The sort of thing Fatty Vautin provided for a record 24 years was the sort of thing Erin Molan was singularly incapable of bringing to the table, Mike Colman argues. Picture: Matt Roberts/Getty Images
The sort of thing Fatty Vautin provided for a record 24 years was the sort of thing Erin Molan was singularly incapable of bringing to the table, Mike Colman argues. Picture: Matt Roberts/Getty Images

Two decisions that killed The Footy Show

WELL done Channel 9, you achieved what you set out to do and killed The Footy Show.

What other intention could you possibly have had when you hooked Paul Vautin, the heart and soul of the show and one of the most astute judges of rugby league in the country, and replaced him with Erin Molan, a self-confessed rugby league Neville?

Okay, so The Footy Show wasn't a hard-nosed, analytical tackle-count and metres-gained program. It was silly sketches, wise-cracks and gee-ups, but it still required a host with a modicum of football knowledge.

At the very least one with a feel for the history, fabric and inside humour of the game.

The sort of thing Fatty Vautin provided for a record 24 years.

The sort of thing Erin Molan was singularly incapable of bringing to the table.

Soon after Molan had taken over the reins of what was once Kerry Packer's favourite show, she was shooting the breeze with her co-hosts on the Continuous Call radio program.

They were talking about players of the not-so-far distant past: household names (in any rugby league household anyway) like Freddie Fittler, Laurie Daley and Mal Meninga.

"Who was your favourite player when you were growing up, Erin?" one of them asked.

She answered that she had never had a favourite player when she was young because she had absolutely no interest in rugby league.

The Channel Nine Footy Show crew Erin Molan, Beau Ryan, Daryl Broham and Paul Vautin . Picture: Gregg Porteous
The Channel Nine Footy Show crew Erin Molan, Beau Ryan, Daryl Broham and Paul Vautin . Picture: Gregg Porteous

It was only when she started at Channel 9 in 2010 that she had anything to do with the game. Before that her only experience as a sport reporter was in Canberra, covering rugby union.

For a moment I thought there was something wrong with my radio, it went so quiet. Then I heard three dull thuds as her co-commentators' jaws hit the carpet.

This, then, was the person that Channel 9 chose to replace Fatty Vautin, veteran of 238 first-grade matches, 22 State of Origin matches and 13 Tests, captain of Manly's 1987 premiership side and coach of arguably the Maroons' greatest-ever series win, the three-blot clean-sweep against all odds in 1995.

Not that it was just his playing record that made Vautin the perfect host for The Fatty … sorry, Footy, Show. It was his sense of humour, rapid-fire comeback and that stunned mullet, raised eyebrow, open-mouthed look at the camera when something went wrong - as it so often did.

That's what made The Footy Show such a survivor; the ability of Vautin, Peter Sterling, Daryl Brohman and all the other ex-players over the years to make viewers feel like they had got a seat on the team bus on the way back from a game.

Sure it wasn't for everyone, but it hit the spot with a lot of people for a lot of years.

And if you couldn't crack at least one smile a show you weren't trying: the boys dressed as Kiss, Blocker in his little black dress, Chief singing My Newcastle, Sterlo's wig flying off in the 'Yeah-Yeah' skit ...

And when it came time to talk serious footy, they could do that too. Until this year anyway.

Not that you can totally blame Molan for the show's demise, any more than you could blame a park player for losing an NRL grand final if he was called up by the selectors and told, "it's all up to you kid. No pressure".

Of course that park player wouldn't have headed off to have a baby 10 minutes before half-time.

Surely the programming geniuses at Channel 9 knew Molan was going to take maternity leave when they gave her the gig. And even if they didn't, wouldn't it have made sense to bring Vautin back to hold the fort until she returned rather than rope in James Bracey?

No doubt they would argue that the ratings slide had begun long before they started rearranging the deckchairs and maybe that's true.

But if you ask me The Footy Show died the day Fatty got the punt.

That was the day Channel 9 dropped the ball