TV footy commentary legend who called over 1100 games announces he has incurable blood cancer – and reveals why he’s now speaking out after keeping the diagnosis a secret for a year
- Icon of Aussie Rules makes shocking news public
- Discovered he had myeloma in May 2022 after fall
- Became the face of footy over 46 years career
Beloved AFL commentator Sandy Roberts has announced he is suffering from the incurable blood cancer myeloma after keeping the crushing diagnosis a secret for a year.
A veteran who called over 1100 games as he became the face of footy at Channel Seven during a 46-year career. The 73-year-old first learned he had the disease after a fall at home in May 2022.
“I ended up in the hospital and was told I had no broken bones or internal injuries, but I did have cancer,” he told the Announce sun.
‘Just like that, we had no idea. If I hadn’t fallen, who knows what would have happened.
“It was such a shock. I had undergone open-heart surgery three months earlier and came out of it with a good feeling.’
Roberts became the face of footy during a glittering 46-year television career in which he played over 1100 games
The 73-year-old (pictured with AFL great Alastair Lynch at an awards ceremony in 2015) decided to go public about his health battle to raise awareness about blood cancer myeloma
Myeloma is a rare blood cancer that arises from plasma cells in the bone marrow. The abnormal cells then spread through the bone marrow, causing the body to struggle to produce normal blood cells.
People who have the disease suffer from weakened immune systems, damaged bones, frequent infections and kidney problems – and it’s one of the few cancers that modern medicine can’t get rid of.
Roberts said he first knew something was wrong in February last year when he became short of breath — and initially thought his heart was the problem.
Roberts – who retired in 2019 after covering major sporting events including the Summer and Winter Olympics, Melbourne Cups and Australian Open tennis – is now speaking out as he leads a campaign to raise awareness about the condition .
“Nearly 30 percent of patients die within 18 months of diagnosis,” he said of the disease, which doctors treated with chemotherapy.
Roberts (pictured with Channel Seven colleague Bruce McAvaney in 1997) built a reputation as a respected and adored figure in the game
“I lost weight and was weak and lethargic…yes, it was not pleasant,” he said Channel Seven.
Roberts’ wife Carolyn recalled how the illness left them both in a dark place.
“Sometimes you want to fall into a hole, you sure do,” she said.
“There were times when I went into the bedroom and cried, and I’m sure Sandy did the same, but you have to keep going.”
Roberts hopes good news is on the horizon for anyone battling the disease.
Experts in Myeloma Australia and all over the world they say a cure is very close – so fingers crossed it’s really close.’
In addition to his highly regarded work in footy, Roberts (pictured with Leigh Matthews in 2014) has covered multiple Olympics, Grand Slam tennis and top golf
By the time Roberts retired in February 2019, he had become synonymous with footy through his work with Seven and Fox Sports.
A fixture on VFL and AFL broadcasts since 1973, he built a reputation as a highly respected caller and host covering eight Summer Olympics, three Winter Olympics, plus tennis, golf and horse racing.
One of his most famous calls came during a 1993 AFL match at the SCG, when injured Swans player Craig Nettlebeck smuggled a pig onto the ground during the team’s clash with St Kilda.
“There’s a pig on the ground – there’s a pig at full speed!” exclaimed Roberts.
“I want to thank all viewers for welcoming me into their lounge areas for nearly five decades. It’s an absolute honor to feature live sports on TV for a living and to share that excitement with fans. It is now time to hand over the keys to the commentary box to young guns,” he said at the time.