Channel 7 have been fiercely criticised by veteran football journalist Caroline Wilson after electing not to send their top-line commentary team to the AFL’s Queensland hub for the Finals.
Brian Taylor, Hamish McLachlan and James Brayshaw all remained in Victoria despite the AFL extending an offer to Channel 7 to host the trio, who have been calling games from television screens instead of live from the ground due to Melbourne being under lockdown.
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Only Bruce McAvaney, who is based in South Australia, and Perth-based Basil Zempilas, loom as the likely live calling options for the network, as the pair reside in states boasting an open border to Queensland.
Speaking on Channel Nine program Footy Classified, Wilson said the AFL was ‘disappointed’ Channel 7 elected not to send the commentary team to Queensland.
“Channel 7 chose not to send one member of their AFL commentary team to the AFL-sponsored Gold Coast hub two weeks ago,” Wilson said.
“The AFL was disappointed.
“Seven say they’ll get their A-team there in some fashion for the finals but frankly, as a viewer, I’m disappointed too.
“Footy, any sport, is just not the same when it’s called from the television and I really hope this COVID-dictated policy does not continue in the future.
"It's just not the same when you're not there."— Footy on Nine (@FootyonNine) September 14, 2020
Caroline Wilson has criticised Channel 7 for not sending any commentators to the AFL-funded Queensland hub ahead of the finals.@craighutchy didn't agree, and things got fiery. #9FootyClassified | Watch @channel9 pic.twitter.com/3gajHE3DYH
“I include radio in this when I say it’s just not the same when you’re not there — and the commentators are our storytellers.
“So unless JB, BT and Hamish and their Victorian-based commentators get special permission and are prepared to quarantine under onerous circumstances for two weeks before the finals, it’s over to Bruce, Basil and maybe even Dennis Cometti — who can travel to Queensland — to step in and be our first-hand eye witnesses to what is going to be a historic finals series.”
AFL commentators a source of controversy
As is often the case on Footy Classified, regular sparring partner Craig Hutchison took issue with Wilson’s criticism of Channel 7.
Hutchison, who owns SEN Radio in Melbourne, said Wilson was ‘tone-deaf’ in levelling criticism.
He argued the commentary hadn’t lost anything despite not being called live at the ground.
“I feel that’s a really shallow view,” Hutchison said.
“The coverage has been absolutely outstanding, it’s lost little and they haven’t asked their key assets to go and quarantine in a dark room for 14 days and be away from their family.”
Nonetheless, Wilson held firm in her belief that they should have travelled to Queensland for the finals.
“The AFL were going to pay and they could have quarantined on the Gold Coast,” she said.