Quill Awards: Meet 2017 sports writer of the year The Australian’s Will Swanton

‘Big sports events capture people in a different way from anything else.’

The Australian’s sports writer Will Swanton has been in the media industry for more than 15 years and won many awards. However, the recognition at the 2017 Quill Awards was made more special by his date for the evening held on March 16, 2018.

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“I took my 10-year-old daughter with me to Melbourne on a bit of a father-daughter date,” Swanton told Mediaweek. When his name was called out for the prestigious 2017 Harry Gordon Australian Sports Journalist of the Year Award, Swanton was watching his daughter’s reaction. (Swanton is pictured above at the awards with his daughter).

“She was sitting there being really excited about the whole thing. She kept on saying, ‘Good luck, dad. I hope you win.’ To see the look on her face was terrific and she walked up on stage with me too.”

On a professional front, Swanton recognised that winning the award was a huge “honour”. “There are two sides to sports writing,” he said, “the hard news side and it also has that atmosphere of big occasions.

“Big sports events capture people in a different way from anything else and that’s why they still rate so well.”

Swanton covers a number of sports for the country’s sole broadsheet newspaper, The Australian. The list includes surfing, tennis, cricket and NRL.

Asked about his favourite sports to cover, he said: “I played a lot of tennis and cricket as a kid. The sports that you grow up with are probably the ones that you understand the most so that makes it easy to write about them.”

Swanton accepts his award

According to Swanton, surfing is an undervalued sport. “There’s so much skill that goes into it,” he stated. “The ocean is a big moving playing field. It’s not a one-dimensional arena that the athletes are playing on. Being a lifelong surfer myself, I have always been attracted to the sport.”

Swanton enjoys the fact that he isn’t exclusively dedicated to reporting on one or two sporting disciplines. “It keeps it fresh,” he said. “I have been on cricket tours before, and I love my test cricket but, towards the end of an eight-week tour, there can be times when you think, ‘If I have to see one more ball of test cricket, I am going to scream!’” [Laughs]

This attitude towards sports journalism will work in Swanton’s favour when he flies from Sydney to Gold Coast in two weeks’ time for the Commonwealth Games. As he prepares for the international multisport event, Swanton also listed at least three other sporting events he will be working on between now and April 4 when the Commonwealth Games begin.

“The sports world is an amazing beast,” Swanton said. “I have been at The Australian for five years now and we have never had a morning where there is nothing happening in sport.”

Swanton followed his father’s footsteps into the world of journalism. His father, Richard Swanton, worked as a reporter at the Newcastle Herald. “My dad being my best mate and hero, I kind of wanted to do what he did.

“He would drive me out to Newcastle rugby union matches and I would write about 10 pars for the Sunday paper there. It was such a thrill because I felt like a small version of dad.” [Laughs]

Swanton’s first full-time job in the media industry was at Australian Associated Press (AAP), where he was filing stories for the news wire service almost as soon as the information became available. Looking back now, Swanton said that the experience had somewhat trained him for the fast-paced nature of journalism today. “Working for a paper now is like working for AAP all over again in the sense that websites need rolling coverage,” he said.

Before joining The Australian, Swanton previously worked at The Sun Herald, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Daily Telegraph.

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