After a 12-year absence, Eddie McGuire is back at the helm of the show he founded in 1994. Add one more role into that crazy-busy week for the man sometimes known as “Eddie Everywhere”.
There have been several attempts to lure him back to The Footy Show in the past few years, but now his arrangement with Foxtel is no longer a barrier and there are some cross-promotion opportunities for the two networks.
“Three years ago it was an idea that nearly got up, then it didn’t because it didn’t suit anybody,” Eddie says. “Then all the planets aligned.”
We’re talking to the newly slim-line Eddie – more of that later – in his office in Toorak about his remarkably swift return to the show. Late last month, in the hours after Sam Newman made a curious, virtually wordless, protest about apparently being gagged by management in an event that some called “silent night”, Eddie was tapped for a return.
“I spoke with [Foxtel chief executive] Peter Tonagh on Thursday night and the next day it was announced,” Eddie says. “I was watching [The Footy Show] 45 minutes behind because I’d come home late from Sydney from meeting Peter, and I was getting all these phone messages … ‘Are you seeing what’s going on?’.”
The offer to return and immediately announce it next day came a few moments later.
“Channel Nine believed this had hit a flashpoint and something had to happen,” Eddie says.
— The AFL Footy Show (@AFLFootyShow) August 8, 2017
Many believed the 23-year-old show was tired, and needed saving. Eddie isn’t of that view. “There are a lot of people ‘death-writing’ The Footy Show because it’s a headline,” Eddie says. “They did it to Hey Hey It’s Saturday. I believe the show was not nearly as bad as people were trying to make out.”
As arguably the country’s best TV host, Eddie returns with many valuable commodities, one being his deep friendship with Sam and a sense of authority to keep things in check.
“What I’m trying to bring back is probably what the essence of the show was,” Eddie says. “Sam and I come from diametrically opposed age brackets, socio-economic, political and religious brackets, yet we are very close and dear friends, which means you can have different points of view and sometimes find ground in the middle.
“There’s been a lot more warmth and joy in the show. If he does go sideways on something, we can explain our way through it.”
Does he agree with those who say AFL culture, overall, is too blokey? “Women have always been involved in AFL football and it’s getting even bigger,” Eddie says. “With the women’s league, we have women who were park footballers 12 months ago playing great football.
“Young women are coming through. The kids we’re seeing coming to our clinics now – it’s quite unbelievable. I always say, in Australia, tradition is something that happened five minutes ago … For a generation of young girls now, their tradition is going into football. It’s already changed.”
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While revamping The Footy Show, Eddie has also been revamping himself. He recently lost 20 kilograms in three weeks by eating less and taking up running.
“I didn’t want to die,” he says, in explanation.
“You don’t see too many fat 90-year-old blokes. You get to 52, and I’d like to think I have a modicum of intelligence, and if you read enough about Type II diabetes and you’re feeling tired and you look out the window one day and you see a fat old bloke and you realise it’s a mirror, you say ‘do I want to be like this, with two young men in my life and a wife and demands on you?’.
“And what’s the thing that’s annoying you and letting yourself down? You’re 15 kilos overweight and that is ridiculous.”
He has been widely applauded for losing weight, but is there a double standard where women, such as Rebecca Judd, are sometimes pilloried for being too slim? “No, I quite rightly should have been pilloried for being fat and being unhealthy,” he says.
“What I have achieved and will continue to achieve is to get to the best healthy weight to function at the optimum in a professional sense, in a private sense and for my peace of mind. I found that I am a better person because I’m not angry at myself. You don’t realise how hard you are [on yourself] or even depressed until you’re not.”
Eddie’s message to busy people who are out of shape? “Find a way. I didn’t eat. Now it’s running, training, but not killing myself … Get yourself back to a position where you feel physically and mentally great … If you’re feeling a bit down on yourself because you’re carrying weight – and I did it for probably 10 years – I said, ‘right, I’m pretty demanding of myself and demanding of people around me, who work with me – no more excuses’. Find something that works for you.
“I didn’t take a day off work, I didn’t miss an appointment, I fired up more. It’s not a sacrifice, it’s an investment to get me to 101 years of age.”
I ask Eddie if this is a re-evaluation of where he is at in life. “Yes. You give yourself a recalibration of discipline, and you say ‘OK, what’s important to me?’ People say ‘you work too hard’. And I’ve got the capacity to work hard but it was maybe hurting me in other areas and I was running myself into the ground because I needed to recalibrate other areas.
“I encourage people – don’t get hung up on the weight and be sensible. And don’t bullshit to yourself. If you need to lose 15 kilos, get it off because if not you’ll get diabetes, you’ll get stress fractures in your feet, you’ll feel bad about yourself, next time you put your suit on you can’t fit into it, you’ll feel embarrassed.
“When you do, your kids respond, business people respond, friends respond.”
The Footy Show isn’t the only aspect of Eddie’s life that has undergone a reboot. Like every middle-aged busy parent, Eddie wants to be around for his two sons. “They’re smart kids. They read the paper. They don’t want you to die, they don’t want you to get diabetes or have a heart attack. They’re 16 and 14. I’m 52. I’m old to them and I’m young to me.”
● The Footy Show is on Channel Nine at 8.30pm on Thursdays.