On Thursday, the AFL Footy Show will return to screens following a mad – and very public – scramble to reinvent a program that began to lose its most loyal of followers.
A two-year-period of consistent shake-ups, rotating hosts and the injection of a different, more inclusive kind of Footy Show – one where Sam Newman wasn’t given leeway to willingly and ignorantly offend – had an ironic, if sad, result: In its attempts to include and appease everybody, it began to appeal to nobody.
And so, like only jobs in the media can, host Craig Hutchison was dropped with callous-like swiftness, a dust of the hands enough of a farewell before Eddie McGuire, the untouchable Eddie McGuire, was welcomed back into the foray, and at the helm, of a show he knew so well.
Hutchison had the job for less than a season, fired before he had a chance to warm the seat. It was an interesting news cycle. Minimal time, or sympathy, was given for a man who was sacked with little pre-warning. AFL fans and the media alike fixated on McGuire’s return. The Footy Show was back. Craig who?
Hutchison was and is no victim. Of course, he still has other projects keeping him afloat, working and in the public eye. And yet, his exit was enveloped with a strange, sad kind of self-shaming. In the days after his sacking, he took to his podcast The Sounding Board to address what had quickly become a national story.
“I think there’s a reasonable expectation that if you’re going to host a television show... you’re in good nick to do it and that you’re visually appealing to the audience,” he said of his exit.
“There’s a clear expectation — as there should be. The weird part about it is that I actually lost 16kg. But I’m still overweight.
“It was just too far to come back in such a short period of time with the commitments I’ve got. That probably sounds like a bit of a cop-out because I could have got myself in better nick. No question."
To be clear, and in the interest of context, this wasn't the only reason or excuse Hutchison gave for his sacking. It was one of a few. But, importantly, it was still, well, one.