With Rebecca Maddern appointed to the AFL Footy Show she returns to where she started: Sport.
Maddern began her media career as a sports reporter with Triple M Melbourne, leading to a 15 year career as a journalist and presenter, notably with the Seven Network. There she worked on Seven News, Sunrise, sports coverage including tennis, racing, Commonwealth Games, Brownlow Medal, plus behind the scenes work on AFL broadcasting.
She is also an unashamed AFL tragic, who can talk the talk with the best of them, and the #1 ticket holder for the Geelong Football Club.
None of that has persuaded the most stubborn of Footy Show viewers who have taken to social media to vent against the idea of her joining their beloved and traditional show. Almost all of them argue from a position of gender, rather than her track record.
In many ways these are attitudes the show itself has nurtured over decades. The blokey culture, led by Sam Newman, has been a repeat offender in mocking women, along with several other minorities. Only in recent years has it lifted its game and sought to be more inclusive.
In its 22 year history, The Footy Show has had to tackle everything from violence, misogyny, racism, homophobia, mental health -the latter on its own doorstep this year. And yes, sometimes its own wayward behaviour has been the instigator of such debates.
But it has also been around long enough to observe change. The appointment of Maddern is not dissimilar to the first time a female reporter was on the job in sports changing rooms. Such turning points drew a big reaction at the time, now they are commonplace. The focus is on the work, not the gender.
AFL clubs have had female board members for years, there have been female presenters on Before the Game, Marngrook Footy Show (plus NRL Footy Show) and the AFL Women’s National Championships have been held every year since 1992. Last year Seven screened the historic AFL women’s match to a metro audience of 243,000. Caroline Wilson on Footy Classified is also the show’s most compelling regular -the sky hasn’t fallen in because a female is giving opinion on a male-dominated sport.
Nine’s appointment may be as a result of Garry Lyon’s absence, but frankly the question isn’t why has the Footy Show appointed a female, but rather: why has it taken so long?
Naysayers will soon learn Maddern knows her stuff, has a sharp tongue and isn’t there to keep misbehaving boys in line. If the rumours are true that she left Seven because she was hungry for more profile work, then it is indicative that she is ready to take on the Footy Show team.
As with any casting, the proof will be in the pudding.
Until then armchair critics should play the ball, not the woman.