Story: Sports reporting and commentating

The ways sports have been reported to fans and supporters has reflected the changing history of the media – and changing technology. Early newspapers carried reports of local sports games, but coverage of international sports events often appeared months later. Radio broadcasts of sport began in the 1920s, and television coverage in the 1960s.

Story by Keith Quinn
Main image: Keith Quinn with nine sets of Olympic Games accreditation, 2008

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Newspapers were established in New Zealand from 1840, and reported on racing and cricket from the beginning. Coverage increased in the 1860s as more sports clubs were established. Overseas sports events were reported, but often months after the event. The telegraph and then the telephone allowed faster reporting. The 1924–25 ‘Invincibles’ were the first All Black team to be accompanied by a reporter on an overseas tour. Later official reporters travelled with All Black teams.

From the later 20th century newspapers had to compete with radio, television and internet coverage – all of which were faster.

Prominent sports writers have included T. P. McLean, Dick Brittenden and Alex Veysey. Sports reporters have often also produced books.

Sports photography

Early cameras used bulky glass plates, and photographers could shoot only a few images of each event. After the Second World War, New Zealand photographers were sent to cover overseas sports tours. Peter Bush is an internationally known sports photographer.


From the 1920s sports commentary was broadcast on the radio. The first rugby test between New Zealand and Britain to be broadcast was from Carisbrook in Dunedin in 1930. Radio commentator Winston McCarthy became well-known worldwide for his colourful style of broadcasts. Radio commentaries of horse racing have long been popular, partly because of off-course betting. In the 2000s radio reporters were still sent to broadcast overseas sports events to New Zealand.


The first live television broadcast of a New Zealand team was in 1954, when an All Blacks game in London was televised in Britain. In Dunedin in 1962 an All Blacks test match against Australia was recorded on videotape and shown on television the next day. Until 1972 the New Zealand Rugby Football Union would not permit live coverage of games because it might affect ticket sales.

During the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, for the first time much of the coverage was in colour. From the mid-1990s the television rights for many sports events were held by the privately owned Sky TV. In 2013 Sky TV broadcast eight sports channels.

During the 1987 and 2011 rugby world cups, held in New Zealand, local staff provided major ‘host’ coverage for overseas television stations.

How to cite this page:

Keith Quinn, 'Sports reporting and commentating', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 19 June 2024)

Story by Keith Quinn, published 5 September 2013