Farewell to Stevo: Sky Sports pundits pay tribute to Mike Stephenson
Last Updated: 07/10/16 8:09pm
The 2016 Grand Final will mark the end of an era as Mike 'Stevo' Stephenson will commentate on his final game after 26 years on the microphone.
Stevo's commentary with Eddie Hemmings has become an institution in its own right but all good things must come to an end and his retirement will leave a big hole.
As a player, Stevo was part of the Great Britain team who won the World Cup in 1972 and played a key role in Dewsbury's Championship triumph against the much-fancied Leeds in 1973. Stevo paved the way for the modern hooker - in fact, he changed the way the hooker plays with his darting runs from dummy half.
After moving to Australia and playing for Penrith, Stevo retired from playing in 1978 and had no inclination to come back to England. However in 1990, he led a supporters' group over for Australia's tour, and Eddie convinced the newly formed British satellite television broadcaster BSB to give him a go as a commentator.
As BSB evolved and finally became Sky Sports, Stevo followed and his six-week visit that started way back in 1990 ended up being a 26-year tour!
A keen scholar of the game, Stevo started the Rugby League Heritage Centre which featured the history of the game and looked to preserve memorabilia, including rare jerseys, medals, caps and programmes.
For many years the centre was housed in the basement of the George Hotel in Huddersfield - the same hotel where, back in 1895, 21 northern clubs voted to break away from the Rugby Football Union and form what became the Rugby Football League.
Following the sale of the hotel back in 2013, the collection was in jeopardy but it seems fitting that in the year of his retirement, plans were announced for a national museum to showcase his collection.
Stevo may not have been everyone's cup of tea but no one can deny the passion and love he had for the game and even in retirement he will continue to promote the game.
"I have done my stint and I won't miss television - it's time for younger people to take over," said Stevo.
"I will never miss rugby league because I will still watch it and go to games.
"I don't want to be thought of as the guy who stayed too long - a lot of people probably think that anyway. It's time for me to move on.
"Working alongside Eddie has been a absolute treat and I have enjoyed every single minute - even the arguments. I could not have done it without him."
26 years have flown by and it won't be the same without him. The game will carry on but it won't be the same.
It has been a blast - can I cope without him? We shall wait and see but he will always be a pal.
If any player retires, becomes a commentator and delivers a broadcast with more energy than Stevo I'll be amazed. To do what he does for as long as he has takes fortitude. The fortitude you would expect from a World Cup winner. On the day you are doing a game that is hard to watch and harder to disguise for what it is, we will long for Stevo!!
He is one of the greats. I think a lot of people have forgotten what he did on the field. As a player he was superb - Tim Sheens was a huge fan and says that he changed the way hookers played the game by running from dummy half.
He always has time for everyone and is one of the nicest men I have ever met. He has been an absolute credit to the sport, a true gent and will be sorely missed.
I'm not looking forward to him going. He has been a huge mentor and a huge help for Terry and myself. We started at minus three and we have moved up to about zero - largely down to Stevo helping us out.
With all his experience, it will be a huge loss to the game. In the not-too-distant future, I can see people saying that it is not the same without Stevo.
These are my ratings for Stevo:
Value for money: 10/10 (goes without saying, really)
Comfort: 8/10 (has become more comfortable with age)
Amenities: 8/10 (used to have hair, now not so much)
Location: 10/10 (ubiquitous for the last 25 years)
He has spearheaded the development of televised rugby league in the UK for a quarter of a century along with Eddie Hemmings and Neville Smith and we owe them all a huge debt of gratitude for that.
An amiable host who is perpetually full of joie de vivre, it's never quiet when you're in his company. He is always on hand with advice and feedback, and willing to put himself out for the benefit of others.
If I hear one more story about button mushrooms or gin and tonics at the Novotel, I'll explode. Prone to exaggeration (not necessarily a negative in this line of work).
It's B-Y-E time for Mike! Stevo has been the voice of Super League since its inception and has provided the commentary and controversy that all great sports need. His longevity in the sport, both on and off the field, has been remarkable and I'd like to thank him for his efforts to promote and support the sport for so long.
Professional rugby league is in the entertainment business and there's no doubt that Mike Stephenson has been entertaining. I would like to wish him well in his retirement, hopefully after he's seen his favourite one-pointer win the Grand Final.