THE iconic newscaster Brian Henderson is returning to television, but like a true screen legend he is returning for a one night engagement only.
A decade after he ended an extraordinary 46-year career reading Australia's most watched nightly news bulletin on Channel Nine, "Hendo" has been lured out of retirement by Foxtel.
The 81-year-old will narrate a documentary, The Train: The Granville Rail Disaster, which explores the aftermath of the 1977 rail disaster and the heroism of the rescue workers who attended it.
Though the date was not chosen deliberately, it comes serendipitously on the 10th anniversary of Henderson's retirement.
Since retiring, the veteran newscaster says, there have been occasional pangs of regret, but only momentary ones.
"It was a hell of a long time to do news, and I was very lucky I was in it at the stage I was, the early times anyway, because there weren't as many options, and I worked with very good people," he says.
When Henderson stepped down from his position at Nine, the network was at the top of the ratings ladder and winning a long-standing war with rival Seven.
Watching Nine's ratings decline from the sidelines, he says, was difficult. In recent years he says he was greatly heartened by Nine's clawback.
"I still refer to Channel Nine as 'we', but I am not one of them, I am an outsider, I have left, but it's hard not to use that word," Henderson says.
On Nine's current chief executive, David Gyngell, who pulled off the deal of the decade in convincing Nine's debtors to exchange their debt for equity, he says: "David is a really good risk-taker."
Henderson agreed to narrate the Granville documentary because its producers – Graeme McNeice and Rob Hurst – are old friends and colleagues.
The documentary will screen on Foxtel in January.
The disaster claimed the lives of 83 people and injured more than 200 more when a morning commuter train came off the tracks and slammed into the supports an overhead road bridge.
The derailment split open some of the carriages, caused overhead bridge to collapse and, as a result, brought masonry, cars and their passengers down onto two of the train's carriages.
For Henderson, what remains clear in his memory of the disaster is the "horrifying" images.
"The rescuers were amazingly brave and persistent," he says. "Some of the pictures were very good in the sense of quality of picture. I suppose what I remember is a mixture of things," he says.
The veteran newsman, who is also remembered as the host the iconic 1960s music series Bandstand, admits nightly news has been a tough habit to break.
"I still watch Nine News, I want to see how Peter [Overton] is going," he says. "But I like to keep a check on the lot, I watch the ABC. It's a hard habit to break and anyway, news is interesting."
Henderson admits he tries to watch the news as a viewer, but can't resist taking mental notes on style and delivery.
"I try to watch it as a viewer, but I'm like an ex-footballer," he says. "I'll think, that's the wrong emphasis, or sometimes thinking they can't do another bloody whale story, they've done two this week. It intrudes into my resolution to watch as a viewer."
At the age of 81, Henderson still looks fighting fit. He and wife Mardi are just back from a holiday to Thailand.
But the legendary newsreader rules out any chance of a permanent return to the small screen.
"No, I look different now, I sound different. And what am I now? 81?" he says. "I have very fond memories but I wouldn't even contemplate it. I went out around about the right time."
He doesn't rule out narrating more documentaries for television, though he admits he is his own harshest critic.
"Let's wait and see how this one comes out," he says. "If it's fine, good, if it makes me cringe a bit, I won't. I'm very self-critical."
On the subject of news itself, which has undergone enormous transformation since his departure from Nine – including resource cutbacks, digital evolution and a faster news cycle - he abstains from judgment.
"I don't like to [judge]," he says. "Any criticism shouldn't really come from me.