In shock news it was announced that Phil Clarke would be hanging up the mic, bringing a commentary and punditry career of almost 30 years to a close.
Even more surprising was the timing of the news, Clarke calling time before the new season starts and doing so with immediate effect meaning that Wigan’s victory over Catalans in the Grand Final was his last gig.
It’s also surprise timing considering that it comes ahead of the biggest season ever of Super League in terms of broadcasting, Sky Sports having signed a deal to broadcast every single game for the 2024, 2025 and 2026 seasons.
It had been assumed that Sky would be needing more commentators and pundits due to that hence losing Clarke to retirement seems to be a major blow.
There had already been plenty of questions about what Sky Sports’ coverage of Super League would look like in 2024, given their coverage of every single game, but this adds further questions such as who will replace Clarke in the hot seat?
Here are five candidates who could be set to step up and fill the big shoes left behind.
Amor hung up the boots last season and transitioned into punditry and co-comms effortlessly working for Channel 4. Given the fact he’s only just exited the game he still has incredible knowledge of how the game is played and can therefore offer insight that is cutting edge. If he doesn’t earn a Sky Sports gig then expect the BBC to make a play for him for Challenge Cup coverage.
Kev Brown has appeared on Sky Sports coverage from time to time so already has his foot in the door, but his main gig last year came when covering the Championship for Viaplay. With Viaplay having changed back to Premier Sports there’s huge uncertainty over a Championship TV deal, however Brown more than proved his worth on that channel and will be someone that should be looked at for a larger role.
Another man who has worked alongside Mark Wilson, this time on TalkSport, but Paul Cooke is incredibly knowledgeable on the game and most importantly speaks with passion about the sport. He’s made a number of appearances on Sky, notably for the Hull derby, and it would make plenty of sense for him to adopt a bigger role in the coming season.
He’s one of the most experienced coaches in the sport but for the 2024 season he seems to be taking a break from coaching, as per Forty Twenty, and that could mean that John Kear is available at the perfect time to replace Clarke. There’s very little Kear doesn’t know about the game and from his brief work with Sky Sports and the BBC previously he’s evidently elite at the job of co-comms or punditry.
Another man with plenty of experience in the game both on the field and off the field as a pundit is Leeds Rhinos legend Jamie Peacock. He’s primarily worked for BBC on their Challenge Cup coverage as well as covering internationals, most recently he worked on the England and Tonga Test series. Not shy to put forward an opinion potentially he could be a strong candidate to step up.
He announced his retirement live on Sky Sports last year and spoke incredibly well in defeat against Wigan Warriors in the Grand Final, some would argue that Sam Tomkins is made for broadcast media. He’s one of the sharpest minds in rugby league and from the gigs he’s done so far on Sky Sports, Channel 4 and the BBC he’s proven to be incredibly well-spoken and articulated in his arguments. Whilst he’s committed to an off-field role with Catalans, there’s hope he could split the job and take on some commentary work.
Mark Wilson (Special Mention)
Wilson worked the comms for the incredibly popular Channel 4 coverage so it makes sense that he could come into consideration for the Sky Sports gig. Whilst Clarke was more of a co-commentator, the fact that all games are set to be broadcast could see Wilson required anyway as the main commentator to split time with Bill Arthur. His tone of voice and ability to convey the excitement and drama at the ground is a skill that every commentator would be jealous of. Wilson would be an exceptional hire.
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