The Wigan R.L. Hospital Broadcasting system was officially opened before the first game of the 1954-55 season by Harry Sunderland. Initially, Jack Keane shared the commentary with the club’s directors.
After about a month the directors appealed for volunteers who were asked to contact the then Secretary, Jack Wood. It is believed that about ten or twelve people volunteered. The Directors decided to audition four and invited Harry Carey to attend the “A” team game against Workington the following Saturday. Incidentally for the first three or four years all “A” team games were covered, as well as first team games, such was the interest in following Rugby League while in hospital.
Harry turned up to find that he was the only one there and the sole director present directed Harry to the front of the Directors’ Box where the socket was located for connecting the equipment. Harry had to commentate on his own for the majority of the match, having never done any commentary in his life before that.
Three days later Harry met John McDermott, who had also volunteered but had not been invited down for the audition and suggested that he join him. This produced the first commentary team of Harry Carey, John McDermott and Jack Keane who covered matches for around seven or eight years. The team changed when Jack Keane took over the running of the Wigan Colts and a new member was recruited, Ray Unsworth.
As facilities in hospitals improved with the introduction of TVs on the wards, the “A” team games were no longer regularly covered but Hospital Radio then started to cover first team away games. Eventually, away games were dropped, as a regular event, probably because it became difficult to guarantee someone could cover the away games and, also because some grounds did not have the facilities we had at Wigan.
A new member of the commentary team joined around 1987, Roy Knowles. Later John McDermott moved onto other pastures, including providing the commentary on Micron Videos of matches.
The team of Harry, Ray and Roy continued until the final match at Central Park after which Ray and Roy took a well-earned retirement. During the early 1990s Kevin Riley was asked by Harry to step in to cover for Ray and Roy who were away on England Schools duty. Kevin remained with the team after their return.
During the time at Central Park match commentary was a one-way affair along a fixed wire from Central Park. Around 1998 new equipment meant that commentary could go through to the studios at Wrightington from where it was directed to other hospitals in the Wigan area. This equipment allowed two-way communication between the studio presenters and the commentary team at the match.
When Wigan Warriors moved to the then JJB Stadium (now DW Stadium) Harry and Kevin continued to provide coverage from a position on the TV Gantry on the West Stand. They also provide commentary through the stadium’s Inductive Loop System. Unfortunately, illness caused Harry to retire after a couple of years at the new ground and his place was taken by Ken Aspinall who had previously been providing coverage of Leigh’s games for Radio Metro, the Leigh Hospital Radio Station. Ken has also retired to be replaced by Phil Ashcroft.
Hospital Radio Wrightington continues to provide commentary of all Wigan’s home games and major games away from home such as the Challenge Cup Finals and semi-finals. So, Wigan fans who are unfortunate enough to find themselves in hospital when the Warriors are at home can tune into to Hospital Radio and still enjoy the match experience.
The commentary team for the final game from Central Park in 1999.
Roy Knowles, Harry Carey, Kevin Riley and Ray Unsworth
Kevin Riley at the DW Stadium
Ken Aspinall at Wembley Stadium