If there were still any doubts Rebecca Maddern has one of the toughest jobs on television, last night surely sent them packing for good.
The Footy Show co-host has been in the bad books with footy fans since suggesting the AFL do away with the homemade banners players run through onto the field.
“Don’t you think it’s maybe time we don’t have the banners?” Maddern asked the panel last Thursday.
“No, hear me out. Everything in the game has become very professional and to start the game we run through a bit of crepe paper that costs $2.50. It’s time we get rid of the banners.”
Now, one may well mount a passionate defence of the grassroots tradition but, for the most part, viewers chose to express their frustrations in 140 characters or less on Twitter, and a storm of angry tweets were flung in the 40-year-old's direction.
Fast forward a week and Maddern's still being relentlessly trolled online, she was accosted in the street and shredded on radio by former football great Tim Watson.
“I just had a week of walking in Sam Newman’s shoes with everybody hating you, now I know what you feel like week in, week out,” she said on the show last night.
But rather than pouring water on the fire threatening to engulf their colleague, the Channel 9 team stoked it by replaying the clip for their live studio audience who, once again, descended into boos and jeers.
How fun's footy, guys? Yeah!
Anyway, after doubling down on their objections to her off the cuff remark, Craig Hutchison and Sam Newman refused to back her up as she tried in vain to argue her love for the cheer squads.
"I love the cheer squad, it would not be a game without a cheer squad. I just don’t know if I love the game starting with the banners," she said... to more booing.
Then Dave Hughes chimed in.
“You know what has happened though Bec? You’ve unified every cheer squad in the league and they’ve got together and they’ve made a banner especially for you and we’re going to get you to run through it a little bit later,” he said, before unveiling this monstrosity:
The custom-made banner read: “No hard feelings Bec, but what the heck?! Without makeup, u (sic) look like Shrek!”.
Maddern looked appalled but, as always, took the 'joke' in her stride and eventually ran through the banner with a resigned smile on her face.
And while The Footy Show panellists are well-known for roasting one another on air, this time even Twitter users thought they'd crossed a line, with some even labelling the sexist gag "workplace harassment".
It's not the first time Maddern's treatment has been stamped as such either.
Last year, co-panellist Newman told her to "get on your knees" and "lie nude" - something Domestic Violence Victoria chief executive Fiona McCormack told The Herald Sun "constitutes workplace harassment and could even be unlawful".
"Some men kid themselves that women want the attention and will be flattered but so many women are put in these awkward situations at work and worry that if they speak up, there’ll be a backlash," she said.
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