Football is back tonight but one of the game's best-known voices will be missing.
Veteran commentator Graham "Smokey" Dawson, he of the lemon chicken call and identification of boun- dary and goal umpires, has been kicked out of bounds by 6PR after 15 years as the station's most familiar caller.
Dawson teamed with Brad Hardie in 1999 to cover Friday night games and every away match played by West Coast and Fremantle.
He also called VFL football for the ABC and had an earlier two-season stint for 6PR that included West Coast's 1992 premiership.
"I have called football into Perth for 32 years," Dawson said from his Melbourne home. "I am very disappointed with the way this has happened, but I am also saddened that I did not have the chance to say farewell to the fans."
Hardie will continue to provide expert comments and ball-by-ball commentator Adam Papalia will still commute from Perth. But Dawson has been replaced by Basil Zempilas and Melbourne-based caller Shane McInnes.
Zempilas, who co-hosts 6PR's breakfast show, will be in Melbourne most weekends to call AFL matches for Channel 7 and will double up for the radio station when available.
"We have tried to beef up our coverage a bit," 6PR general manager Martin Boylen said.
"It is something different, but we are mixing it up based on our research."
Dawson, who has called 1732 VFL and AFL matches since his first game in 1974, said he expected to be part of the commentary team again because 6PR used his name as part of its pitch to potential advertisers. Under the heading "Unrivalled season coverage" on its proposal to advertisers, 6PR spruiked the value of its package as "high-profile games called by the Fairfax Radio Network sports team, including Smokey Dawson and Mark Readings".
Dawson's career may be over but he was happy to finally reveal the reason for his lemon chicken call when a team reached 10.9 (69).
"Our favourite Chinese restaurant in Brisbane is the Super Bowl and their best dish is lemon chicken which is No.69 on the menu," he said. "We have been going to the Super Bowl for years and I like to recognise their good work whenever 10.9 appears on the scoreboard."