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Fordham, David (Dasher) (1949–?)

by Harriet Veitch

The sports commentator David ''Dasher'' Fordham liked to say that he was a lucky man and he was right, when it mattered. He was one of Australia's best known television personalities and lucky enough to spend 30 years travelling the world for his work.

In 1998, he was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia and needed a bone marrow transplant, so he went on the worldwide register and was lucky enough to find a non-related matching donor, against odds of millions to one.

In 2006, he survived treatment for a grade four melanoma. Then in 2009, he was diagnosed with incurable but treatable prostate cancer — and a week afterwards, had a heart attack on the golf course, leading to a quadruple bypass operation. The prostate cancer doctors had told him they couldn't cure him but could probably give him another 10 years of good life. After the bypass, the cardiologist told him the operation would probably give him 15 or 20 years. Fordham, ever the joker, replied, ''Well, that's a better quote than what the urologist gave me.''

Then, on the way home from his first monthly post-operative heart check-up, his car was ''written off'' in a crash with a fully laden semi-trailer and he walked away. Lucky man indeed.

David Fordham was born on September 13, 1949, the third son of Clement Fordham and his wife, Rita (nee Watson), and was educated by the Marist Brothers in Hamilton. In 1973, he married Erica Davies.

He had always been sporting and played rugby union and cricket. He started a law degree at the University of Sydney but soon realised his heart wasn't in it and joined NBN Television in 1977 instead.

He'd already started practicing to be a sports broadcaster; he was noted in his first-grade cricket playing days with Mosman for calling the Melbourne Cup in the dressing room. Of course, his joking nature had also shown up there as he was known for hiding other people's clothing or shoes in the dressing room, often in someone else's kit bag.

In 1981, Fordham moved to Channel Seven in Queensland. In 1985, he came down to Sydney with Channel Ten then moved north again to be with Channel Ten in Brisbane in 1988. His standout feature was his instant recall of sporting facts, figures, and newsworthy highlights, matched only by the ABC's David Morrow. In 1990, he went across to Channel Seven Brisbane.

He covered four Olympic Games (Los Angeles, Seoul, Atlanta and Sydney), four Commonwealth Games (Brisbane, Edinburgh, Auckland and Melbourne) and three Rugby World Cups. Then there was Presidents Cup golf, Davis Cup tennis, Wembley rugby league cup finals, Kangaroo tours, soccer and basketball internationals and a great many rugby league grand finals, State of Origins and test matches.

After recovering from his bone marrow transplant, Fordham was appointed to the Channel Seven commentary team for the Sydney Olympic Games. Against his doctor's advice, he carried the torch on part of its journey and helped to call the Games. He was also the first person on stage for the prelude to the Games' opening ceremony, welcoming the 110,000-strong crowd in the main stadium.

In 2001, the federal government awarded Fordham the Australian Sports Medal. At the end of that year, Fordham retired from television but that did not mean that he stopped work. The Fordhams set up a media consulting business and moved from Brisbane to the Hope Island Golf Resort.

There, Fordham staged golf events every year that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity, particularly to help Olympic athletes achieve their dreams. In 2006, he received a merit award from the Queensland Olympic Council, and in 2009, the Australian Olympic Committee's Order of Merit Award.

He was in demand as a guest speaker and a master of ceremonies in Australia and internationally. As well, he was an ambassador for Tourism Queensland and the Australian Palliative Care Fund, and in 2007 was elected to the board of the Sony Foundation in Australia.

David Fordham, who died of prostate cancer, is survived by Erica, their children Sally and Simon, daughter-in-law Nina, grandchildren Felix and Remy and brothers Bob and John.

Original publication

  • Sydney Morning Herald, 28 December 2011

Citation details

Harriet Veitch, 'Fordham, David (Dasher) (1949–?)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/fordham-david-dasher-14266/text25323, accessed 19 July 2019.

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