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I thank the Prime Minister for his words.
Australians love their sport and we love the great sport commentators.
And the really great commentators, the ones most treasured, never sound like they’re at work, do they?
Not for a minute do they give you an impression that they’re someone just turning up to do a job in a journeyman fashion.
Instead, the really great sporting commentators impart that unbridled joy of being in the presence of what they love most in the world and being able to share it with others.
Les Murray was a really great commentator.
His was a voice counting his blessings, treating every minute, you sensed, as a gift.
A new opportunity to educate Australians about the superiority of what he always called the ‘world game’ - even if, deep down, he knew it was the ‘beautiful game’.
And house by house, broadcast by broadcast, immaculate pronunciation by immaculate pronunciation, he continued his unstinting fight against the use of the word ‘soccer’.
Les saw himself as a warrior for the underdog, for a game starved of attention, squeezed between other codes and unfairly tagged with stereotypes.
Yet in his lifetime he lived to see the emergence of the A-League, the rise of the Matildas and, after so many years of disappointment and defeat snatched from the jaws of victory, the return of the Socceroos to the World Cup.
And it was at World Cup time that Les’ star always shone brightest, when millions of us climbed onto the bandwagon, joining him and his great mate Johnny Warren, sharing in all their despair and delight.
Les’ colleague and dear friend Craig Foster wrote last week about Les:
“Les always said he put football on television not to teach us about football but to teach Australians about the world.”
In fact, that’s what Les did all his life.
Not just as a commentator and champion for the round-ball game but also as a fearless, unstinting advocate of multicultural Australia.
Les, who came to this country as Laszlo Urge, a refugee from Communist Hungary, never forgot the courage of his parents who took that leap of faith, or the generosity of the nation that took him and his family in.
Like millions of others who have joined us as Australians by choice, Les Murray was powerful proof that you could be equally proud of your heritage and your new home.
That love and loyalty of country could be shared, without being divided.
So today we remember a pioneer and a patriot. A family man, an enthusiastic vocalist in the short-lived ‘Rubber Band’ and a person never happier than when humbly serving the sport that he lived for.
His memory and his legacy will live long, may he rest in peace.