End game for Casellas stats

There is a catch and a falter in the familiar voice, a moment of dead air that radio listeners around WA have never heard from Ken Casellas - and will never hear again.

The 76-year-old veteran sports reporter, renowned as the voice which has faithfully relayed the footy stats on ABC radio for 26 years, was this week told his services were no longer required.

The man who never took a sick day in his storied career, who four years ago bounced back to work mere days after a heart attack left him clinically dead for 30 seconds, said passion, not the pay cheque, had always been at the heart of what he did.

That was why he wasn't angry about having to leave the commentary box at Subiaco, where he watched West Coast Eagles beat Richmond in 1987 in the very first WA match of the VFL.

His face filled with emotion, but as has long been the case with Kenny "Stats" Casellas, it was his voice that told the story.

"I'm sad," he said. "It's only human to be sad that I'm not part of it any more.

"Computerisation has reared its ugly head and overhauled me."

A team from sports statistics agency Champion Data and a specialised computer system will replace Casellas, doing what he managed on his own for decades using four coloured pens, a few pieces of paper, a pair of binoculars and a system of recording footy stats he developed when he was an eight-year-old Claremont fan.

What is now the backbone of a multimillion-dollar business that dominates the way fans, commentators and coaches rate performance was, to a young Casellas, just a natural way to keep tabs on his beloved Claremont.

Little known is that the MCG Media Hall of Fame acknowledges Casellas as the pioneer who introduced player match statistics to newspapers, even before he brought them to radio.

"I am very proud to be the inventor of stats in Australia," Casellas said.

There was a sparkle in his eye when he cast his mind back over the years, to the start of a career that began with a cadetship at _The West Australian _in 1954, when he was 17.

In his tenure as chief cricket writer at _The West _ for almost 30 years, he covered hundreds of Tests at home and overseas.

The off-field shenanigans, of which there were many, are something he still won't reveal.

"We didn't hear about scandals back then," he said.

"It was always what goes on tour, stays on tour."

This week, citing costs and the march of technology, the Sydneybased manager of ABC Grandstand Craig Norenbergs told the Perth bureau it was time for Casellas to go.

"It's just the march of progress, computers have caught up and just the depths of stats that we can get now with a computer, probably humans just can't do it as quickly as they can do it," Mr Norenbergs said.

ABC commentator Clint Wheeldon was left to deliver the bad news to Casellas.

"He is a super bloke and amazing at this job and he's going to be a real loss," Wheeldon said. "He's always going to be welcome in the box."

Casellas said he would treasure the gratitude of people he had met all over Australia.

"I love the respect people have shown to me, people I don't even know feeling as though they are lifelong friends of mine, because they've heard my voice for so long," he said.

"It's a wonderful thing."

The West Australian

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