Channel 9 has officially unveiled its new-look Footy Show panel as the iconic program undergoes a major facelift ahead of season 2019.
Accomplished Fox Sports AFL and cricket reporter Neroli Meadows will lead the show alongside comedian and Hawthorn fan Anthony “Lehmo” Lehmann, while former Carlton and Brisbane legend Brendan Fevola and wheelchair tennis star Dylan Alcott also take their places on the panel.
Hawthorn legend Shane Crawford will be a part of the fresh line-up too.
Nine’s bold powerplay to recruit Meadows comes after reports last month the network was chasing her to become the first female host since Rebecca Maddern. Her arrival is part of a major rebuild for the show after a disastrous 2018, where Channel 7 rival The Front Bar regularly secured a bigger audience than its iconic rival.
Meadows previously worked with Lehmann on Channel 10’s Before The Game, back when the network held the AFL broadcast rights.
“The Footy Show is an institution and it’s a great honour to be taking the hosting chair,” Lehmann said in a statement.
“As a passionate footy fan, I’m itching for the season to start and can’t wait to work with this incredible line-up. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Longstanding Footy Show panellist Sam Newman revealed last year he wouldn’t be returning to the program, while Eddie McGuire also stepped away from his hosting role with the Thursday night staple.
The pair will instead return for four Footy Show “specials” to be screened throughout the 2019 season.
When whispers of Meadows’ involvement in the new-look show first emerged, former Footy Show host and Melbourne legend Garry Lyon was all for the change.
“Let me say this, I’m happy to say Neroli is fantastic,” Lyon told SEN Radio in February. “She’d be fantastic.”
However, some aspects of the transformation didn’t sit well with Lyon, who now works for Fox Footy. Given the seismic changes, he doesn’t believe the Footy Show should keep the same name this season.
“It’s a very different line-up to what the Footy Show has been historically and traditionally,” Lyon said on SEN Breakfast last month. “They weren’t the names I would’ve been expecting.
“I would’ve thought they’d come up with something different for it. Come up with a fresh name for it. It’s not the Footy Show.”
It was a sentiment shared by other AFL media personalities. Former host Craig Hutchison, who was axed midway through 2017 and replaced by McGuire, said he couldn’t think of reasons why Channel 9 kept the same name for a show that will look completely different.
“I feel a bit like the ex-coach talking about the modern-day team. It was an opportunity to start again with a new brand, but I’m sure there would be good reasons they’ve kept it (the name) that I just can’t identify,” Hutchison said on The Sounding Board podcast last month.
“It’s got 30 years of brand awareness. It’s had a challenging few years — of which I was a part of — and the brand took a little bit of a hit.
“It had a beautiful brand at one stage 20 years ago, the temptation would’ve been to start again with a new name.”
Hutchison’s co-host on The Sounding Board, footy journalist Damian Barrett, left the show at the end of last season and was also surprised Channel 9 opted not to change the name.
“The name ‘Footy Show’ appearing to be used, I’m surprised at that,” Barrett said. “I just felt it was time to change that up, as a consumer.
“Let’s face it, the Footy Show had been on the nose, hadn’t it? For many years.”