Mike Whitney

Author: Howard Rich

“I guess I’m a bit of a perfectionist in that way but I always respect the people I work with and, in turn, they seem to respect me.”
‘Passion’ and ‘Heart’ are the two most endearing characteristics which encapsulate the life of popular Sydney icon Mike Whitney, host of one of Australia’s longest running television shows – Channel 7’s Sydney Weekender – dynamic former fast bowler for NSW and Australia cricket teams, and lead singer with his own group The Mike Whitney Band.

“I feel I’m one of the luckiest people around when it comes to combining three of my loves in life: sport, business and music,” he says. “To have represented in cricket at the top level, including 12 Tests for Australia and a long, successful career with NSW having played with and against some of the greatest names in the world, then progressing to a business career hosting shows such as Who Dares Wins, Gladiators and Sydney Weekender – the latter for the past 22 years – is more than I ever dreamed of. It doesn’t get much better than that. I have to pinch myself that I have come so far.” Mike’s introduction to Test cricket came when he was not even originally chosen in the Australian team to tour England in 1981.

“I was playing some cricket in England during the off-season when I got a surprise call from management to say that I was required to join up with the Test team because of injuries to the Australian squad. I then found out that I was rooming with the great fast bowler, Dennis Lillee, a cricketing ‘god’. I was keen to ask him for advice early on. Dennis replied by pointing to the Australian coat-of-arms badge on his cricket shirt: ‘That’s what you play for. Always give 100 per cent. Just keep going at full bore – no matter what.’ They were words of wisdom that have served me well in all facets of my life. Life is all about making the most of the opportunities that come your way and that is my main driver in life – giving 100 per cent.”

“Hosting Sydney Weekender only came about because a particular executive at Channel 7 was keen to give me a chance. They basically took a punt on me – a big punt at that! I think they wanted someone who was a bit outside the square who had a personable style,” Mike says, rather modestly. “I guess they saw me as a bit of a knockabout bloke with fuzzy hair who somehow seemed to relate to the cricket crowds at the game or else those watching on TV – or maybe even some of the fun TV ads which I was luckily chosen to be a part of. All I knew was that having been given the nod as host, I didn’t want to let management down. I have always strived to do the very best I can in my role and somehow it seems to be working okay.”

“These days, I like to get involved in all facets of the show by offering some suggestions whenever I think there may be an opportunity to add value to a particular scene. I guess I’m a bit of a perfectionist in that way but I always respect the people I work with and, in turn, they seem to respect me. Above all, I admire MIKE WHITNEY By Howard Rich “’I’ve learnt so much from working on the show and I have advanced my knowledge of NSW considerably in the process. I think if I threw a dart on a map of the State, our Sydney Weekender team could give you the run-down on just about any village or town the dart happened to land on,” Mike asserts. “That’s because the nature of the program has allowed our team to visit so many fascinating places and meet intriguing characters on the road from all walks of life.”

“One such visitation for one of the show’s segments gave me the opportunity to do an interview with a natural foods expert who has now steered me into leading a healthier way of life. I follow this guy’s food regimen and it absolutely works for me,” he says. Perhaps there might be a Mike Whitney cookbook in the pipeline?

To release the pressures of everyday life, Mike believes music provides the solace he needs. “I grew up listening to The Beatles amongst other great artists. The group was so inspirational in the eyes of my sister and myself.
In particular, I was a great John Lennon fan.” In later life, Mike has been fortunate enough to meet the likes of such music luminaries as Elton John (who is a great cricket fan), Ronnie Wood of The Rolling Stones and legendary guitarist Eric Clapton.” As far as producing his own music with The Mike Whitney Band, Mike says: “We just love the interaction with our fans. It’s great to see people having fun and we hope we can keep it going for many
more years.”

Mike equates the teamwork aspect involved in cricket, his TV work and his band, as being instrumental in “putting on a good show for fans”

“With my band, if everyone does their job and does it well, we are going to sound good. If everyone pulls their weight in a cricket team, you’ll generally win the game. And in business, if everyone is on the same page, the results will come”.

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