Yes, there is life af­ter foot­ball; for Paul Vautin, the happy re­al­ity is it’s more of the same, writes Deb­bie Schipp. The NRL Footy Show host has clocked up 20 years in the show de­spite his ex­pec­ta­tions it would never last, but now it’s mov­ing to a prime-

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - TV Guide - - COVER FEATURE -

THE FOOTY SHOW Thurs­day 9.45pm, Nine

THE start­ing line-up has changed, the re­serves have been bloodied, and some off-sea­son buys and ris­ing stars have been blended into the mix.

As the NRL Footy Show en­ters its 20th year, host and Queens­lan­der Paul ‘‘Fatty’’ Vautin says the team is primed for its move to prime time with an 8.30pm Thurs­day times­lot af­ter round 4.

As he cel­e­brates his own 20-year mile­stone on the show that gave him a ca­reer af­ter he re­tired from rugby league in 1991, Vautin is still count­ing his bless­ings.

When he and fel­low former player Peter Ster­ling launched the show 20 years ago, Vautin, who rep­re­sented Aus­tralia 17 times and Queens­land 22 times, con­fesses he didn’t think it would last a week.

‘‘Se­ri­ously, af­ter the first show, I re­mem­ber walking out with Peter, be­cause ev­ery­thing went wrong, noth­ing worked, and we weren’t that good, and say­ing, ‘Mate, we’re gone. They’ll never put us on air again’,’’ Vautin re­calls.

Clearly some­thing went right. Be­cause two decades on, the show re­mains a fix­ture of the NRL sea­son.

Vautin hap­pily con­cedes there are plenty that don’t like the show. Equally, there are just as many who have made it as much a part of their league sea­son as a half-time pie.

The se­cret, he be­lieves, is keep­ing The Footy Show team fresh, and get­ting the mix of en­ter­tain­ment and chat about the game it­self right.

The show’s 20th an­niver­sary year will see some new tal­ent, and a re­turn to some old, with Dar­ryl ‘‘The Big Marn’’ Brohman, Nine sports com­men­ta­tor Michael Slater, Sharks player Beau Ryan, Wests Tigers star Benji Mar­shall, Nine News sports re­porter Erin Molan, former rugby league great Gor­den Tal­lis and footy lar­rikin Mario Fenech back for the year. Queens­land sports re­porter Yvonne Samp­son also joins the crew, re­port­ing rugby league news from the Sun­shine State.

‘‘Yvonne Samp­son, she’s our new re­cruit. She reads the week­end sports news up there (in Queens­land) and she’s a great tal­ent as well,’’ Vautin says.

‘‘We’re just go­ing to mix it up and see what works; not ev­ery­thing will work, but we’re go­ing to have a go any­way.’’

Vautin never imag­ined he’d host the show for 20 years but con­tin­ues to love ev­ery minute and, with a newly-inked two-year deal with Nine, is con­tin­u­ing to en­joy the chang­ing face of the show.

‘‘I al­ways said to Sterlo (Peter Ster­ling), once our good looks de­serted us we might fall by the way­side, but we’re still hang­ing in there,’’ he jokes.

‘‘I think the main thing is a cou­ple of us are get­ting on, like my­self and Dar­ryl, we al­ways try to keep it fresh by bring­ing on what the view­ers really want to see, and that’s the cur­rent rugby league stars.

‘‘We’ve got Cameron Smith (Mel­bourne Storm) on quite a bit this year and they love Benji (Mar­shall).’’

NRL star power aside, Vautin says The Footy Show’s big­gest boost in the past few years has been Tigers-turned-Sharks player Beau Ryan, who con­tin­ues to play at top level, as well as fil­ing hi­lar­i­ous spots for the show.

Good life: Paul Vautin en­joys the funny side of the footy scene.

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