GO & A
Gaffes, to dip into the dominant parlance of the blokey arena in which Edward Joseph Mcguire lives, there’s been a few. It’s a word that softens the sentiment of his verbal meanderings – and often inappropriate and deplorable utterances – that have come to frame the 51-year-old, dividing opinion as to what he’s about. At the time of print, days after we listened to the Collingwood AFL club president, gameshow host and Melbourne broadcaster’s honest remorse at the Adam Goodes ‘gaffe’ (that word again), Mcguire’s parting judgement over a remark in which he joked about the drowning of sports journalist Caroline Wilson. He apologised, eventually. Wilson accepted, though the country was again split – supporters wailing against ‘fake outrage’; detractors pointing to the sexist violence attached to his words. Here, we attempt to understand where the bilious bluster ends and the man begins.
GQ: Is it fair to say you came from little, that early life in Broadmeadows was pretty tough? Eddie Mcguire:
That’s fair, though I had a different attitude. [My parents] came out after the war; Dad was literally down the Scottish coal mines from the age of 12 and Mum lived on a farm with a well in the middle of Ireland... But the mindset of the house was all about education, about playing sport, and whatever else we were doing, and always doing it as well as you could.
GQ: So you didn’t go without? EM:
You just knew that Mum and Dad would do whatever it took – driving to every game and practice, they did that... It was a fibro commission house in Broady, but the home was everything you’d want; I couldn’t have had a better upbringing. And, to underline that, the edge of sometimes not having everything was good, too – it made you hungry and taught you the value of things.
GQ: Did it instil in you an early want to achieve? EM:
In a lot of ways it instilled, subliminally, a determination to get beyond that in some way, shape and form. Education and the chance Australia gave were always spoken about in the house. It was foremost in my mind that Mum and Dad had sacrificed everything; they’d come with literally five pounds and two suitcases... It was a hard struggle for them, but they got tremendous joy from our success, so you wanted to give them as much joy as you possibly could.
GQ: At 17, you secured a cadetship with Channel Ten. Back then, newsrooms were built on a ‘work hard, play hard’ ethic. Was that your experience – a lot of drinking and shenanigans? EM: GQ: Did you fly close to the sun – it’s been reported you were nearly sacked for playing a little too hard in those early years?
It was all that...
That’s bullshit. Absolute bullshit.
GQ: And there was never any dabbling beyond the booze – no gear or cheeky joints? EM:
I don’t even have to say I didn’t inhale. I’ve never had one, never had a drug in my life – I was silly enough on the grog. I’ll admit that there was always a sense of good fun, but I’d always been smart enough, and always had in my mind, to never, ever get into drugs. I saw what it did to people out in Broady, so we’d get on the grog – too much at times.
GQ: You moved to Nine in the early ’90s, and a then new TV offering called The AFL Footy Show – was the central appeal here the shiny floor of show business? EM:
Totally, absolutely. It was sport and it was the show that I’d dreamt of hosting all my life without ever knowing I was dreaming of hosting a TV show. It had the combination of everything that I thought was great about show business – breaking stories, laughter, mateship and other people bringing things to the table. On that first show we dropped in the [’70s variety show] Don Lane theme song when I walked out, as an homage – that’s what we were thinking; we weren’t thinking we were doing a sports show, it was variety and gags and by the first break I knew it was fizzing, you could see it.
GQ: Cut to now Ed and many would say that The Footy Show’s fizzled – that it should be put out to pasture. Thoughts? EM:
It may be [staid] for people who’ve watched it for 22 years, but it’s still winning its younger demos, the 16-34s. It’s No.1 on a Thursday night. What it shows me is that live TV is more relevant than ever; I feel people want to see that live, parishpump aspect – that’s why it will continue to do well, as it’s about what happens [in Melbourne], and SA and Perth, who don’t get a look in elsewhere.