Queen's Honours: Rugby commentator Grant Nisbett still calling it after all these years

Grant Nisbett
Veteran broadcaster Grant Nisbett. Photo credit: Photosport

Grant Nisbett may be a reluctant Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, but he is extremely humbled by the honour.

The veteran rugby commentator has been recognised for his service to broadcasting in the Queen's Birthday Honours list.

'Nisbo' has been the voice of the All Blacks for two decades, and has called more than half of their 566 test matches on either radio or television.

Nisbett credits his groundings in the radio realm for his longevity as a sports broadcaster.

"The very last day of 1968 - 50 years ago - that's where it all started," Nisbett says. "I began in radio and stayed in radio until the mid-1980s.

"I actually always enjoyed calling radio commentary. It gives you all the groundings, all the disciplines that you can apply to television commentary.

"It takes a long time to get used to television commentary. There is so much going on with all the different voices talking to you - the director, the producer, all the cameramen.

"If you are not used to that, it can be very hard to cope with."

The Wellington local has always had rugby in his heart, having captained the Rongotai College 1st XV in 1968, coincidently his first year in broadcasting. The rugby gig didn't quite work out for Nisbett, despite lofty ambitions, and a few years later he decided to focus on a career behind the microphone.

Nisbett was eventually recruited by TVNZ in 1984 and was promptly inserted into his first match - the All Blacks against France at Lancaster Park on June 16.

The keen gambler credits three people for inspiring him along the way.

"Winston McCarthy, he was the benchmark for radio announcers.  When I started at TVNZ, Keith Quinn was there of course, he was great. 

"I had the opportunity to have a chat to the great Bill McLaren. You still have to develop your own style, but it was great to get a bit of feedback from some of the very best.

"Having called literally thousands of rugby matches in his illustrious career, Nisbett finds it hard to signal out any one match in particular as his favourite.

"The two World Cup finals that I was lucky enough to call in 2011 and 2015," Nisbett told Newshub.

"Going back even further, the 1986 'Baby Blacks' win against France - nobody expected that to happen.

"In South Africa 1996 -  our boys had never won a series over there and they achieved that in Pretoria.

"There was also the great test match in Sydney against Australia [2000], when Jonah Lomu scored late in the corner - that was a marvellous game of rugby. It's hard to pinpoint one but those four or five really stick out.

"On the other side, it has been highly depressing to be at Twickenham three times when the All Blacks have lost. Often those games weren't great and the All Blacks played poorly.

"My job is to be objective, but you do feel a bit down about when they lose big games."

As for the best player he has ever seen? Well that's an easy one for Nisbett, but his answer may surprise a few punters.

"The greatest rugby player I have ever seen is Christian Cullen. I have always maintained that.

"He was the one guy who could just absolutely electrify everyone in the stadium. There wasn't much Cullen couldn't do at the very elite level.

"I think he had a fairly poor ending to his international career and that was out of his hands unfortunately."

Nisbett is unsure how many years he has left before he hangs up his headphones, but he plans on getting out before he is pushed.

And when that time comes, the vice president of the Seatoun Bowling Club would like to be remembered for three qualities.

"Someone who was accurate, impartial and just did his job."

Other sporting recipients of Queen's Birthday Honours were:

Officer of NZ Order of Merit

  • Fiona Allan, services to Paralympic sport
  • Fiao'o Fa'amausili, services to rugby
  • Tracey Fear, services to netball
  • Kirsten Hellier, services to athletics
  • Andrew Nicholson, services to equestrian

Member of NZ Order of Merit

  • Andrea Hewitt, services to triathlon
  • Laura Mariu, services to rugby league
  • Rochelle Martin, services to rugby and fire & emergency
  • Darryl Suasua. Services to rugby 



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