Geoff Bryan arrived at Television New Zealand in the early 80s, preceded by his beard. Apparently TVNZ had never had a continuity announcer with a beard before, and there was some “humming and hahhing” over whether it was a good idea.
Originally born in Pratt’s Bottom, which actually exists on the edge of London, Bryan moved to New Zealand at roughly age 11, after his family lived for a time in Australia (his father worked for record label EMI, having at one point rejected The Bee Gees, after deciding they didn’t have the right stuff). Sports mad from a young age, when he first became a fan of fourth division soccer team Stockport County, Geoff also has memories of sitting at the back of Wellington’s Basin Reserve, cricket scorebook in hand.
Later, university studies in history and political science were abandoned when Bryan began DJing around the country for Radio New Zealand; he did time at hometown Wellington pop station 2ZM.
When presenter Mike Bodnar moved on to regional show Today Tonight in 1982, Bryan took over at TVNZ as a continuity announcer. The job saw him writing his own scripts and guiding viewers through their evening, previewing upcoming programmes. Fans did not seem to find the beard a problem — one elderly fan even refused to let go of his hand until she got her kiss.
By late 1984, Bryan was telling journalist Phil Wakefield he was keen to try something more challenging, like sports or current affairs. But change can take time. He finished a degree in politics and history while continuing presenting. In 1987 18 months were spent on loan from the presentation and promotions department, to help out in sports — including sharing presentation duties with Phillip Leishman for the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
In March of 1989 Bryan joined the TVNZ Sports team full-time. Bryan went on to commentate or present for a host of sports, including Davis Cup tennis, World Cup soccer, the Rugby World Cup and many Commonwealth Games, plus his beloved game of cricket.
After two stints presenting the Olympic Games from a studio back in Wellington, he flew to the United States for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and has presented for every Olympic Games since. In Atlanta, the 16-hour time difference meant starting work at 9.30 each evening.
“I’ve tried to tell people about this,” he told the NZ Herald. “Up all night for 17 days in a row. Sleeping while the Games are on. It being 38 degrees with 90 per cent humidity. And do you know, I haven’t found one person offering any sympathy whatsoever.”
He will also long remember the time he took a backhand from Kiwi tennis player Kelly Evernden directly to the side of the head, five minutes before going on air.
Bryan has also spent many years as a newsreader, heard on stations across the country that are part of The Radio Network.
Infofind - Radio New Zealand Library
Linda Dodge, ‘Geoff’s busy behind scenes’ (Interview) - The Star, 5 November 1985
Phil Wakefield, ‘Frontman Bryan ponders TV options‘ (Interview) - The Evening Post, 18 October 1984
‘Safe? Don’t You Believe It!’ (Interview) - NZ Herald, 12 December 1983
'On Permanent Loan' - NZ Herald, 21 March 1989
‘Adrenalin rules’ (Interview) - The Evening Post, 4 December 1989 ‘
'Olympic viewers to witness a night in the life of Bryan’ (Interview) - NZ Herald, 20 July 1996