12 Jan 2018

Rikki Swannell: 'There are a lot of women who love sport'

9:02 am on 12 January 2018

Sports broadcaster Rikki Swannell - Sky TV's first female Super Rugby play-by-play commentator - wants to stand out for being good at her job, not for being a woman.

Sports broadcaster Rikki Swannell

Sports broadcaster Rikki Swannell Photo: Supplied

Ms Swannell will do play-by-play commentary for two rugby games in May and June this year, joining the Sky team of Grant Nisbett, Tony Johnson, Scotty Stevenson and Willie Lose.

She said the new job was exciting and a "little bit nerve-wracking".

"Plenty of people in New Zealand would give their right arm to do what I do and to be given the opportunity," she said.

"It's been pretty overwhelming to be honest. I don't usually get too flustered about things, but I've had so many lovely messages from people, so it's been really nice."

Ms Swannell worked as the head of sport at Radio Sport and Newstalk ZB. She has already been doing commentary on netball, hockey, cricket and tennis for Sky and said the time was right.

"If the management of Sky and the people who have supported me think I'm the one and have the ability to do it, then I'm happy to take it on. I always like to see myself as a good sports broadcaster, not necessarily a good female sports broadcaster."

Ms Swannell will also do sideline commentary for three matches - a job broadcaster Melodie Robinson also did before taking on a new role with Sky TV.

Ms Swannell acknowledged there were still too few women in sport and sport media, saying she and her colleagues "stand out like sore thumbs".

"Things have certainty been changing. Sky gets a bit of grief for whatever reason, but they've been really good at trying to diversify and trying to create opportunities for other women and not just me, behind the scenes as well.

"This isn't just a sports problem or a rugby problem or a even a New Zealand problem. We know where things are at for women in a whole lot of areas."

Ms Swannell said she had not had any backlash from anyone in sport before, but the same could not be said for some on social media.

"I already know what the criticism will be, 'oh, the voice is annoying'. 'I don't like her voice'. It is what it is."

She suspected some people might not be happy with a woman in the role, but Ms Swannell hopes she can change their minds - or be given the chance to.

"Sport is still seen as a masculine and a bloke kind of area, but there are a lot of women who love it, and a lot of women who want to be involved, and a lot women who have the knowledge and ability to do so."

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