Back in the day: Roland and Sam Newman on the set of the Footy Show. Photo: SUPPLIED

From the desk of Roland Rocchiccioli – May 16, 2019

May 15, 2019 BY

I confess: I’ve slept with Sam Newman; I’ve showered with Billy Brownless; I jumped-out of Matthew Lloyd’s 21st birthday cake; and I stood, stark-naked, in front of 20,000 people, together with a television audience of several million!

MATHEW Lloyd is still in therapy, Billy Brownless is struggling to erase the memory!

When Ed McGuire, and Harvey Silver (Executive Producer), asked me to do a guest spot on the AFL Footy Show, I had no inkling it would go on for ten-years, and introduce me to a whole new audience whom I never would have met – not in ten lifetimes of working in the theatre! For someone who has done so much Ibsen, Shaw, Chekov, and Shakespeare, my involvement was unexpected. It was a fantastic learning experience; also, it was an opportunity to observe, at close quarters, many of the world’s élite athletes. For that chance I would have done it for nothing – although, come to think of it, I did, almost!

The news that Channel 9 has decided, after 25-years, to cease production of the AFL Footy Show is sad, but not surprising.

It was very much a product of a time and a place; it was cutting edge when it first went to air, and remained so for 15-years.

Sadly, as always happens, the show has run its course. It’s time to turn-off the lights. For many of us who were there at the beginning – I think I joined in its second year – there are myriad wonderful and funny memories.

For me – I learned more from that experience than anything else I have done over my 53-year career in the theatre. Being ‘live’ on the Footy Show – with no script and expected to be funny – has cured me of nerves. I’m still a little apprehensive when it comes to standing-up in front of audience, but that is directly related to a pursuit of excellence; the hope that the audience likes and responds to what you are saying and doing; however, it does not always work. I was invited to be a guest speaker at the inaugural Ballarat AFL Grand Final breakfast. I was an unmitigated disaster – a flop of resounding enormity!

The audience stared at me – their eyes turning like windmills – as if I had landed from Mars. Honed theatrical anecdotes which normally garner a huge laugh were greeted with a deafening, stony silence. Not a titter! The lesson learned was: however tempting, never do a breakfast gig!

Sam and I have been friends for 40-years. We were the odd couple! For the opening of 1997 Footy Show I drove him through the streets of Melbourne in a rickshaw (we caused a traffic jam on the corner of Flinders and Spencer Street) and the police estimated about 10,000 gathered to watch us! Sam, who was just out of hospital from having his nose straightened (remember the plumber and the punch at the front door?) was doing live-crosses back to the studio. Finally, we got back to Richmond and, on cue, I hurtled the pedicab down a ramp and crashed through the rear of Trevor’s new bar to great effect.

It was polystyrene and balsa.

When Sam, Billy Brownless, Dermot Brereton, and, I did ‘The Full Monty’ for the Player’s Revue, everyone was nervous we would strip naked. Well, of course we did! One journalist wrote: Seeing the four rat-bags standing naked on stage, it was obviously much colder than we realised!

With Sam in tutu, I did the splits. Sam turned to Ed and said: “Hang-on a minute, Eddie. We’re going to have to rock him break the suction!”

I’m grateful for the opportunity!

Roland can be heard every Monday morning – 10.30 – on radio 3BA and contacted via [email protected].