disappeared from modern football, his job was to read the ball off the ruckman’s hands at stoppages and feed it out to more skilful players.
“A rover could be skilful and fast and all that – I was neither. But I was good at reading it off the ruckman’s hand, so I thought I was crafty at that,” Rowey said.
“My first nickname at Norwood was ‘shotgun’ because the ball used to come off my kick like a shotgun.
“And the second nickname I had was ‘clacker’ because I had a big arse.
“So, I was a big arsed, shotgun kicking, crafty rover.”
That 11-year professional football career as a big arsed, shotgun kicking, crafty rover gave Rowey the chance to get his start in radio as an on-road reporter on the ultra-successful Bazz and Pilko Breakfast Show, which was the highest rating radio show in the country at its peak.
His first segment on air was supposed to be a simple live-cross promotion from Target on ANZAC Highway, but it did not go quite to plan.
“It was a 90 second ad that turned into three minutes, I had a fight with them on air and I didn’t really know what was going on.
“But again, I was just being me.”
Despite now racking up a remarkable 25 years on-air, Rowey does not describe himself as a natural and said the job still requires a lot of hard work.
“It hasn’t come naturally, so I find quite frankly the whole job hard, but I think that’s good because then you work hard.”
Rowey gets serious when talking about his challenges with dyslexia, a disorder that he said requires him to put a lot of extra time and work into preparation for his show.
“I get in really early and I’ve got to prepare well and I’ll be serious here, I do have dyslexia.
“I can’t do what a normal person does and read a paragraph or a column or a tweet or whatever where there’s a lot of information. I’ve got to write that information down and I’ve got to re-read it before it stays in my head.”
While Rowey does find the hard work rewarding he said he would like to be more efficient as a broadcaster.
“I’d like to be better at my job. I’d like not having to have to do the work I do behind the scenes to then deliver what I do on air, less efficiently to what other people do.
“I work with a bloke called Leith Forrest now and he’s just a naturally gifted broadcaster. He does everything in a quarter of the time than me and double the effect and he never forgets and he can actually speak the Queen’s English.
“I had no training, I’m illiterate, the Queen’s English I fail [at], I failed English in Year 12… so God only knows why I’m sitting here doing an interview with you!”