Eddie Hemmings reflects on his Wigan Warriors highlights as he prepares to commentate on final game
Whatever the result, this Good Friday clash between Wigan and St Helens will be a landmark – the final game of Eddie Hemmings’ career as the voice of Super League.
He has provided the soundtrack for some of Wigan's most famous triumphs, from their first Grand Final win in 1998 to their most recent last year, and commentated on some unforgettable moments - including this Steve Renouf break (see attached video) in 2010.
But after four decades, Hemmings has decided to hang up his microphone, following his long-term Sky Sports tag-team partner Mike ‘Stevo’ Stephenson into retirement.
“A few people have asked, ‘Why now?’ – a lot of people think I’m ill,” explained Hemmings, who started his broadcasting career in local radio before moving to Sky.
“Well, I’m not ill. At the back end of last year, (long serving producer) Neville Smith decided he was going to move on and do something different. And obviously two years ago, Stevo went and the three of us, with William Proctor, were the originals and so I felt the time was right.
“I’m 69 – I know a lot of people won’t believe that! – but it felt like the time was right.
"There was also news one of our former cameraman went to sleep one night, at the same age, and didn’t wake up. It does make you think that I’m not getting any younger and I can devote more time to my family.
“Neville’s last day was going to be Good Friday and I thought, ‘If I’m not going to bow out with a Grand Final, the next best thing is a Good Friday derby’.”
Bill Arthur is set to step up as lead commentator for Sky Sports’ coverage of Super League, assisted by pundits including ex-Wigan players Brian Carney, Terry O’Connor, Phil Clarke and Barrie McDermott.
“Brian started off as an ex-player doing some punditry, now he’s an accomplished presenter,” said Hemmings.
“They are all ex-Wigan players, there’s only Jon Wells who hasn’t been there. It changed dramatically when Stevo retired but we have so much fun together.”
Hemmings has covered countless Wigan games but doesn’t struggle to pick out his favourite player to grace the Cherry and White.
“Ellery Hanley stands out like a beacon,” he said. “I know that wasn’t the Super League era but we were covering the sport before 1996. But there have been so many, hasn’t there? Gary Connolly, Trent Barrett, Adrian Lam himself, Terry Newton, Kris Radlinski, I could go on but I’d be here all day.”
His favourite Wigan game coincidentally came from a Good Friday fixture.
“My favourite game came from the derby years ago – it must have been a long time ago, because Terry O’Connor played,” he joked, nodding to the 2003 Good Friday derby.
“He was one of two or three older players, they had so many injuries and had many youngsters in the side, and Saints were the overwhelming favourites.
“Wigan pulled off a remarkable win and I remember, at the end, saying ‘This has been a marvellous day for all the youngsters’, and – at that moment – they flashed a picture of Terry O’Connor on the screen, so I had to say something else and I uttered, ‘as well as for the old boiler, Terry O’Connor’.
“As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I thought, ‘What have I said?’ So, I went down to the dressing room and saw Terry and said, ‘I must apologise, I’ve just called you an old boiler on TV!’ We had a laugh about it.”
Hemmings knows Friday’s game will be an emotional affair – though he is less certain about what the result will be.
He added: “It all points to a Saints win, with the form they’re in and the league table. Saints should win, but the cliché is true, you can never tell with a derby.
"The old boiler will tell you that!”