It's a long way to the top if you want to read the news. Yvonne Sampson is a rising star of Australian sports journalism, but that's not to say she hasn't put in the hard yards to get to where she is now. She began her career as a reporter in country Queensland covering rugby league and a mishmash of what can only be described as 'country Queensland' sports, but nowadays you might recognise her from such TV shows as Nine News, The Footy Show, and The Today Show.
Hailing from the Sunshine Coast, Yvonne studied journalism at QUT and got her foot in the door of the industry when her taxi driver father picked up a certain Wendell Sailor in his cab one night. Wendell passed on some contact details and Yvonne was offered weekly work experience at Seven Queensland in Maroochydore. After a year doing work experience, she was offered a full-time job, and began her professional life as a reporter in Maryborough in the dead period between the rugby league and cricket seasons. Covering sports like remote control boat racing, speedway, and pigeon racing wasn't enough to put her off the industry, and she went on to work in other regional centres such as Mackay and Townsville for Seven.
In what Yvonne says was one of the best experiences of her life, she then took 18 months off to travel to Europe, where the horse-lover worked in thoroughbred studs in Ireland and France and rode in a dressage stud in Denmark. She returned to Channel Seven in Australia before taking a job with Sky News in Sydney. In September 2012, she accepted an offer from Channel Nine in Brisbane and returned to her home State.
The Urban List caught up with Yvonne to chat about her experiences as a sports reporter and see how she's re-adapting to Brisbane life.
TUL: How would you describe your gig at the moment?
I'm the luckiest girl in Queensland, who gets to sit next to Wally Lewis, who makes me a cup of tea every day—and he can make a good cup of tea! I also get to do what I love. I go out to training, I talk to coaches, I put my stories together. I'm working for Channel 9 News, and part-time for the Footy Show, which is great because it's a different kind of format to the news. The news is obviously very structured, whereas the Footy Show just breathes and you chime in whenever you feel you can contribute. I also do The Today Show, which, again, is about thinking on your feet and trying to be funny but not inappropriate, which is a bit of a challenge.
TUL: Do you read whatever is on the autocue like Ron Burgundy?
Correct! I do, but I try not to ride the autocue too hard. There will be hurdles all the way through scripts at times so you need to know what you're saying, because the person at home will pick it up straight away.
TUL: Life must be pretty fast-paced and glamorous for a TV personality, how do you get away from it all and relax?
Ha, yes it is fast-paced, but not glamorous. I don't have set days off, sometimes I have no days off, and that's fine because even when I'm working on the coverage it doesn't seem like it's a working day. When you do what you love, it's not really working. In terms of relocating back to Brisbane from Sydney, it has been great. It's just getting that work/life balance.
TUL: What's it like working alongside sporting legends like Wally Lewis, Paul Vautin, and Ian Healy?
I love them! It's funny because when I first arrived I think they were a little bit hesitant, on their best behaviour, minding their manners and all that kind of stuff and then after a few weeks they started to loosen up.
TUL: What about footy players in general? They get a bit of a bad rap, how are they to deal with on a regular basis?
Well, I spent eight years in regional television, and for rugby league players in those places, having a girl there trying to ask them questions post game was a bit of a novelty, so for a fair bit of my twenties I was patronised. But then, I don't know what happened and the tide swung, and all of a sudden girls were flavour of the month, so now I'm very grateful that the players do give me the time of day. Some players are co-operative, some are not, but I don't necessarily think that's gender-based, it's more to do with rapport. However, I do appreciate not being treated like I have leprosy if I'm in the sheds post match. And obviously that shift has happened during my career.
TUL: Favourite Brisbane restaurant?
I'd like to say the Paddo ($9.95 steaks on Mondays), but I feel that everyone would judge me, so I'm going to say Pony.
TUL: Last book you read?
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts.
TUL: What's getting most play on your playlist at the moment?
I love a bit of Frank Sinatra.
TUL: Favourite Youtube video?
Sad Cat Diary, without a doubt.
TUL: Sporting event you're most looking forward to in the next 12 months?
Has to be State of Origin.
TUL Note: After a six-year stint as a freelance journalist in Buenos Aires, Daniel is back in Brisbane to find that his knowledge of Argentinian football is of little practical value here. Luckily, his other areas of expertise, such as eating food, drinking wine, and writing about it, are applicable across most cultures.
Image credit: Daily Telegraph