Why BT is anxious about the impending AFL season

It’s not like a “boy oh boy wowee” feeling, but more a sombre reflective anxiousness.After going through a COVID-affected year that included two lots of 14-day quarantine and calling footy in a Melbourne studio (bar the Grand Final in October), Taylor is understandably nervous.He also is starting a new chapter without his great mate and fellow commentator, the legendary Bruce McAvaney, who called time on his footy calling duties late last month.“I’m feeling that nervous about going to the footy, it feels like I haven’t done it for a long time,’’ Taylor says.“You sort of wipe last year away and say OK, that was just completely abnormal, doing stuff from studios. It’s weird.“That’s probably the one thing I’ve learned through COVID is that as a caller and as a team, I think we’ve learnt that being at the ground, while it’s a privilege, it’s absolutely vital to be able to call from the grounds.“It’s a totally different environment. From the moment you go to the MCG and you roll up in the carpark, you can feel it and there’s people and you talk and you gather and you see everyone else in media. “The moment is building to the crescendo of the game. “Whereas when you walk into the studio there’s none of that, it’s a very different experience, it’s one where you’ve got to motivate yourself and others around you to get a really acceptable result. It’s great we’re going to get to the ground and get the whole picture.”Taylor, or BT as he’s been known for the past 30 years of his commentary life, says his 14-day quarantine in Queensland with wife Tania was worth every minute to experience the Grand Final live at the Gabba.Little did he know it would be his mate McAvaney’s final footy outing.“Bruce kept it under his hat,’’ Taylor says.“He and I have many conversations. He’s done it in such an honourable way, full of integrity. He’s the best. “You look at Bruce on the TV, the best TV commentator we’ve ever produced. On radio Rex Hunt is probably the best ever. “Bruce has been a great coach for us all at Channel 7 and he’s taught us well I hope. We hope we’ll be able to carry on what he’s been able to set up for us. No one will ever replace him that’s for sure.”Taylor and McAvaney often chew the fat and Taylor has looked to him for guidance. He started his media career in radio and joined Channel 7 from Fox Footy in 2012, after also spending time at Channel 9 when they had the TV rights. “There were many little bits and pieces along the way, about the way to go about things,’’ Taylor says, reflecting on his time with McAvaney.“There’s moments in games where you just know he has the right words to fit. His homework for each game is extraordinary. He might come up with two or three hundred pieces of information. To do all that homework that takes him hours and hours and hours in a week, and then you get to the game he might only use 10 of those 200 and throw the rest in the bin. “I think gee, that is such a disciplined way to do it, he’s incredibly well researched and his depth of knowledge is unequalled.”Taylor adds with an understanding nod: “But look, in the end the continuous travel, not unlike (former commentator) Dennis (Cometti), it just wears you down. It’s been really difficult, in fact COVID probably helped a little bit in that he didn’t have to travel as much. All that travel would be a hard ask.”Taylor says he carries no nerves about filling big shoes or performing in the commentary box.Channel 7 has said it would test people in that prime time Friday night footy spot, with callers James Brayshaw, Hamish McLachlan and Luke Darcy all in the frame and a chance to show their wares on the big stage.He says it’s not a fight for exposure because everyone is unique, and McAvaney cannot be replaced.“I’m excited about the future, about the team, we’ve all worked together,’’ Taylor says.“The great thing is none of us have not worked together. I’ve worked with JB for 20 years, I’ve worked with Hame, Wayne (Carey), everyone that’s there I’ve worked with for a long time. “So we’re going into this very comfortable and we don’t feel there’s any pressure on us because in the end we’re just going to be ourselves. We can’t fill the shoes of Bruce.“Friday nights, big games, no McAvaney, that’s weird. “You can’t go do this sort of stuff that we do forever. You’ve got to move on, Bruce as a total team at Seven has coached us really well. “To be honest with you, whether it’s Darce or JB or Hamish, any of one of us can be a combination in that Friday night slot at any time and all do it equally as well.”Taylor says McAvaney will still offer much guidance and advice.“I’m looking for feedback, Bruce has agreed he’ll supply a bit of feedback to all of us, so we’re all looking forward to Bruce’s continual involvement.“He’s not leaving the Seven sports stable. He’s still there doing the Olympics, he’ll be in Melbourne a lot and for racing in the spring he’ll be back. We expect to see a lot of him over the next few years.”Taylor says his love for calling and the game is as high as ever.But he is still on a mission to walk away from a match feeling like it was a 10 out of 10 performance. “It is just something I absolutely love,’’ he says.“I started calling in 1991 or 92 and so having done it for that long, it is amazing, because right now I still don’t feel like I’ve reached my peak or absolutely nailed a game. It’s a bit like playing golf, you never ever perfect it. There are so many changes along the way, you’ve got to evolve with it. I think back to what footy was in 91-92 when I started. It’s a very different game now. You have to evolve with the game, you can’t fight it, you have to find the good in it.“And I enjoy those little new things like Roaming Brian (Taylor interviewing players in the winning rooms after a Friday night game).“I think it shows something different. I’m not quite sure what you’re going to get from anyone, including myself, but it’s filled the gap nicely.”Taylor, 58, played 43 games at Richmond and 97 games at Collingwood between 1980 and 1990 and won a Coleman Medal as the league’s leading goalkicker in 1986. He moved to Lorne two years ago after selling the family farm in Monegeetta, a small town between Sunbury and Romsey. He loves pottering around in his shed, in the garden and at the beach with his dog Hansel. He even likes to knit.“I live in Lorne now so we’re pretty well as far away from footy as you can get,’’ says Taylor, who hails from Mandurah in Western Australia. “Because you’re so connected to the game for that six or seven month period it’s great to have a clean break. Even though in Lorne there’s a lot of football-connected people out there but to step away is important for everyone.“I’m a worker, I just love doing work around home. The beaches at Lorne are fantastic and there’s always an opportunity to do something out there, see the waves, it’s a great environment.”Taylor and wife Tania have four sons, Ryan, Jesse, Jordan and Harrison. Jordan, who works in the WA mines, found a gap in border restrictions to make it home for a surprise visit in January, and just flew back there last week.As well as being a big name on Channel 7 Taylor is also a key part of the close-knit Triple M radio commentary team, who often take the mickey out of him and refer to him as “Bristle”.“We love the banter, and that’s all good,’’ he says. “Sometimes we cut the nails back a little too far and we draw blood and that can go either way. “It just depends who is in the firing line. Honestly we feel like we’re in someone’s back shed having a beer. We all get along.”The comradeship is one thing Taylor thoroughly treasures.“They are very, very jealous people these Triple M guys. You never know what you’re going to get, we just love being together and enjoying each others’ company. We don’t socialise in the off period but we spend half the year together so it feels fresh, you enjoy the company again and it doesn’t wear thin until the end of the year.”Taylor says one of the only people he’s been starstruck meeting through footy life was the legend Ron Barassi. “I arrived in Richmond in 1978, I was a 16-year-old boy who had no idea what was going on in the world,’’ he says. “I have met every one in football, there’s no legend that I haven’t met. From (Tom) Hafey, to Barassi, to (Bob) Skilton, to all these guys. Many have since passed and I’ve been so privileged and lucky to meet all the great commentators. “Harry Beitzel and Smoky Dawson and Dennis Cometti and Peter McKenna and Peter Landy. And then all the great administrators over that time as well. I feel very lucky I’ve been in a position to meet all those people and actually, it’s been incredible.“You meet guys like Barassi and McKenna, they are genuine stars, and you just think it’s bloody awesome.”[email protected]

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