IN THE period before the metric system was introduced to Australian life, Dennis Cometti, in the early years of a broadcasting career which was to entrench him among the greatest ever sports commentators, had already developed a favourite saying.

"Inch perfect".

It was Cometti's go-to line, in cricket and Australian football broadcasts.

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The line, with an obvious tweak required from the early 1970s when Australia abandoned the imperial system of measurement, has effectively remained the No.1 calling card phrase of the Western Australian with the beautifully smooth voice who this week was named among the 2020 inductions to the Australian Football Hall Of Fame.

"Yeah, people always refer to that one, but really, I don’t think it was ever that clever – when I was a boy, I used to say, 'inch perfect', and so to be with the times, I had to change it to "centimetre perfect", so that was something I never understood as to the reaction," Cometti told AFL.com.au.

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No one survives 51 years in any professional industry without being prepared to change. Cometti certainly has. And yet his ability to stay vehemently true to the ways that initially set him on the path to commentary greatness is the reason he has survived and flourished, all the while being loved by those tuning in to his hear his version of the contest. 

Cometti partially attributes his sustained adoration by the sporting public to his ability to keep things simple. 

"I'm not sure commentators need to have too many opinions, and my opinions are safe," Cometti said.

"I've been able to steer clear of controversy, partly by design, partly by good luck, and I actually don't think I've said too much that I'd like to take back."

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Yet in true, hard marking style, Cometti said he rarely left a match feeling he had "nailed it".

"The good never weighs as much as the bad, you dwell on the bad, keep going over in your head how you could have made a call better than it was," he said.

Cometti was a more than handy footballer, kicking 63 goals in the 1968 WAFL season for West Perth under the coaching of Polly Farmer.

It was during this period that he was a DJ for 6KY, playing top 40 hits and giving extra air time to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

"I thought I had things OK, as it was also around the time I met my wife (Velia), but then my dad passed away, and I probably drifted from footy a bit," he said.

"I used to go to the footy with Dad, he was a full-on footy man, very quiet but what he said made sense. He never heard me call a game, and I know he would've loved to have listened, because he would've heard so much of himself.

"I was an only child, and he and I would go to the footy and talk a lot of footy. Even today, when I'm thinking of footy, I think of him."

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A work transfer to Melbourne – "I was going to do the nightshift on 3DB" – in 1971 saw Cometti "recruited" to Footscray, coached by Ted Whitten.

"I basically hadn't played for two years, but they asked me to come down to have a run," Cometti said. "I'd pass Ted Whitten on the way out, I'd have to leave about 6.40pm to start work at 7.00, and he'd just have a chuckle that I was going off to work.

"I played reserves, four matches. I got the sack from 3DB, so back to Perth."

In Perth, as well as 6KY, Cometti worked for 6PM ("Sandy Roberts was in that newsroom at the time and we had dinner most nights"), 6PR and the ABC.

His big breakthrough in Australian football calling came randomly when he answered a phone which was ringing in the offices of 6KY.

"I was the only one in the room, it was deserted, and a fellow called Ian Major from 3KZ was on the line," Cometti said.

"He thought there was an affiliation between the two stations. There wasn't. But he said he was coming over for the deciding game of the state carnival, WA versus Victoria, 1972, and he wanted someone who could call the game with him.

"I looked around the room and there was no one there, so I said I could do it. We called that game, and the longer it went, the more generous the great Ian Major was."

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan and Cometti at the 2016 Hall of Fame dinner. Picture: AFL Photos

When at the ABC (1972-85), that station regarded Cometti as a cricket commentator primarily, and couldn't understand why he was showing as much, if not more, interest in football, where he was coaching West Perth.

When he said no to a tour offer overseas with Alan McGilvray, "Well, that was the end of me there!"

So it was off to Channel Seven (1986-2001), then Channel Nine (2002-06), and back to Channel Seven for a 35-year period of TV football-broadcast domination acknowledged in dozens of high-end individual awards and an almost impossible, across-the-board, deep love from the viewing and listening public.

Cometti's love of radio has never diminished and while he is now "retired", he still calls Perth matches for Triple M, where he gets a "great buzz" in working with his son Mark. Cometti also has a daughter, Ricki.

"He was called Mark because I'd never heard of a kid called handpass or kick," Cometti said.

If it's not "centimetre perfect", the Cometti phrase most embraced by the public would be "cork in the ocean".

"I plagiarised that one. A 'cork in the ocean' – that was another expression that was in usage – you'd look at a boat on the river, and it would be bobbing about, so that was something that I adapted, I took it and ran with it," Cometti said.

Then there was the time Bulldog Brownlow Medallist Tony Liberatore entered a pack "optimistically, but came out misty optically".

His personal favourite line?

"Maybe one where I was able to combine my two art forms, and use a line from the Rolling Stones," he said.

"(Crows champion) Andrew McLeod was involved in a skirmish, and the umpires had come in to say to the players to break it up, which allowed me to go with, 'Hey, you, get off McLeod'.

"I thought at the time, 'how good is that'?

"And no one said a word!"

Cometti's famous "Hey, you, get off McLeod" line might have fallen on deaf ears in the commentary box. Picture: AFL Photos

Dennis Cometti (Media) by the numbers

Played 38 games and scored 70 goals for West Perth: 1967-1971
Coached 65 games for West Perth: 1982-1984
Football broadcast history:
1972 – 1985: ABC Radio
1986 – 2001: Seven Network
2002 – 2006: Nine Network
2007 ­– 2016: Seven Network
2008 – 2011: 3AW
2012 – Present: Triple M
Appointed as a member of the Order of Australia (AM): 2019
Alf Potter Award: 2006
AFMA Television Caller of the Year on 11 Occasions
Sport Australia Lifetime Achievement Award: 2018
Sport Australia Hall of Fame: 2019
Inducted into the MCG Hall of Fame
Inducted into the AFMA Hall of Fame