Footy fans were left fuming on Friday night after Ash Barty became a major focal point during Channel 7’s coverage of the AFL semi-final between Richmond and St Kilda.
A diehard Richmond fan, Barty was seen decked out in her Tigers colours and cheering on the boys at Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast.
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The Aussie tennis superstar sent social media into a frenzy last weekend when she was spotted with beer in hand at the Gabba, watching on as Richmond won their qualifying final.
Barty opted not to travel to the US and French Opens this year because of the coronavirus crisis, leaving her with more time to go to the footy.
And with the World No.1 back in the stands on Friday night, Channel 7 gave viewers all the Barty coverage they could possibly need.
Commentators even took time to discuss whether Barty would travel to South Australia next weekend for Richmond’s preliminary final clash with Port Adelaide.
“If (Richmond) get the win and Barty travels to Adelaide, Darren Cahill is a board member of Port Adelaide and coaches the World No. 2 so we’ll have some real rivalry going, not only on the footy field,” one commentator said.
“I think she didn’t want to risk the health issues and those of her team but she’ll get there, Bruce. The lengths that she normally goes to to watch the Tigers in finals time.”
Bruce McAvaney said: “Amazing she decided not to go and defend her title in France, isn’t it. Amazing for the World No. 1. There she is.”
Unfortunately for a lot of viewers it was a bit too much.
“Is Ash Barty the Eddie McGuire for Richmond? Every chance they get she is on the TV,” Basil Zoccali tweeted.
Veteran sports writer Richard Hinds wrote: “Imagine how many times we would have seen Ash Barty tonight if Seven still had the tennis.”
While another social media user wrote: “More footage of her in that last quarter than the actual game.”
Imagine how many times we would have seen Ash Barty tonight if Seven still had the tennis.
— Richard Hinds (@rdhinds) October 9, 2020
Is Ash Barty the Eddie McGuire for Richmond? Every chance they get she is on the TV.
— Basil Zoccali (@BasilZoccali) October 9, 2020
It's a semi final and your commentary team just hypothesised about Ash Barty possibly attending for 5 minutes. Dead set, call the game!!
— Ben Jammin (@fletchlives_33) October 9, 2020
— Darby Henderson (@darbyhenderson) October 9, 2020
more footage of her in that last qtr than the actual game
— scott (@scottllewellyn7) October 9, 2020
Fan enjoys footy. Get over it.
— Greyhound Nerd 🐶 (@GreyhoundNerd) October 9, 2020
Not like channel 7 to flog a dead horse or anything
— Jimmy Fazz (@west_ham_fazz) October 9, 2020
Others were left in disbelief that Barty was sitting right next to surfing world champion Stephanie Gilmore, yet no one seemed to notice.
— Kane Nich (@robbo_kane) October 9, 2020
If you're going to gush over sportspeople do it properly. Do @7AFL hate Surfing? 7 x World Champion Stephanie Gilmore was sitting right next to Ash Barty. 7 x World Champion. #surfing @wsl #AFLSaintsTigers #AFLFinals #AFL @Steph_gilmore
— Johnson Von Trapp (@JVTrapp06) October 9, 2020
Richmond storm into preliminary final
Tom Lynch was in the thick of the action on return as Richmond booked a spot in the penultimate week of the AFL season for the fourth consecutive year with a 31-point semi-final win over St Kilda.
The Tigers piled on five goals in a first-quarter blitz to seize control and brushed off a second-half challenge in the 12.8 (80) to 6.13 (49) victory.
The result sets up a blockbuster preliminary final showdown with minor premiers Port Adelaide as Richmond continue their quest for back-to-back flags.
“Overall, our performance was pretty solid (but) we can certainly play a little bit better,” Richmond coach Damien Hardwick said.
“I thought offensively we were a bit scratchy tonight, gave the ball back a little bit too much in certain situations.
“We'll look at that and try and improve that next week against a very good Port Adelaide.”
Seasoned finals performers Dustin Martin, Bachar Houli and Shane Edwards starred against the Saints and Shai Bolton kicked three goals in a lively display.
Key forward Lynch was influential on his comeback from a hamstring injury with 2.5 but will come under scrutiny for dropping a knee on Dougal Howard's neck and shoulder area as they tangled during the third quarter.
“Great teams always play on the edge,” Hardwick said.
“The fact of the matter is, it's a big boys game, things happen and players will always play hard and tough.”
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