Grant Hansen, the show’s founder and producer, said there had been no previous discussion with NITV, who make the show, and only a vague explanation. He said it failed to take into account that football was the most popular sport among Indigenous Australians and that the show had built a broader following.
“It’s a baffling decision,” Hansen said. “Marngrook was a major calling card for NITV. It was one of the most popular shows on that network. It brought people to NITV.”
NITV said times had changed. The free-to-air channel, otherwise known as National Indigenous Television, has been managed by SBS since 2012 and syndicates content from indigenous broadcasters in New Zealand, North America and northern Europe.
“The Marngrook footy show has been an important part of NITV’s schedule for 12 years,” said NITV manager Tanya Orman.
“The media landscape has changed significantly over that time, and we have to make difficult decisions about how we spend our limited budgets across our programming.
“While it was a difficult decision to make after such a long run, NITV remains committed to delivering quality AFL coverage from a uniquely Indigenous perspective. We are looking at formats for a new show that will join our existing sports coverage.”
Marngrook ran into some turbulence in 2018 when it moved from Thursday to Wednesday evening to avoid clashes with live footy on other networks, popular presenter Gilbert McAdam left and ratings languished.
McAdam returned this year and the show aired variously on Wednesday and Thursday nights. Episodes ranked in NITV’s top 30 programs for the year, but latter broadcasts averaged a five-city audience of about 20,000.
Marngrook’s shelving adds to a tumultuous year for electronic footy media. In mid-year, Nine’s iconic Footy Show was cut after more than 25 years, and earlier this week, Macquarie Sports Radio announced it was discontinuing its talk shows after just 18 months. Also this week, Fox Sports dumped popular all-round presenter Neroli Meadows.
NTIV said Marngrook’s demise did not mean the end of football on NITV. Other shows such as Over the Black Dot would continue and more would be announced soon.
Meantime, Hansen has not abandoned hope that Mangrook can find a home elsewhere in television’s mainstream. “I’d like to think there are a lot of years left in the show yet,” he said. “With the right support, it can even go to another level.”
Co-host Leila Gurruwiki shares his optimism. “I have met some amazing people … and so many doors of opportunity have opened to me because of Marngrook,” she said.
“We are hopeful to find a new home so we can still be on your TVs next year.”
Greg Baum is chief sports columnist and associate editor with The Age.
Broede Carmody is a culture reporter at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald