Scrutinising the Fourth Estate: A review of the AFL media in season 2009

As the AFL finals draw closer, let’s have a look at how some of the media outlets have performed this season….


The addition of Leigh Matthews has improved Seven’s telecast, as has the end of its ridiculous half-time switcheroo in the commentary box.

 Global Financial Crisis not withstanding, a massive pay rise should also be handed to the bigwig who relegated David Schwarz and Ricky Olarenshaw to Sunday afternoons,  where hung-over  and sleep deprived viewers won’t notice they’re being spoken to by inarticulate buffoons.

Bruce McAvaney’s constant questioning during play suggests he’s auditioning for Eddie McGuire’s gig on Hot Seat (“kicks it to Player X, gee he’s playing well isn’t he? You get the feeling they need one more goal, don’t you reckon?), while someone needs to tell Nathan Buckley that it’s pronounced “isn’t it”, not “innit.”

If Seven can broadcast its talent quests and C-grade dancing contests live, surely it can pay the same respect to football, and it should also return its nosebleed camera to the good folk at Google Earth.


The introduction of ONE HD has given viewers an extra dose of Robert Walls every Monday night, which is sure to curtail the Federal Government’s attempts to promote digital television.  

The channel has also made Julie Corletto and Irene van Dyk household names (what, you haven’t heard of them?) and has inspired little tackers all over the country to erect basketball rings next to their trampolines.

Mark Howard has been a surprise-packet on the boundary line and should permanently replace Christi Malthouse , while Pete Helliar should quit while he’s ahead with his stale “Strauchanie” character. Hey, he’ll have plenty of time on his hands to think of a new gimmick now that Pete and Myf has been given the Robin Nahas from Triple M.


It may be off Broadway, but Fox Sports is home to one of the best play-by-play commentators in the business. Brian Taylor is measured and spontaneous with his humour, as opposed to Dennis Cometti who almost forces his colleagues to giggle at his scripted and distracting one-liners.

Unfortunately there’s not much else to get excited about in the network’s commentary box.  Matthew Campbell should stick to spruiking his bookmaking gimmicks, while Dwayne Russell’s predictable commentary really is “enough to make a grown man cry”, with his repetitive expressions (e.g. “Nails it!) and trivial facts.

And has anyone looked more uncomfortable on television than Gerard Whateley on Before the Bounce? Poor old Gerard, who is your in-bed-by-nine type and is accustomed to serious chatter on the ABC, didn’t know what to do when he found himself sitting amongst the blokey banter of Jason Dunstall, Danny Frawley and Damien Fleming.


Footy Classified remains compulsory viewing, although it has suffered from the absence of the Beat the Press segment and regular interview guests.

Grant Thomas is an outstanding media performer and must be recruited by another radio network immediately, while Caroline Wilson appears to genuinely enjoy being on the show.

The only downside is the pretentious Craig Hutchison, who expresses his opinions as if they’re gospel and interrupts the engrossing dialogue of other panel members with contrived conflict.

The Footy Show has improved this year, although it would be even better if Supreme Court judges issued a suppression order on Shane Crawford’s immature antics, rather than worrying about harmless medical records.


Andrew Maher’s elocution has been the subject of much criticism this year, with one letter to the Herald Sun suggesting SEN should give away a bottle of “foine woine at noine” to anyone who can understand him.

 SEN’s refusal to replace Billy Brownless with a new co-host makes the breakfast program sound tired, while The Run Home’s soapbox segment is riddled with cringe-worthy impersonations and in-house jokes.

This blogger has  banned The Good Oil ever since Mark Doran told a talkback caller, who was a South Dragons  supporter expressing his disappointment at the club’s demise, to “get over it” and follow the Tigers.

And is Luke Darcy instructed to leave his personality at the door when he hosts Friday drive with Liam Pickering?

The others:

Triple M’s sliding ratings certainly haven’t been helped by the laconic Hamish McLachlan. Let’s hope Gillon has a job ready for him at the AFL.

 3AW would do well to promote Sports Today producer Bruce Eva to its AFL coverage. Eva’s football knowledge is second to none and he has shown during his time at SEN and NIRS that he’s a competent commentator.


Why the AFL could end up kissing Cousins


The conditions attached to Ben Cousins’ return by the AFL were considered so “onerous” that some media commentators could smell a conspiracy.  They believed that the league opened the door for Cousins’ return purely for the sake of avoiding litigation, and made the conditions so stringent that the fallen Eagle would opt out of nominating for the draft.


Considering the AFL is arguably the most image conscious sporting code in the country, it wouldn’t be of great surprise if Andrew Demetriou and Co never want to see Cousins’ face again.


But, if this is the case, the AFL has misread what a Cousins return could do for their all-important “brand.” If successful, Cousins’ return could be the best thing that’s ever happened to the AFL’s controversial drugs policy.


The reason for this is the modern day obsession with narratives, particularly when it comes to celebrities. We’re all familiar with the typical story of the star who goes from grace to disgrace, only to finally find “redemption” and “closure” so we can all feel warm and fuzzy again. It’s a product of a mass media and neo-liberalism’s obsession with the individual.


If Ben Cousins was to never play AFL football again, the final chapter of his narrative will remain his downfall. He will take the label “disgraced footballer Ben Cousins” with him to his grave. No matter how much the AFL may think we will simply move on and forget he ever existed, the fact is Cousins has entrenched himself in the games annals. Whenever we see the footage of West Coast’s 2006 premiership celebrations, there we will see the “disgraced” Ben Cousins swinging his arm around in jubilation as he holds up the Holy Grail next to Chris Judd. Whenever the game gathers for football’s “night of nights”, there they will see Ben Cousins’ “disgraced” name engraved as the 2005 Brownlow medallist.


If, however, Ben Cousins can return to football, play well, remain clean and retire without having brought the game into disrepute, not only will his individual narrative end with redemption, but he would also become the poster boy of the AFL’s stance on illicit drugs. The league could prove that they can both punish and rehabilitate. It’s difficult to image now due to his arrogant and elusive personality, but we could even see a reformed Cousins on the speaking circuit, talking to today’s youth about the perils of drug abuse and how he overcame his demons.


Now that’s a narrative that would have Andrew Demetriou feeling warm and fuzzy inside.