And so, as the prophecy foretold, it has come to this: sudden death, instant death, extremely painful and bloody death, if you will, it’s preliminary finals time of this our 2021 NRL Premiership.
We have seen a slight evolution in female sports presenters in the media over the years.
In the past, female presenters were required to be attractive and maybe not much else. Thankfully, we now see qualified journalists with interest in and knowledge of the game when it comes to rugby league.
However, it is foolhardy for the Nine Network to promote Erin Molan to the role of Footy Show host. It is worth highlighting that she is the only cast member without experience playing the game. “Not required”, some may say, but significant nonetheless.
Molan is foremost a journalist with reporting and interviewing skills to match, nicely paired with her light-hearted personality, which suits the show. But these attributes do not make a host whether they be male or female. Many criticisms of ‘Fatty’ support this notion.
The selection should be purely one of experience, skills and talent.
The host of a sports panel show needs to have a big personality and typically a playing resume to match it. I am not suggesting this is always the case – Eddie McGuire on AFL’s Footy Show and motor racing coverage are clear examples of hosts leading their shows without playing experience.
In the case of Erin Molan, she does not have playing experience in the game nor, I believe, a personality that can host or lead a panel of rugby league players. She does have a role in the Footy Show that she performs well but a promotion to host could be detrimental to both her career and the show.
I’m not a supporter of affirmative action or mere symbolism based on numbers when it comes to female representation, but I am saddened by the lack of respect shown to legitimate female participants in top-tier sport by the networks and that the public is not seeing any signs of change.
A revolution is required in rugby league media which recognises our female talent – not just an evolution of the status quo and token representation of women which will inevitably lead to negative and shallow debate on each and every occasion.
Australian skipper and dual-code international Ruan Sims is an example of how our top-tier female talent flies under the radar of the media companies and the fans of the game.
While there have arguably been examples of comparatively low playing standards over past decades, those days are forever gone in the women’s game and Sims shattered any such mould long ago, if one existed.
Yet she rarely makes an appearance on television and when she does the discussion is typically limited to the issue of women in sport rather than game reviews, tactical analysis, team selection or rules.
But playing experience is not the only criteria to host a panel show. There are recent examples of female players who are panel guests but who don’t have the presence or personality to draw the attention of the discussion and then appear desperate to inject any comment just to get a word in. Presence and personality are essential.
Sims has the experience to boot, credibility, personality and can talk better than any male who played in the forwards. There is a significant media role for her which would barely be debated by rugby league fans if she was given the opportunity by a media network due to her undeniable credibility.
And she is just one example of female talent whose media potential goes unrealised by our media.