The role of co-hosting one of the Fox Footy’s biggest properties AFL 360 goes to Mark “Robbo” Robinson as he fronts the program with Gerard Whateley four nights a week.
Robinson starts his conversation with Mediaweek emphasising how much he respects his TV colleague. “We both like football and we both like media and we are lucky we like each other as well.
“We do have very different lives, that is for sure. We don’t always agree, but you wouldn’t want that…how boring would it be?
“He has brought some badly needed maturity to me and I have brought a little bit of scallywag to him, which he needed.”
Robinson said he never thought he would be a big drawcard on TV. “I have a head like a beaten favourite and TV has always been an industry I have to some extent distrusted. You have to be beautiful on TV while in journalism what you look like is not important…it is about the story and the content.
“When I was first asked by Rod Law [former channel manager] to appear on the channel I was as nervous as hell.” As he remembered his Fox Footy start he noted how in TV you have to be self-indulgent to talk about yourself.
“I agreed to do TV, but I told them not to put me through TV school. I wanted to be who I am, so when they sacked me I wouldn’t be able to blame anyone else.”
Despite the rules of presentation that Robinson doesn’t fit, viewers have warmed to his style, complete with his mumbles, stumbles, and studio missteps his producers continue to remind him about.
“I might not be great on some of the little technical issues, but the football is the main focus and we cover it in a manner that people seem to like.”
The methods of conducting an interview can be similar for print and TV, but they are more public of course on a live TV program.
“You can ask the questions direct and hard, which might see a guest’s defences go up immediately. Or you can try to be a little more sympathetic and genuinely care about what they are going through. You need to earn their trust.”
When asked if it can be hard to ask tough questions of a coach you are friendly with, Robinson said: “There is no doubt that in any field, if you know someone and then have to be critical of them, it can be difficult.
“If you want to be a journalist you have to be prepared to know that people are going to hate you. If you can’t handle that, don’t become a journalist.
“You are going to have to write stuff and say stuff about people you may or may not know and they might turn around and criticise you. If you are honest and not making your opinion up, the viewer or reader will appreciate a genuine opinion.”
Robbo’s time management
“Like everyone else at Fox Footy elsewhere in the industry, when the footy starts everything else gets pushed aside.
“I start work around 11am every day and get home around 9.30pm.”
He admitted he is a night owl. “I never go to bed before midnight. I stay up checking online sports coverage of AFL news, among other things.”
He said the number of journalists covering AFL has grown considerably over recent years, noting for them all it is a commitment over seven days a week.
“I have Thursdays off at the newspaper. But on that day I do radio at SEN and also AFL 360.
“I have Saturday off from writing but I do Crunch Time at SEN and then I go home and watch three games of footy. On Sunday I write The Tackle column for the Herald Sun. By the time Monday comes around I am stuffed!”
But he noted it doesn’t take long to become motivated in the new week, pointing to the start of AFL 360. “TV is still an adrenalin rush and I am excited during every show because it is live. But we can’t talk serious footy all the time. Nobody wants too much of that. We need to throw in funny stories, which might include my favourite music at 2am.”