The AFL Footy Show has announced a new host to replace Garry Lyon, who is dealing with mental health issues. She is award-winning journalist Rebbeca Maddern, who has worked on Channel Seven and Nine in Melbourne for a combined 14 years.
Yes, she's a woman.
The NRL Footy Show has had a female presenter since 2014, when Erin Molan took up a role as a full-time panelist after a couple of years working as a reporter for the show. The AFL version has been a little slower to debloke-ify its panel.
In case anyone needed a reminder why a female reporter was needed to clean up the show's image, here's a flashback to one or two of the show's less edifying moments. These are but a handful among dozens.
There was the time Sam Newman exposed his dangly bits and told a mock lingerie-clad nurse: "I'm not a gynaecologist but I'm willing to..."
There was the time that Newman -- yeah, him again -- manhandled a lingerie-clad mannequin to mock The Age football writer Caroline WIlson.
And there was the time Footy Show panelist Billy Brownless said "here come the strippers" in reference to a mother and her 18-year-old daughter who walked past a football luncheon Brownless was hosting.
In an open letter to the AFL which you really should read, the elder of the two women who bore the brunt of Brownless's tasteless quip said the following:
The Footy Show condones and breeds this toxic behaviour. When it’s on a major television network, perhaps the audience then believes this behaviour is acceptable. It must be, right? It’s allowed to be broadcast after all. The odd apology dished out the following week for some obnoxious sexist comment the week prior, will do, won’t it?
But hollow apologies will no longer cut it. Channel Nine, likely urged on by the AFL, has finally twigged that the only way to clean up the culture of sexism and misogyny is from the inside. This is good news, right? Most people would say it's good news. But not everybody is most people.
Comments on The Footy Show's Facebook page on Tuesday make it clear that some people really like the format of blokes sitting around talking about blokey stuff while demeaning women.
"RIP. This is is the end of this show," lamented one bloke, with two sad face emoticons for emphasis.
"This equality business is getting ridiculous. Are us men allowed to do anything with just us anymore?" said another, perhaps forgetting the fact that the game would fall apart without the thousands of female volunteers, club officials, umpires, supporters, etc.
"I don't know about this. I guess we will see but I think it will lead to less of the toilet humour which to be honest is what has kept the show funny," wrote another.
And you thought nobody above the age of eight thought toilet humour was funny. Meanwhile, out came the predictable parade of "but she never played the game!" whingers.
Fortunately, there was also the odd comment to even out that debate. As one female commenter wrote:
"I think that's a bit of an insult to Rebecca's insane football knowledge. She's literally a walking talking encyclopedia of football both past and present. I reckon everyone with doubts should give her a chance before writing her off, you may be pleasantly surprised."
We wish Rebecca Maddern the best of luck. With Sam on one side and Billy on the other, she'll need it. And if she goes home in despair some nights and wonders why she bothers, here's another excerpt from the open letter penned by the woman who Brownless called a "stripper".
"I urge you, Mr McLachlan, along with a significant number of Australian women (and men), to use your power as the head of the AFL, to force The Footy Show to significantly change their format and script NOW, while this topic is hot, and before another innocent family is subjected to such vile behaviour.
I’m not talking about a token-female host on occasion, nor am I talking about a female AFL player joining in discussions with the panel (we all know how appalling that was) and scripts don’t need to be sent to the Country Women’s Association for approval. Having a sensible woman involved in the script-writing, planning and production would be a significant step in the right direction. If such an amazing appointment were to happen, I hope the Nine Network will promote the hell out of it, because THAT might mean the show could potentially return to the ratings-winning, Logie-winning show it once was."