Sports fans around Australia knew the name, the face and the big voice of Darrell Eastlake. The 75-year-old sadly lost his lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s disease and emphysema.
Nicknamed ‘the Big Man’, Eastlake’s booming and excitable commentary style was a fixture of the Australian sports landscape on Channel Nine’s Wide World of Sports broadcasts. He was one of commentary’s most unique figures, bringing his own original spin to the ‘trousers on fire’ style of commentary made famous by the likes of Murray Walker.
Prior to his television career, Eastlake worked as a baggage handler with Qantas Airways and later ran a surf shop. It was the latter that propelled him into a media role in the 1960s when he gave surf reports on Sydney radio station 2UW.
His rugby league and weightlifting exploits were the stuff of legend. He was once famously banned from the commentary booths of the 1982 Commonwealth Games for being too loud.
Eastlake was equally well known as a motorsports commentary.
His broadcasts included coverage of the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, the short-lived Australian Super Touring Championship, the Gold Coast IndyCar races and also as lead host alongside 1980 Formula 1 World Champion during the Nine Network’s coverage of the F1 Grands Prix from the 1990s until 2002.
“Darrell was a larger than life character who loomed into Australian households with excitement and authenticity,” Nine’s Director of Sport Tom Malone told the network’s news website.
“His impact on sports broadcasting was huge, transforming the way millions of Australians consumed and appreciated sport.”
He retired from broadcasting in 2005, only to be hit with a double diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and emphysema just five years later. With his wife Julie unable to take care of her increasingly frail husband, he moved into permanent nursing home care on the Central Coast, north of Sydney.
Images via Fox Sports