The Max Walker Co.
PO Box 5135 Burnley, Victoria
Tel: 0417 363 433
A Max Pac is a composition of information relating to the many aspects of Max's speaking and business fields of expertise. The package includes a CV, testimonials and individual descriptions of the roles Max undertakes.
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Within a week of retiring from the lush green grass of cricket grounds around the world Max was literally thrown in to the deep end of media sport. It didn’t take the big fella very long to feel comfortable at the microphone and talking passionately about a sport in which he excelled. The people at Channel 9 recognised his powers of communication and knowledge of sport by quickly seeking out his talents.
EDUCATION, ENTHUSIASUM and EMOTION … the three E’s.
Max’s natural laid back story telling style made him a success from day one. In short, the camera liked him and in turn so did viewers.
Yes, it was a progressive decision to head hunt the affable medium fast bowler. The relationship with the 9 network spanned a mutually beneficial and extremely successful 16 years.
Taken from ‘The Best Of Mr Walker’ by Max Walker
In the early Eighties I was invited to become Channel 7’s cricket expert on “World of Sport”.
I was a little apprehensive at first, because the show had been running for twenty odd years with most of the same people, in the same format. Good luck Maxie, I thought. I was to need some too!
At Dorcas Street, South Melbourne – In a large barn like warehouse – I was to experience first hand the on-camera and behind the scenes pranks of Lou Richards and his co-stars.
The first week of appearing on tele was a pretty hair-raising experience. No instruction, no coaching, pick your own subject, and talk when the red light starts flashing on the camera.
Everyone else on the floor in the Spartan old studios was joking, laughing and generally uninterested in what I was about to say. After all, District Cricket wasn’t exactly the sort of television viewing that would make you put off going to make a cup of coffee or drop the washing-up to turn around to see who had won between Footscray and South Melbourne.
Actually during my inaugural “piece” to camera, I took a long deep, nervous breath…and before I could make a second, hard-hitting point, the director, like God Almighty, somewhere upstairs in the control room, had slipped in a commercial break.
Now I should explain there is a lot of difference between being asked questions in an interview situation and being the up front person making the sensible comments as well as asking the pertinent questions, particularly if the first two or three thought-provoking prodders manage only a blunt “Yes” or “No” in response! So to perform articulately, and make some sense for say, three minutes is a very difficult assignment.
GTV 9 newsreader Brian Naylor speaks at approximately five words per second. Yours truly is a fair degree slower at three per second – most Tasmanians do speak slowly! As you can imagine, sitting in front of a camera as a terrified and nervous new presenter, 180 seconds can seem like an energy sapping 500 metre dash. It never ends!
Sometimes things don’t quite go as planned…and that’s when life really gets interesting. For example, the totally unexpected happened during my second weekend at Dorcas Street, much to everyone else’s delight.
The culprit was one of Louie’s best mates, a grotesque, bespectacled man, tipping the scales at more than 20 stone and affectionately referred to as “Uncle Doug” or “Unca”! He was one of the foundation members of this historic television program and over the twenty-eight years of the show’s lifetime, the late Doug Elliot was the bloke most likely to plug the products. He would be Mr Patra Orange Juice, Mr Red Tulip Chocolates, Mr …cheese, meat. You name it, Unc would be flogging as hard as his firm jaw and shaking head would allow.
A former Lord Mayor of Essendon, he had a sharp wit and a penchant for poetry, which he often read on air. The big fella’s appetite was legendary…it was stated often that if they X-rayed Unc’s stomach they’d find three or four meat pies nestled comfortably inside without even a tooth mark on ’em! He wasn’t a guts as some of his mates often suggested…merely a not so fussy connoisseur of all edible sponsor products.
Like most of “the team” Unc loved a practical joke. I know I do, as long as I’m not the subject. Unfortunately, as the new boy on the show my “initiation” on the set was going to be much fun for everyone but Channel 7’s brand new cricket expert.
After less than thirty seconds regurgitating several well-rehearsed comments on the leadership qualities of the blue-eyed boy from the West – Kimberley Hughes – a pear-shaped man with thick-rimmed glasses appeared camera right. I couldn’t believe my eyes!
Now I don’t wish to sound rude and crude but this was how it was. Uncle Doug brazenly stood in my line of sight and in a rather animated manner, slowly undid the belt holding up his badly creased trousers. At this stage I was in a state of confusion…should I ignore him and continue trying to make sense to the totally unaware audience? I tried this for a few more uncomfortable seconds.
Then it all became too much when his trousers slipped past his nobly kneecaps into a crumpled pile around his ankles. Followed by his Hawthorn underpants – you know the type – yellow in the front and brown at the back.
I had a grin like Luna Park and the laughter was hard to suppress. Remember, there was no 7 seconds delay, this was pure LIVE television. Without even thinking, I’d blurted: “I don’t believe it…he’s just dropped his dacks!”.
His reaction was to about face and touch his toes. Before my eyes were the worst set of hamstrings I had seen in many, many years- completely devoid of muscle tone and polar bear white in color.
Meanwhile cameras were jockeying for position like dodgem cars with a view to capturing the mature gentleman dragging his trousers up to somewhere about the “plimsol line”. I’ve never seen a pair of trousers and fly zip hoisted so quickly on the silver screen.
Yes, it was a memorable second day at HSV7.
After my “initiation” Uncle Doug wrapped his arm around my shoulder: “That was great son, spontaneity is what this caper is all about…the show thrives on it!”
How true these words were. “World of Sport” was the only live television show I know that could be running thirty minutes behind schedule after only being “on air” for an hour – the madcap ad lib and semi-organised chaos was half the charm and attraction of this almost compulsory Sunday viewing in Victoria.
Day number three at the station turned out to be just as exciting – my motto should have been “prepare for the unexpected”
This time Lou got into the act…again yours truly was on the receiving end.
Many people had suggested Louie the Lip wouldn’t be super helpful…after all, he barely knew which end of a cricket bat to pick up but he had done a lot of miles in front of camera. So when the chunky ex-rover from Magpieland offered some advice, I thought, don’t be quick to judge, maybe he’s genuine. The straight look on his face was too serious to believe – but gullible old me did. This rough-hewn, loudly spoken master of the ad-lib suggested I use an “idiot sheet” like all the pros – Don Lane, Bert Newton and Mike Walsh.
The long farewell
My basic problem was not being able to say “Goodbye” quickly. In other words, they couldn’t shut me up! Lou thought that if I was scripted, the problem wouldn’t arise. How the shoe was on the other foot at GTV 9. My little mate had trouble distinguishing the difference between a thirteen second chat and a forty-nine second conversation. On the Sunday Edition of “Wide World of Sport” we used to see that familiar rotating “wind-up” hand signal from the floor manager just about every story. It could be said we both like to have a chat!
At the completion of my District Cricket segment, Louie stood next to the camera, legs slightly astride, arms high with a huge sheet of butcher’s paper. In the corner of his mouth his cigarette began to glow a bright red as he inhaled quickly. His mischievous eyes were dancing left and right looking for attention…he had all the support he needed.
My old architecture lecturer, Ron Centre, at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, would have been proud of the lovely lettering on the beige colored butcher’s paper. This graduate from Collingwood Tech had obviously sat down with a chunky felt pen and neatly written my closing message.
What a lovely gesture, I thought as I began to read word perfect: “Well, that just about wraps up the District Cricket…”
I never did make it to the end of line two because, quick as a flash, Lou had dug deep into his Christian Dior trouser pocket and produced a cigarette lighter. No ordinary lighter either – a Dunhill, thank you very much! A sure sign the boy from the back streets of Collingwood had a few bob to spend on himself. Well, he doesn’t spend it on anyone else!
What do you reckon he did with the tiny gold-plated flame-thrower! You guessed it! He licked the bottom two corners of the paper sign with the flame…everyone fell about laughing as I strained to concentrate on my line. Within seconds, the bottom half of the script was going up in smoke and Louie began to cough loudly.
“…someone call the Fire Brigade…and avagoodweegend!!!” was about the best I could think of as quick “out”.
The news room at any television network is no place for anyone lacking in confidence. ‘No I can’t do it’ or ‘my story won’t make the 6pm deadline’ is absolutely unacceptable dialogue in this frenetic environment.”
To be able to work alongside respected industry professionals like John Sorrell and Brian Naylor was a real privilege and provided a massive learning curve. Peter Mitchell, Anne Peacock and Peter Hitchiner were also wonderful colleagues to embark on a media career with.
Wide World of Sports was a real television icon. In the early days with Mike Gibson and Ian Chappell hosting it was an exciting and fresh presentation of sport in this country.
In hindsight to have spent 16 years in various capacities within the program was like winning the lottery. I’ve often referred to having the best job in the sporting landscape.
Yes, to sit in front of a massive bank of television monitors hosting the best sporting images and personalities week after week was a dream job.
We added a new dimension to the term “Welcome back…” and “More in just a moment….”. Billy Birmingham and his notorious 12th man tapes have satirized the more memorable moments. As a result the regular characters have gained an amazing notoriety amongst the public.
Unfortunately, the Saturday afternoon and Sunday editions have disappeared from our screens. The last program went to air in 1999. There were very few ‘Greats’ in the sporting world that we failed to interview.
Finally, I must say hosting was such a joy because of two great co-presenters and friends in Ken Sutcliffe, Olympic swimmer Nicole Stephenson and my mate at the update desk…Ian ‘The Bear’ Maurice.
I was very fortunate to make the transition from player to commentator within a week of retirement. After 4 years of talking about the game on radio I was head hunted to join Richie Benaud and his team in the Nine booth.
A different set of communication skills were necessary when talking over images on a television monitor. On radio we had a license to talk about any aspect related to the game. Whereas on TV it was more about an economy of words and a discipline to describe the action on screen.
Of course, advertisements had to be structured into the day’s proceedings and even in the 21st Century they tend to fracture the action and frustrate the viewer.
Billy Birmingham has derived even more pleasure in stretching the on and off air antics of the commentators. With characters like Tony Greig, Bill Lawry, Ian Chappell and myself there was always plenty of material to work with.
My involvement with the commentary team ended in 1991 with the birth of my daughter Alexandra. I had to make a choice between travelling the world, talking about cricket, or a family lifestyle. I chose the latter. Nevertheless, after playing first class cricket for 13 years and calling the action for a further 12 years, I’m sure you’ll agree half a lifetime in cricket is probably a good innings.
My wife agrees.
Born out of the sportsnights circuit was a program called ‘The Footy Show’. Why wouldn’t a bunch of ex-footballers talking about a game they love, with a certain amount of mischief, work in front of a television camera?
And so Ian Johnson the head of GTV 9 agreed to give it a go. A few phone calls were made. Legends like Ted Whitten, Sam Newman, Mal Brown, Lou Richards, Simon Madden, Simon O’Donnell, and Sam Kekovich were keen to be part of it.
The first program kicked off in the second month of the 1992 AFL season in a Sunday morning time slot. It was madcap mayhem and mischief sprinkled between results. Rumours became reality and much of the truth was stretched beyond recognition in an effort to confront and entertain an insatiable appetite for the game.
Such was the success of the format consistently beating HSV 7 for the ratings share of the same time slot with their football program, the possibility of a night time audience was considered.
On Friday night, Grand Final eve September, 1993 we went head to head with Channel 7’s Grand Final marathon (a package of premiership clashes from years gone by). On the back of very little advertising The Footy Show’s first night time outing rated 25 for the 2 hour duration (1 rating point = 30,000 viewers). That entertaining presentation launched the juggernaut that we now take for granted on a Thursday night, The Footy Show.
It was my privilege to direct traffic that night from the host chair. Sam Newman turned up late, Ted Whitten rightfully delivered a verbal spray upon arrival, Lou Richards the former King of Moomba was parked in the King’s throne looking resplendent under his crown. A young Dermott Brereton watched from the end of the panel. Garry Ablett was coaxed into a rare appearance to accept most valuable player award. Incredibly, the 4 wheel drive prize was to be presented by Channel 7’s Rex Hunt who was then the face of Nissan.
Mal Brown was his outrageous self. Simon O’Donnell was in the thick of it. Players chatted, laughed and squirmed alongside this motley collection of outspoken legends…in their own lunchbox!!!!