Staff Writer
Staff Writer

Revealed: The Top New Talent to Watch in 2018 and beyond

If the discovery and guidance of new on-air talent is a critical indicator of a healthy radio industry, then Radio Today’s annual rundown of The Top New Talent to Watch in 2018 suggests a bright future.

Paul Jackson, NOVA Entertainment’s group program director will tell you “a strong radio brand coupled with great talent is a powerful and often winning factor in any market.”

This year we threw out the rulebook, looking beyond just radio, to unearth fifteen new voices from an original list of over fifty names.

As always, Radio Today invited submissions from group content directors, metro and regional CDs, talent managers and industry consultants. To remain relevent, these networks, programmers and executives have a responsibility to develop the talent pipeline.

This is something Australian Radio Network’s national content director, Duncan Campbell, truly believes in.

“Investment in talent is a key priority for ARN,” he says. “ We have some of Australia’s most loved talent, and that has helped deliver some of the highest rating, long-term on-air partnerships of any network.”

This year’s fresh pickings arrive on the coveted list from all corners. Street teams, regional markets, community radio, stand-up stages, football fields, newsrooms and capital cities.

They join an impressive alumni of radio favourites. Abby Coleman and Josh Thomas (2012), Ryan Jon and Heidi Anderson (2013), Tommy Little and Ash London (2014) Tom and Olly and Jaben Ryan (2015), Sam Pang and Tanya Hennessy (2016) and, last year, Ben and Liam and Sarah Mcgilvray.

Southern Cross Austereo’s group creative officer Guy Dobson put it best: “Great talent is what separates us. Great talent is key in all areas of our business.”

The names below are determined, ambitious, talented and respected by their peers and programmers. Their sights are firmly set on breaking big, and their bosses think they’ve “got it”.

In no particular order, here are The Top New Talent to Watch in 2018 and beyond.

Nick Allen-Ducat and Tom Murray – Weekend announcers, Nova 106.9

Nova 106.9’s worst kept secret, Nick Allen-Ducat and Tom Murray are proof that the new age of radio humour is upon us. The idea behind “Nick and Tom’s Super Secret Sunday Show” (and accompanying podcasts) is that the boys aren’t meant to be on air, dubbing themselves “nobody’s” because they’re not “B-Grade celebs from Big Brother, The Bachelor or even MKR”. The pair joke that Jay Walkerden would never actually put us on air, so they pretend to highjack the studio and get broadcasting.

“It’s a heightened and over the top concept that we have fun with, but everyone listening is part of the secret show,” Nick told Radio Today when the show started back in October last year.

Of course, the pair are far from nobody’s – Nick is an assistant producer of Nova Brisbane’s Breakfast show with Ash, Kip and Luttsy and lends his voice to Meet the Marshalls, while Tom is also an announcer in his own right. Utilising both the airwaves and podcast listeners and social media, the young pair pepper their conversations with jokes that build on one another, anecdotes tailored to a younger market and listener interaction – all while they continue to build their audience.

Crystal Vas – Breakfast announcer, Power FM Nowra

Receiving ACRA nominations for Best On-Air Team (regional/provincial) for the last two years running, Crystal worked as part of two different breakfast shows at Power FM in Bega before being promoted to the Grant Broadcasters station in Nowra.

Covering the fun, the awkward and even the serious topics she’s most passionate about, Crystal believes she’s creating some of her best radio to date.

“With guidance from many influential people within the industry such as Sean Craig Murphy, Mickey Maher, Luke Toohey and Dean Kesby, I think I’ve now really found myself as an announcer, and really pride myself on delivering ‘real’ content,” she told Radio Today.

Speaking on the powerful break below, she explained: “I was blown away at the amount of women we had call the station, message on Facebook and even physically come in to share the stories they had with sexual assault after I opened up about my experience”.

Luke Kidgell and Lewis Spears – Weekend announcers, Fox FM Melbourne

Luke and Lewis are two of Australia’s biggest online entertainers and part of the new wave of emerging stand-up comics that blend the power of online content creation with the traditional skill set of live stand-up comedy.

Friends for years, they describe their show as “a mix of banter, challenges, sketches and other intriguing buzzwords”.

But buzz is exactly what they are creating, thanks to the transition from a daily show on Triple M Modern Digital to their new Fox FM Sunday nights show via SCA’s internal talent development unit, Hubble.

Mitchell Tinley and Michael Ross – Breakfast announcers, Hit Limestone Coast

There are some things you can plan for, and other things can only be left up to fate.

Mitchell and Michael started their show at Murdoch University, “after being picked last to form a group in class… luckily our names sounded good together,” the pair joked with Radio Today. And the rest, as they say, is history.

After trying to sell their show to the FM networks, the fresh faces were given a shot at Perth’s hit92.9, bouncing around various timeslots until they landed on Sunday nights. They were offered the opportunity to host their first breakfast show in Mount Gambier on Limestone Coast hit96.1 at the end of 2017, and jumped at the chance. Their organic friendship translates seamlessly to on-air breaks, and their style of storytelling is perfect for the start of the day.

Bec Judd – announcer, KIIS Network

Probably one of Australia’s busiest personalities, Bec wears the hats of television presenter, brand ambassador, speech pathologist, wife and mum. And all of that before she’s even gone to air!

She may have become a household name when she accompanied her partner, AFL star Chris Judd, to the 2004 Brownlow Medal in a dress that became the talking point of the night.

These days she co-hosts the national KIIS FM 3PM Pick Up alongside Katie ‘Monty’ Dimond and Yumi Stynes. With ARN for less than a year, Bec has already picked up an ACRAs nomination for Best Newcomer On-Air – no doubt a sign of things to come for the talented 35-year-old.

Brooke Boney – Breakfast news presenter, triple j

Connecting the triple j team to Hack and ABC News through her work as a news presenter, Brooke also often provides the voice of reason to the Breakfast show.

Brooke is a Gamilaroi Gomeroi woman who grew up in Northern NSW, before studying journalism at UTS and volunteering at Koori Radio.

She then did a stint in Canberra where she covered two election campaigns, multiple leadership spills and four Prime Ministers as SBS’s NITV News political reporter. An accomplished journalist, Brooke has also covered Indigenous and foreign affairs for ABC News and now shares that wealth of experience on triple j Breakfast, where she joins triple j Brekkie boys Ben & Liam every weekday morning.

Danny Lakey – announcer, Hit Network

Thank goodness for podcasts, because a lot of us aren’t “wakey wakey” when Danny Lakey goes to air between midnight and 5am. But that hasn’t stopped the 28-year-old from producing some of radio’s most interesting content this year.

Originally from Western Australia and grew up in Perth, Lakey started out doing casual music shifts at hit90.9 Sea FM Gold Coast and has also worked at hit 92.9 Perth and the breakfast shift at Star 106.3 in Townsville.

Last year he was co-hosting breakfast across the Hit Network in Central Queensland alongside Carly Portch, but 2018 has seen Lakey find his feet amid the early starts and the solo show, taking the opportunity to touch on topics no other show would dare touch.

A.H. Cayley – weekend announcer, Triple M Sydney

A.H. Cayley co-hosts Triple M Sydney’s new Saturday morning show Weekend Legends with Kris Gale and Andrew Rose, and in 2017 she anchored Triple M’s rugby league comedy show The Back Row, which she, Gale and Rose co-created.

A.H. got her start at FBi Radio, where she created, produced and hosted the station’s still-running politics show Backchat. In 201,5 she was one of only four broadcasters to launch ABC Radio’s podcasting platform, hosting a 10-episode comedy series called Confession Booth.

She has guested on triple j and across the ABC, written for radio comedy series A Rational Fear, and once had to apologise to Bob Carr for a joke she made on Radio National (something which she maintains this is unfair because “he has never had to apologise for the public transport system”). And it’s this experience with serious matters, combined with her sharp tongue and sports brain that makes her an incredible asset to Triple M.

Kian Oliver –  announcer, KIIS Network

By the time Kian was 18, he was signed with music label Ministry of Sound as an artist/producer, but it was studying audio engineering that put Kian on the path to radio greatness.

Starting as an audio producer at 101.7 WSFM & The Edge 96.ONE, Kian worked his way up to the Breakfast audio producer for WSFM’s Jonesy & Amanda. Along the way, Kian also became the announcer for The Edge 96.ONE’s Drive Home (3pm to 8pm weekdays) and is the reigning number one announcer on Digital Radio in Sydney.

In 2017, Kian’s voiceover artistry excelled as he became the voice of Spotify Australia, as well as voicing promotions for Google. After moving to KIIS FM, Kian became weeknights show host to finish off 2017 and rated number 1 in Melbourne, KIIS 101.1, and number 2 in Sydney, KIIS 1065. Recently Kian joined the KIIS 1065 Kyle & Jackie O Show team as audio producer and is the new host for the iHeartRadio Countdown Show.

Xavier Ellis – Breakfast announcer, hit92.9

From country Victoria to the west coast via the footy field, 2018 saw Xavier Ellis land the gig as one-third of hit92.9’s breakfast show.

No stranger to Perth (he played for the West Coast Eagles in 2013 after all), Xavier cut his teeth in radio with weekend Breakfast before being promoted to the weekday team alongside Heidi Anderson and Ryan Jon.

While he may cop some flack for having the most drawn-out university degree in Swinburne history – 13 years and just passing the halfway mark – it’s his rawness, resilience and often surprising opinions (especially when it comes to his man crush on AFL player Rory Sloane) that make him a fast favourite among listeners.

Laura ‘Loz’ O’Callaghan – Breakfast announcer, Fresh 92.7

Loz is one of the ‘freshest’ voices on-air at Fresh, and her professional sound has already caught the ear of the likes of Craig Bruce.

Moving from a volunteer at Fresh 92.7 writing copy, co-hosting Wavelength and hosting her own development show (“Loz and Treasure for Your Leisure”), the 26-year-old has been helping Adelaide wake up alongside Mark ‘Thomo’ Thomas for the last three weeks.

But it’s her quick wit, ability to laugh at herself, and a lifetime of listening to Fresh that makes her one to watch.

Jess Farchione – Breakfast announcer, hit106.9 Newcastle

Recognised as Best Newcomer On-Air (Provincial) at last year’s ACRAs thanks to her work at Shepparton’s hit96.9, all eyes were on where Jess would end up next. And the move to Hit 106.9 Newcastle to join Simon Baggs and Nick Gill on the Breakfast team

At the time of the announcement, SCA Newcastle group content director Mike Byrne told Radio Today: “Jess is a very much an up and comer. She’s smart, funny and just a really good egg”.

Broadcasting with an air of experience far beyond her youth, she’s settled into her new city nicely and has quickly been able to share personal anecdotes and relate to listeners like someone who has been in the job for years.

Ben Stevenson – announcer

You have to be able to laugh at yourself if you agree to a bet that involves wearing a tuxedo for a whole month in tropical Darwin. Thankfully that’s exactly what Ben can do, as both a comedian and a radio host.

He recently left Hot100 Darwin’s Breakfast show after three years, and in that time the show had a share of 35.2%. It was Ben’s fast humour and dedication to going the extra mile for a stunt (including a completing a bike race on a penny farthing and skydiving for charity) that made for easy and enjoyable listening, and helped the show claim #1 Breakfast in the survey.

Currently pursuing his next step in radio, Ben’s comedy has long been recognised too – even leading him to be named a finalist in the RAW Comedy NT Final this year.

Rosie Panetta – announcer and assistant Breakfast producer, Nova 919 Adelaide 

Fresh 92.7 alum Rosie notched up time on air as both a newsreader and announcer before moving media outlets (to Fairfax Media’s Port Augusta newspaper), stations (to Magic FM) and then states (to WA, which included a stint as Hot FM Breakfast announcer alongside Ryan Jon – a gig that earned her an ACRA nomination no less) before returning home to Adelaide (despite the fact that she’s never been to a V8 Supercars events).

Proving she’s not afraid to take on a new role, she’s now an assistant producer on the Lewis & Lowe with Hayley Pearson Breakfast show. The self-proclaimed writer, talker and frequent over-thinker has also dabbled in a bit of blogging and podcasting under the name “I Hate To Whinge…” – a true jack of all trades!

Sam Taunton – announcer

Comedian, MTV Australia VJ, radio announcer… Sam Taunton is a natural triple threat when it comes to the entertainment business.

Since bursting onto the comedy scene in the 2015 Triple J RAW Comedy National Final (where he received the judges’ ‘Special Mention’ award), Sam has gone on to receive a nomination for Best Newcomer at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and captivate audiences all over the world.

Combining savvy storytelling with quick-fire punchlines, Sam also enjoyed some time on the airwaves at JOY 94.9 in Melbourne alongside fellow comedian Alex Ward.

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Recent comments (24)
Sam summers
2 Mar 2018 - 12:28 pm

This is a great list! Only people I think were missing are Jeff and Big Spaghett but other than that we’ll done everyone!

2 Mar 2018 - 1:05 pm

Top list some unreal talent there. Good initiative radio Today.

Alo Baker
2 Mar 2018 - 1:08 pm

YES!!!!!!!!!!! ROSIE PANETTA!!!


2 Mar 2018 - 1:08 pm

SCA should be proud some good names in there. Its good to see the SCA talent pipeline is alive and well. Some other networks lagging behind in talent development though.

2 Mar 2018 - 1:38 pm

Great talent is what separates us. Well said Dobbo. I only hope SCA give some new up and coming talent a shot at prime time shows like ARN are doing at KIIS Melbourne. Good they are giving them the break they need.

nova not good
2 Mar 2018 - 3:28 pm

Not a bad list. Pretty poor form from Nova, probably the worst network for talent development.

2 Mar 2018 - 3:33 pm

What a joke.. all new talent cooking through sound robotic. Management wouldn’t know good talent if it hit them in the face!

Nick and Tom for president
2 Mar 2018 - 3:53 pm

Nick and Tom YEAH BOI. Watch those guys, great story in Tom Murray too. From audio producer to the next John Laws #Inspired

2 Mar 2018 - 4:10 pm

Should be more regional talent and what about podcasters they are the read deal.

2 Mar 2018 - 4:14 pm

Good seeing some comedians here thats where the next generation of breakfast and drive talent come from. The next Sam Pang, Em Rusciano, Mick Molloy, Will Anderson, Dave Thornton, Amos Gill. Listeners want comedy in breakfast and drive so the comics are the ones with big futures ( and big money I suspect )

2 Mar 2018 - 5:03 pm

Nice seeing FBI, Joy and Triple J talent receiving a nod. Some great talent come out of community radio. Hughesy and Kate and Sam Pang and Wil started on community radio too.

2 Mar 2018 - 5:39 pm

The weird thing about Luke and Lewis is that Luke is quite a lot shorter than Lewis. Lewis is very tall – and it’ll be interesting to see how this plays into their dynamic since previous on air duos have been similar heights to each other. #heightwatch

Mark Stephens
2 Mar 2018 - 5:54 pm

Haha Lewis Spears, for a minute I thought it said Lewis Pears.
Now thats a show I’d listen too. Just Luke and a a guy eating pears.

2 Mar 2018 - 5:59 pm

Top New Talent? More like Top New Planet!

Haha just a quick little joke guys nothing to take seriously, well done to everyone on the list!

Simon M
2 Mar 2018 - 6:58 pm

Re ‘Craig’

“cooking through”? perhaps lay off the gear my friend and perhaps listen to the audio. These people sound fresh and different and deserve our encouragement. If you think you can do better upload some audio and let us be the judge

2 Mar 2018 - 7:31 pm

Bec Judd? Are you serious?
Seriously? Are you serious?
Your list list all credibility trying to hit the diversity quota.

3 Mar 2018 - 1:22 pm

Critical to seeing where new talent will go is if they can re-invent the giveaway, a radio staple, a block of marble if you will, which all hosts must approach with their own individual chisels and tap at with vigor, passion and a sprinkle of banter.

3 Mar 2018 - 1:29 pm

Great list but many contenders, I say we take it to the O C T O G O N! A fight for content supremacy and precious fertile land. We meet at dawn at my cousin’s farm, he has built it to regulation and certainly has tetanus as a result of poor rust management.

4 Mar 2018 - 11:08 am

About time there was some diversity on these lists. The best so far Radio Today.

4 Mar 2018 - 2:17 pm

Dan is right. Sam Pang, Em Rusciano, Mick Molloy, Will Anderson, Dave Thornton, Amos Gill and others like Hamish Blake, Wendy Harmer, Amanda Keller, Stav, Lehmo, Wippa, Marty Sheargold, Lawrence Mooney all have backgrounds as comedians. You could do a list of top comedians on radio or Top up and coming comedians. Our best radio performers are comedians. And in the future I’m guessing there will be even more comics on air.

4 Mar 2018 - 5:51 pm

SCA will steal all these for The Bubble.

5 Mar 2018 - 10:02 am

I applaud radio today for promoting and showcasing new radio talent. Nice work guys.

5 Mar 2018 - 6:22 pm

Jase and PJ are worth a mention they’ve only been on air a few months. They are green but will improve.

6 Mar 2018 - 6:40 pm

I agree Jase and PJ from KIISFM could be ok in a few years.