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Cut program inspired cultural unity

Confident: Leila Gurruwiwi.

Confident: Leila Gurruwiwi. Photo: Teagan Glenane

THE Marngrook Footy Show was for people who don't need the stimulus of constant sensational news breaks to maintain their interest in the game.

It had some great personalities, none better than former St Kilda player Gilbert McAdam. Gilbert's relationship with the English language is unique, his sentences starting where they should end, jumping to the start and then ending in the middle. But a generous spirit shone through every word. As I said in an earlier column, watching Gilbert was like seeing a man driving a tractor the wrong way up the Hume Highway waving to all the oncoming traffic.

The show had plenty of good-natured badinage but it also had people like triple premiership player Chris Johnson, who speak on footy with the sort of natural authority that makes you want to listen. The friendly atmosphere of the set which was underpinned by a healthy respect for the game and those who had made real achievements in it meant that guests on the Marngrook Footy Show often revealed sides of their character not evident in other footy media.

It was old-fashioned but in a good way. For all the light-hearted revelry, there was never an issue of taste on the Marngrook Footy Show. I never saw women belittled and it was one of the show's female presenters, Leila Gurruwiwi, who brought home to me what was most remarkable about the show. Leila, who comes originally from Arnhem Land, was so confident.

The Marngrook Footy Show was such a confident assertion of indigenous identity. At the same time, it effortlessly made the cross-over into mainstream culture. Anyone making generalisations about indigenous culture in this country that neglected to mention the Marngrook Footy Show would be missing something significant.

As for the ABC, I'm going to be one of many watching very closely to see how long it is before the national broadcaster comes up with a program that better serves both indigenous Australia and the cause of reconciliation.

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