Award-winning journalist Rebecca Maddern has made her debut on Channel 9’s The Footy Show to a cringeworthy reception from Sam Newman.
Maddern became the first woman to co-host the show in its 23-year history. Newman, the only original host left on the program, seemed to struggle with the change in demographic.
“Here is my card. I will give you that … I’ve been in the business a long time. I know how it works. If you ever need anything give us a call,” he said, after pretending to forget the veteran journalist’s name.
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Anyone familiar with Maddern’s work knows how unlikely that is.
In her 17-year career, she has worked in radio and television, including gigs presenting news bulletins on Channel Seven and acting as Melbourne correspondent for Sunrise.
To her credit, Maddern didn’t shy away from Newman’s strange reception.
She is the great granddaughter of Harry Marsham who, like Newman, captained Geelong in his VFL career. The only difference: they debuted 55 years apart.
“[Sam] I haven’t asked you this before, but what was it like to play with my great grandfather … really, what was he like? Was he nice?” she fired back at Newman, who is also nicknamed ‘The Fossil’.
“That’s awfully sharp. That’s very, very humorous,” he replied.
Maddern is the replacement for Garry Lyon, who left the show indefinitely due to depression.
Former host Eddie McGuire was mooted as a replacement for Lyon, but his contract with Fox Sports did not allow him to appear on the network, paving the way for Maddern’s arrival.
‘We had to get someone who wasn’t that good looking’
Earlier on Thursday, Newman courted controversy when he jokingly referred to the new co-host as ‘not good looking’ and ‘plumpish’.
“The selection process was very, very testing. We had to get someone who wasn’t that good looking so we didn’t put everyone’s nose out of joint. A bit plumpish,” he told radio show Roo & Ditts For Breakfast.
Host Mark Ricciuto replied: “She’ll be happy to hear that.”
Newman hit back with: “Yeah, not good looking. A bit plumpish. Not a great IQ. Just so she fits in with the rest of the dynamic of our show.
“So people will be a bit surprised when they see her. They’ll think she’s coming on [because] she’s a glamour, but no, she’s pretty ordinary really.”
Newman added that Maddern’s debut on the show would be received poorly, regardless of her performance.
“It won’t matter what she did, she’ll be criticised and so will we for being patronising, or too tough on her, or her having too many things to say, or not enough … the critics will round us up like they have for 22 years and we’ll take no notice of them.”
Victoria finally catches up to New South Wales and Queensland
The arrival of Maddern on The Footy Show means the show is now in line with its NRL counterpart.
Erin Molan started on The NRL Footy Show in 2012, hosting a ‘Late Mail’ segment, in addition to her other work with Channel Nine, including a Sunday Footy Show stint.
She quickly became a hit with fans and in 2014, became a full-time panellist and co-host.
Molan was the first female co-host in the show’s history, and also appears on Channel Nine News and The Sunday NRL Footy Show.
She also had to deal with controversy following her appointment, but unlike Maddern, has always received strong support from her colleagues.
Molan quit a Kiis FM radio stint after she was asked if she had a boob job and which sportsmen she had slept with.
Paul ‘Fatty’ Vautin, her co-host on The Footy Show, was defiant in his support for Molan and slammed the radio station for being ‘inappropriate’.
– with James Willoughby