Good call for AFL commentator Jess Webster

By Josie Fielding 

We often hear the success stories of Queensland players who have made it big when they ventured down to Victoria to do our state proud. Jason Dunstall, Tayla Harris, Katie Brennan and Dayne Beams to name a few. But there are so many different aspects to our great game and incredible stories of people who have chased their dreams off the field. 

Jess Webster is one such success story – going from a NEAFL commentator and administrator to calling play-by-play AFL and AFL Women’s games in Melbourne for Fox Footy and ABC. It has been one hell of a journey to get there and she’s still working away at her craft, but to have the opportunity to call games is an incredible achievement and one to be celebrated.

Jess’ story begins at the Sandgate Hawks in the early 1990s.

“We are a typical Victorian expat family who moved to Queensland,” she said.

“We joined the many Victorians who moved to Queensland because of the weather.”

She came from rich football history with her maternal Grandfather playing for Essendon in the 1950s and her paternal Grandfather a legend for the Nar Nar Goon Footy Club. The best and fairest award is named after him to this day.

“We moved to Bracken Ridge and my brothers got involved at Sandgate,” she said.

One of Jess’ brothers is Daniel Webster, the 2022 QAFL Premiership Coach of the Aspley Hornets and Brisbane Lions AFLW Midfield Coach.

“Daniel then wanted to take the next step and play senior footy at the Zillmere Eagles, so that’s where I first met the Brock sisters,” she said.

The Brock sisters are of course Breeanna, Head of Women’s Football at the Brisbane Lions and a trailblazer for growing footy in Queensland and her sister Roxy who is still heavily involved at Zillmere as the Junior and Youth Vice President. It was here Jess got to experience playing footy for the first time. 

“When Bree formed the Zillmere Eagles football side for the first time, Dad was coach,” she said.

“I played with my brothers at Zillmere but Mum was a bit hesitant about me playing with the boys.”

After graduating from high school, Jess booked her ticket straight to Melbourne to study at Monash University “because I wanted to go straight to the MCG,” she said.

Her dream was to be an AFL commentator like her heroes Bruce McAvaney and Dennis Cometti.


While studying in Melbourne, she would go to the games at the MCG and pay $11 to practice writing up match reports. She did this for two years.

“I was working so much and not getting anything published, so I came back to Brisbane to do my final year of university,” she said.

Returning to Brisbane would be fortuitous as her first article to be published was a match report on the Zillmere Eagles in the Northside Chronicle. After graduating from university, Jess was presented with an opportunity that would turn out to be life changing.

Her then partner was offered a spot on the roster with the Northern Territory Thunder in Darwin, led by now Brisbane Lions Forwards Coach Murray Davis. So, she moved with her partner to the Territory.

It was January 2010 and within two weeks she had landed her first reporting gig at the NT News as a sports reporter. Within weeks of arriving in Darwin, Murray introduced her to legendary indigenous broadcaster Charlie King.

“He’s a massive champion for women and women in the media,” she said.

“He gave me an opportunity to do boundary riding at games. I was only 20 years old.”

While in Darwin, Jess worked at the NT News while taking freelance gigs. During this time, she co-hosted a show on Territory FM, “Saturday Sports” which was all about footy. One of her co-hosts was Charles Croucher, who is now the national political editor at Channel Nine. She would also guest present on a TV show called “The Boot”, which reviewed NTFL and NEAFL.

It really was a breeding ground for opportunity and identifying future talent.

While in Darwin, Jess was inspired by the NT Thunder and decided to put pen to paper and write her first book – Gods of Thunder, which told the story of the formation of the club.

“My book was about what the club represented on and off the field,” she said.

“The main objective was to improve the lives of the indigenous people on and off the field. I published it after they won their second flag.”


After five years in the Northern Territory, Jess was ready to move home to Brisbane and continue to pursue her broadcasting career.

She landed a role at AFL Queensland, as the NEAFL Media and Communications Manager, a new role created for the competition which started in 2011.

“I really loved the NEAFL and that role,” she said.

Within this role, Jess provided opportunities for many hungry reporters looking for their work to be published.

“I created an internship program with AFL Queensland,” she said.

“It took so long for those things to happen to me. We had so many great wins – they’d have their work published on the Lions website or it would do really well on our social channels.

“We built up a really great crew and it’s been so great to see some of those people go on to bigger and better things.

“I’m proud to contribute the way I did.”

Through the NEAFL competition she met the legendary Quentin Hull, an ABC play-by-play broadcaster who can call all four football codes and has been to many Olympic Games and World Cups.


Quentin was the emcee for the NEAFL Awards Night in 2014.

“I told him I was interested in commentary, and I put something on tape for him and he said to come into the office at the ABC and have a listen,” she said.

It was 2015 when she started calling games play-by-play.

“I would practice in the NEAFL games and then go into Quentin’s office where he would listen and provide feedback,” she said.

“Meeting Quentin was a massive moment in my life, he really thought I had something, and he believed in me.”

It was in 2017 when Jess had her big break, calling a men’s game on ABC Radio between the Gold Coast SUNS and Geelong at Carrara.

“It was something I had always wanted to do as a kid,” she said.

“Playing wasn’t an option for me, so this was the next best thing.”

After continuing to work in both the NEAFL space and freelance for the ABC on weekends, Jess was enjoying a glass of wine in her apartment when she was struck by what felt like a bolt of lightning.

“I can’t just expect it to be handed to me,” she thought.

“I can’t be here if I want to do play-by-play. I just need to make the move and go.”

Jess was fully prepared to lose her job but luckily, she was able to continue her work for the NEAFL from Melbourne.

After making the move, in the back end of the 2019 men’s season, she started doing boundary riding for the ABC.

Then, at the start of 2020, she had a fortuitous meeting with a Senior Producer at Fox Footy.

“I met him at AFL House, and I said to myself, I’m not going to let him leave until he knows who I am,” she said.

He told Jess to send him her tape as they were going to need more commentators for the AFLW, as the competition continued to grow year on year.

“I sent him a tape and didn’t hear anything at first, then I received an unexpected call from Fox Footy asking to fill in on the boundary that weekend,” she said. 

“I did one game for Fox in 2020 and then next day, the Australian Government declared the pandemic. 

“Everything just came crashing down.

“I woke up on Monday and I’d lost all my commentary work and was facing no job or income. I was also stood down from my role without pay.

“I went from a career high to ‘what’s going on’ – it was so bizarre.”

The NEAFL competition was disbanded in 2020 so Jess’ job was made redundant. The AFL season was also moved to her home state of Queensland, and she only missed out on returning home by a couple of days before the border was tightened.

“I stopped watching footy, I just couldn’t do it,” she said. 

“For the first time in my adult life I wasn’t working in footy and first time in my life I couldn’t watch it as it was too devastating.

“I couldn’t handle being stuck in lockdown with the AFL being moved to Brisbane and I’m stuck in Melbourne.”

She was able to persevere and land on her feet securing a new job outside of footy, but the year of 2020 was a blur, with Jess doing every single day of the 2020 and 2021 lockdowns in Melbourne.

2021 showed more promise. In the AFLW season she was able to do five games with Fox Footy and she did her first play-by-play AFLW game in 2021 for the ABC.

She had been offered more work for the men’s 2021 season but with Melbourne bouncing in and out of lockdowns constantly, it was hard to lock in dates.

When ABC offered her first opportunity to call a play-by-play men’s game in Melbourne 2021, she had to turn it down to fulfil the role as bridesmaid for one of her best friends – something she has never told her friend.

But another opportunity did come knocking – calling a men’s game in 2021 in front of no crowds.

All up in 2021 she worked on four games with ABC.

For 2022, it was a matter of waiting and then, it exploded.

“With the two AFLW seasons and a men’s season this year, it’s been 11 months straight of commentating footy, so I’ve made up for it,” she said.

“I saw the opportunity and I’ve just grabbed it. It’s been a really, really good year.”

Getting the opportunity to call the games was one thing, but actually doing it was another.

“It’s a high-pressure environment. It challenges you as a broadcaster when you have big moments to call,” she said.

“It’s been so great to look back and learn how I handled those big moments.”


Jess is proud of all she has achieved in the AFL and for chasing her dream.

“My story has been harder than what I thought it was going to be,” she said.

“I kind of felt like the game has owed me. I grew up loving the game so much and I wanted it to love me back which was unhealthy. 

“I wanted to be a commentator and the pandemic saw me dig deep into my mental state.  

“I really learned a lot about mindset and how to take more ownership of my thoughts and my feelings.

“It was the first time in my life without football and I had no idea who I was.

“Quentin told me to slow down and now I’m not so caught up in trying to get to my next destination.

“I’ve learned to sit back and smell the roses.

“I’m a better commentator and better person for it.”

Jess’ career will come full circle this Sunday when she calls the NAB AFLW Grand Final on ABC with her mentor Quentin who helped her all those years ago and helped kickstart her career. 

You can watch also watch her on Fox Footy and listen to her on ABC Grandstand.

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