Talking heads: Channel Seven's broadcast of the AFL has left a bit to be desired. Photo: Penny Stephens
CHANNEL Seven managing director Lewis Martin likened his AFL commentary team to a football club yesterday.
It wasn't perfect, the new boys were learning, there were weekly reviews but, for the most part, he was pleased with its coverage five rounds into the season.
Seven, which has had excellent ratings, has been criticised for having exclusive rights to team selections.
Martin defended his team amid criticism from senior Age sports journalist Rohan Connolly, who yesterday wrote Seven's AFL coverage had ''totally missed the mark this season''.
In a stinging column, which attracted more than 400 reader responses, Connolly said, among other things, Seven was guilty of showing too many replays and missing live action.
Martin said that when to use replays was a tricky issue. ''With the replays, there is a bit of the damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't,'' he said.
''There is the occasion where, particularly a player going back for a set shot will go back, he might take his full time, take his 30 seconds, or he might give the ball off.
''If you go for a replay during that time and he gives the ball off, you come back to air - 'oh gee, made a blue there'.
''We are not saying we are perfect at the moment. We are saying that definitely we will take a lot of comments on board.''
Martin said the AFL was the ''hardest game in the world I think to broadcast''.
Connolly also criticised former Swans premiership captain Brett Kirk, who does special comments for Seven.
It appears Kirk, whose bizarre introductory speech on a Saturday telecast has gone viral on YouTube, has been told to play up to his spiritual side.
Martin said he wanted all of his commentators to act naturally.
''You don't want to tell a Cameron Ling or a Brett Kirk - or a Mick Malthouse for that matter - or a Tom Harley or a Leigh Matthews to be somebody they are not,'' he said on SEN. ''Brett Kirk played the game with his heart on his sleeve and that's how he is making his contribution to the broadcast experience.
''The same with Cameron Ling. He is five games in. I think his broadcast capacity, his skills and his presence on camera have just been way beyond our expectation.''
Martin dismissed claims veteran callers Dennis Cometti and Bruce McAvaney had become something of a ''pantomime act'', declaring they were ''world's best practice''.
He also scoffed at claims Seven, having last year paid a record $1.25 billion along with Foxtel and Telstra for broadcast rights, did not ''love'' football.
It's been a rocky start for Seven and Foxtel.
Seven, which has had excellent ratings, has been criticised for having exclusive rights to team selections on its Thursday night news, while Fox privately attacked Seven for failing to televise its matches in HD and for not continuing its commentary in ad breaks after goals. Fox does not have advertisement breaks. Seven has since changed tack and its commentators continue their analysis through the breaks.