New Footy Show runs out of puff – but kicks just enough goals

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IT WENT too long and the fans didn’t think the fun was funny enough but chief writer RON REED gives The Footy Show’s new-old look a pass mark, although not by much:

RODNEY EADE has always been one of the most engaging, interesting characters in footy so Eddie McGuire probably couldn’t believe his luck when the Gold Coast coach became the central figure in probably the biggest news story of the week in which The Footy Show was to be reborn. Sacked coaches are always great fodder for any form of media. Rocket duly presented himself, no doubt handsomely rewarded for doing so, and proceeded to win the three votes on the night, in my humble opinion.

You do have to wonder what Eddie and his team would have served up if Eade had not been cut loose and was therefore of no special interest. The second string was Richmond coach Damien Hardwick and captain Trent Cotchin, but as much as the Tigers are up and about at last and certain of a tilt at the title, there wasn’t much to take away from their lengthy chat despite Sam Newman’s desperately futile attempts to squeeze something new out of the Dusty Martin contractual impasse, which is now an almost daily sleeping pill in almost every corner of the mainstream footy media. You got the feeling they were there mainly to facilitate the identification of a new sponsor.

The Footy Show
The Footy Show – Eddie Maguire, Sam Newman and Rebecca Maddern.

There weren’t too many other goalkickers and it wasn’t as if there wasn’t plenty of time and space for the regulars and guests alike to contribute something memorable. The show went for just over two and a quarter hours, about the same time as a match (or a movie) with the usual quarterly breaks in play, and more than twice as long as its sassy and increasingly popular Channel 7 rival, The Front Bar.

Frankly, it ran itself into the ground like a fatigued ruckman, finishing with a rush of match previews which aren’t really previews at all, just everyone having a stab at picking a winner, which is meaningless, not to say tedious. I could have sworn I heard Eddie say somewhere during the many publicity gee-ups that it would be kept tight and taut at 90 minutes maximum and even he admitted afterwards that it had been too long. By how much, he didn’t say – but that’s going to be an issue in the debrief for sure.

It started promisingly enough. The opening sketch with Eddie dressed like Braveheart on a horse at least gave resident comedian Dave Hughes the chance to remind him that the old Scottish warrior was executed in the end, but it seemed lamely contrived otherwise. However, when McGuire, Newman and the panel of footballers – Shane Mumford, Max Gawn and impressive teenage rookie Andrew McGrath – all appeared without wearing ties, and Eddie opened with his old line from yesteryear about what a big week in footy it had been, a certain sense of relaxed expectation was established. You felt like you could sit back and enjoy.

The Footy Show
The Footy Show Panel

With the point quickly established – made visually obvious by the seating arrangements and spelt out by Sam – that Rebecca Maddern was not being marginalised as had been reported, Eddie was quickly into stride with an interesting discussion on the tackling controversies of the past fortnight, suggesting the AFL was considering changing the way the Match Review Panel deals with some non-malicious incidents. He suggested players should be able to defend themselves at the tribunal without risking longer suspensions if they lose the case and not surprisingly – especially in the newly-suspended Mumford’s case — the panel agreed. This was hard-core footy opinion which just about qualified as one of the “big stories” Eddie was promising all week.

Read more: Terry Brown’s view

There weren’t many more. Newsbreaker Damien Barrett’s best was Ben Cousins being busted again for drugs, this time inside jail, thus blowing his chances of imminent parole. Not sure Ben’s relapses are all that surprising any more.

Eade gave what he could. He admitted he had his doubts about whether a Gold Coast club could ever be viable and that there had been cultural problems: “You turn over a rock and something else turns up.” He thought Gary Ablett could play two more years – and he’d like to stay involved himself, the vacant AFL footy ops job a possible option. It was an interesting interview, suggesting again that the show’s strength probably is pure footy rather than comedy and other forms of showbiz.

That seems to have put Hughes under the hammer. If there was one consistent trend in the reactions published on the Herald Sun’s website on the morning after, it was that he needs to go – unfunny, irrelevant, shouts too much – perhaps being replaced by the original funnyman Trevor Marmalade. McGuire confirmed he hopes to have him back at some stage. Given the ferocity of the response to Hughes it will be a surprise if that does not happen immediately.

Of course, the spotlight was squarely on Newman, whose hissy-fit a fortnight earlier was the catalyst for McGuire’s return and the major revamp. As time ticked over we were wondering whether we’d get to see Street Talk return – it didn’t but apparently will before long – and eventually got Sam’s Mailbag, which was not particularly amusing. Sam had a risqué moment or two but generally parked the trademark outrageous shtick and was a mixed bag in general. He is still the team’s best player. But at the end, he seemed as wearily underwhelmed as everyone else by the late finish, suggesting that a couple of matches were not worth bothering with a tip.

Overall, there was an obvious attempt to provide something for everyone as far as possible, with a wide range of clubs represented by the players who appeared – or in Fremantle coach Ross Lyon’s case, were parodied in cartoon form.   And there were enough attempts at something new – the Footybox segment, where players critiqued other TV footy shows has potential with room for improvement – to suggest that the format might be a work in progress for the remainder of the season.

Overall, I’d give it a pass mark – but it’s highly unlikely they’ll get me sitting up that late again. And having become a convert to The Front Bar over the past two weeks, I’m going to be a floating voter from now. I suspect I’m far from alone.

  • The Footy Show had a clear win in the ratings with 529,000 viewers overall and 381,000 in Melbourne. The Front Bar had 231,000 and 180,000. Nine reported that Eddie’s return show was the highest-ranking version in more than six years (excluding Rebecca Maddern’s first appearance and the Grand Final editions).
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Author: Ron Reed

RON REED has spent more than 50 years as a sportswriter or sports editor, mainly at The Herald and Herald Sun. He has covered just about every sport at local, national and international level, including multiple assignments at the Olympic and Commonwealth games, cricket tours, the Tour de France, America’s Cup yachting, tennis and golf majors and world title fights.

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