Rikki Swannell announced as Sky TV's first female Super Rugby play-by-play commentator

Super Rugby, Sky Sports
Rikki Swannell will call two Super Rugby matches in the 2018 season. Photo credit: Photosport

Sky Television has confirmed sports journalist, broadcaster and commentator Rikki Swannell will join its play-by-play team for the 2018 Super Rugby season.

The former head of sport at Radio Sport and Newstalk ZB will link up with Grant Nisbett, Tony Johnson, Scotty Stevenson and Willie Lose.

She is scheduled for two matches and has sideline duties throughout the season, according to NZME.

Swannell will be Sky's first female Super Rugby play-by-play commentator, although she says she isn't comfortable with that tag.

She wants to make her mark in sports commentating based on skill, not gender.

"I hope that I am someone that the bosses at Sky think is good enough to do this," Swannell told Newshub.

"I want to be thought of as a good sports commentator - not just a good women's sports commentator.

"That's what I've always wanted to be known as from my days of reporting at Radio Sport to now - that I am good at what I do, and not just a good woman at what I do," Swannell said.

Joining the esteemed company of the likes of Nisbett and Johnson is humbling but Swannell says she hopes to avoid too much fanfare around the announcement.

"I have been around commentating on various sports for a while now, but when you are going into rugby, who else do you want to work with besides those guys and learn from them?

"People will probably make a big deal about me being the first women to call Super Rugby but ideally I just want to slip in quietly and be one of the team of great commentators that Sky's rugby coverage has."

Swannell, who has fronted Sky's netball coverage for several years, recently joined the cricket commentary team for the West Indies One Day International series, a role which she feels has improved her skills.

Rugby is a different beast to the less action-packed game of cricket, but Swannell feels her experience with netball actually makes for an easier transition into the oval ball code.

"Stepping into those male-orientated sports has helped. I'm comfortable in that environment," she told Newshub.

"I've done a bit of rugby with the Farrah Palmer Cup in 2017 and I did a pre-season Ranfurly Shield match.

"I feel that the fast-paced nature of rugby, similar to netball, actually suits my style more than say cricket does.

"It all helps - the more you commentate anything, the better you get."

Swannell shies away from labelling her rapid rise through the ranks of Sky callers as a lifelong ambition, but acknowledges that sport has always been her life.

"Without sounding too cheesy, I get to do what I always wanted to do from the time I was a kid.

"I get to talk about sport, report on sport and now commentate on sport - getting to do that, I guess I have fulfilled a dream."

Swannell's first match is scheduled to be the Crusaders and Waratahs on May 12.