One of Australia’s leading sports writers, Ron Reed, has died at the age of 74. His death gave me a bit of a start, and not just because that’s the age I am now (although Ron was closer to 75 than I am). I had no idea Reed was ill, and as far as I can see none of the many tributes to him that have appeared online and in print this weekend have mentioned a cause of death. Indeed, Ron, affectionately known to all and sundry as “The Hound”, was writing his regular sports column in the Melbourne Herald up until just a fortnight ago. The last one was about the death of cricketer Andrew Symonds, and it was full of Ron’s disarming honesty, a great rarity among so-called sports journalists these days. For instance, Ron came straight out and admitted, “Regrettably, I never got to know ‘Roy’ [Symonds] at all. Can’t remember a single one-on-one conversation, only press conferences which were not always all that useful because he didn’t seem to enjoy engaging with journalists and as far as I could tell what relationships he did have with them were often testy.” A week earlier Ron had written about the disgraced Australian basketball Liz Cambage, who he said was “the most disappointing big-name personality in Australian sport – by a long way. Happily, this is not a title for which there is much competition – especially among our female athletes.” Ron had also last year published a book titled War Games, about his father William Cecil Reed's World War II service, including his survival of the bombing of Nagasaki, where Bill Reed was a prisoner of war.
Ronald William Reed came from Warrnambool in Victoria and began his working life there as a proof-reader's assistant on the Standard before getting a cadetship in the late 1960s. He became a general reporter on the Herald but soon after went to London and worked as a sub-editor for Reuters and for the Evening News. He returned to Melbourne in 1971 to become chief sub-editor on the Herald’s sports desk, editor of the Sporting Globe and sports editor of the Herald, then chief sportswriter for the Herald Sun. He retired in 2016, after 45 years with Herald and Weekly Times Group.
I worked alongside Ron on many occasions, notably on covering Ashes cricket series and Olympic and Commonwealth Games. He was a good man to work with, always amiable and helpful, far from the outwardly “gruff” individual mentioned in so many obituaries. At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Ron appeared to be one of the few other Australian members of the International Sports Press Association (AIPS), and therefore knew his way around the testy subject of the allocation of positions in the press tribune for the opening ceremony. Inside information and contacts like that were invaluable when covering major events such as the Olympics, and it came down to having the experience gained from many years of sports writing overseas. Assignments such as the Olympics and Ashes tours were always “plum” appointments in Australian newspapers, and the number of times newspaper executives gave these jobs to people who were completely unqualified to handle them was staggering. Ron Reed was always the right man, and Australian sports journalism is all the poorer now that he has gone.