Channel 9’s State of Origin broadcast looked a little different on Wednesday night.
Karl Stefanovic was back on deck after making his Origin debut last week in Adelaide, while Phil Gould was absent from the commentary box, instead used only for pre-game, halftime and post-game analysis.
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And while every network knows it’s almost impossible to please everyone with coverage of a major sporting event, the addition of the Today co-host gave viewers just that little bit more ammunition as NSW steamrolled Queensland 34-10 to set up a Game 3 decider in Brisbane.
Maroons diehard Stefanovic came under fire on social media for seemingly struggling with the pronunciation of certain names in the Queensland line-up before kick-off, while some fans believed his banter with Nine’s team of NRL legends fell a little flat at times.
“Could you hear me yelling obscenities?” he asked ex-NSW skipper Paul Gallen when reflecting on how the Sharks legend handled the captaincy of his state.
Gallen replied: “I remember the obscenities on social media. I was surprised how much of a staunch Queenslander you are given you were born in NSW.”
Sports reporter Brendan Bradford tweeted: “Karl Stefanovic’s attempt at reading out the QLD teamlist is maybe one reason they didn’t want to do his Origin documentary thing.”
Rugby league journalist John Davidson added: “Karl Stefanovic doing Origin coverage. 2020, you continue to disappoint.
“More Origin kid memories from Karl. Hop tip champ, no one cares. This is not breakfast TV. Leave your ‘bantz’ out.”
Another entertaining pre-match interview with Wayne Bennett proved Stefanovic may be the only member of the media capable of cracking a laugh out of the veteran coach, getting the Queensland mentor to open up about his dance moves when celebrating the Game 1 win in Adelaide last week.
But there was one moment that was more cringe-worthy than most.
Shortly before kick-off, Stefanovic was interviewing assistant coach and Maroons legend Mal Meninga in the dressing room as the players put the finishing touches on their warm-up behind him.
Stefanovic patted Meninga on the back after he finished the chat then turned around to face the footy stars behind him and said: “Good luck guys. Go Queensland!”
Not surprisingly, there was no reaction to his cheerleading as the Nine star turned back to the camera with a huge grin on his face.
“No one’s listening but I don’t care. Go Queensland.”
Stefanovic’s folksy charm is all part of his appeal and there’s nothing wrong with trying something different, but we think he missed the mark here.
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Gallen’s jab during the broadcast that Stefanovic supports Queensland despite being born in NSW was met with disbelief by his Today co-host Allison Langdon on Thursday morning.
“All I’m saying is that’s outrageous,” she said.
Stefanovic added: “He talks a lot of rubbish, Paul Gallen … he just mouths off constantly.
“Whatever, it’s not even about State of Origin, it’s about what team you like more.”