Erin Molan has been a fixture of Channel Nine’s NRL coverage for years. As a fan of the game, I have always valued her insights, her bold predictions and of course, I appreciate the fact that she’s backing the Canberra Raiders for a Grand Final win this weekend.
But more than a valuable and informed spokesperson on the game, Erin Molan has been instrumental in transforming Rugby League commentary in Australia, and arguably the game itself.
In essence, she’s been a formidable wave in a tide that’s working to dismantle an archaic and destructive culture.
When I was a teenager, Channel Nine’s Footy Show always left me uneasy. I would watch it because I was keen to keep up to date with the sport I loved, but the high regularity of racism, sexual and sexist innuendos and inane, blokey banter left me hollow.
It became more ridiculous and less relevant as the years went on, until last year, inevitably, it was axed. Channel Nine had failed to understand what fans now expected from the experts on their game.
But one beacon of hope when the show was on the precipice of no return, was Erin Molan joining the mix as host, after Paul (Fatty) Vautin was let go in 2017.
Unlike Vautin, Molan was sharp, professional and inarguably knew the game (certainly more articulately) than any of the former NRL legends she shared the desk with. And, given support for the NRL is comprised nearly equally between men and women, it was a savvy move by Channel Nine to bring her into the fold.
By then however, it was too late. The Footy Show’s ratings had been sinking for years, the show had lost touch, and attempts to resurrect it now would only prove futile.
None of this was Erin Molan’s doing.
If anything, she single-handedly kept things afloat for a few more months. We know this to be fact, because only a few months after the NRL Footy Show tanked, the AFL Footy Show– which had essentially followed the same Jurassic formula– did the same.
Following this, Channel Nine made the obvious call to keep Erin Molan as a lead commentator, much to the dismay apparently, of NRL immortal and fellow analyst, Andrew Johns.
To be honest it’s unclear whether the reported stoush between Molan and Johns is real, or whether it’s manufactured.
The Daily Mail, (hardly the pinnacle of truth) vehemently alleges that Molan grates Johns; that she giggles too much, interrupts the other commentators and should never have replaced Vautin as lead host back in 2017.
Johns has loosely denied the claims, but equally hasn’t jumped to his colleague’s defence following the horrific online trolling she’s been subjected to this week.
“Where did you hear that from? Good old rugby league just thrives on rumours and innuendo,” Johns reportedly told the Daily Telegraph earlier this week when questioned over the rift.
But frankly, I don’t care whether they’re foes or friends.
I don’t care if Erin Molan “giggled” right in Andrew Johns’ face.
I don’t care if she left a steaming dog turd on his doorstep.
There is no excuse for the level of vitriol and bile which has been hurled at her over the past 12 months– and particularly over the past week.
During a radio interview with 101.7 WSFM’s Jonesy and Amanda yesterday, an emotionally drained Molan tearfully conceded how hard her week has been. The online trolling has extended to Molan being labelled a “c*nt”, “a drama queen” and accused of “ruining rugby league”.
But the real crux of the issue was articulated perfectly by Amanda Keller during the interview:
“I get emotional with this Erin, I don’t understand why people give you a hard time,” Keller said as her voice cracked.
“It pisses me off. And I think it’s because you are so professional and you are so good at your job, that I think that men don’t like you being good at what they still see as their world. I admire the pants off you or the eyeballs off you and I just think you are the most professional female and it’s threatened everybody.”
The NRL has come a long way in recent times. We’ve seen huge progress and publicity around the NRLW, advocacy around marriage equality and a crack down on violence in the game.
But this treatment of Molan proves conclusively that we still have marathons to run before women are properly embraced into a code which has historically upheld one of the most toxically masculine cultures.
It would be a symbolic move for the league to step in and call this out for what it is: sexism.
This weekend, I’ll head to ANZ Stadium to support the Raiders. But you can bet your bottom dollar, I’ll be standing in firm solidarity with Erin Molan too.