Mark Maclure has become increasingly prominent in recent years both for his forthright nature and a growing media footprint.
When Mark Maclure was playing Australian Rules football in the 1970s and 1980s the media landscape was a simple one: during the week you read about the game in a newspaper and on Sunday you went to the Channel Seven studios in South Melbourne and fronted up for World of Sport, the venerable sports program populated by legends of yesteryear.
"That was it – Jack [Dyer] and Lou [Richards] and Bobby Davis on a Sunday morning," recalls the former Carlton centre-half forward and three-time premiership player. "They used to have a tin of powder to do their own make-up and then they'd brush their suits down. You could have a beer and a pie in the make-up room beforehand, too. It was a different deal, but it was great fun and everyone watched."
Maclure still turns up to a television studio on Dorcas Street to talk about the footy every week, but the Fox Footy complex, with its luminous studios and digital hub, exists both literally and metaphorically in a different century. What makes Maclure stand out is that, at the age of 59, he comfortably bridges those two eras, and he's become increasingly prominent in recent years both for his forthright nature and a growing media footprint.
His duties now includes dissecting Friday night's AFL game and appearing on the Wednesday edition of AFL 360 for Foxtel's Fox Footy, as well as covering weekend games as part of ABC Radio's Grandstand team. Football punditry is increasingly a young man's game – exemplified by 43-year-old Wayne Carey supplanting 63-year-old Leigh Matthews on Channel Seven's Friday night coverage – but Maclure is the broad-shouldered exception to the rule.
"I've never rung anybody for a job. Sometimes I do have to pinch myself and ask what's going on here," he notes. "But I'm not that involved. I do a little bit here at Fox, a little at the ABC, and I go to work every day. People ask me why I don't just do this, but why would I? I could get sacked any time of the day if someone younger comes along and they want to hire them. I'd be fine if that happened, because I've had a good time."
Maclure – whose oft-referenced nickname Sellers is a Pink Panther reference – never expected to end up as part of the football media. After retiring from the game in 1986 he worked as an assistant coach interstate, first with the Brisbane Bears and then the Sydney Swans, before deciding that he would never be one of the game's best senior coaches and returning to the corporate fold in Melbourne with oil company Valvoline, where he remains to this day.
When ABC commentator Tim Lane range him in 2000 to offer him a role on their coverage, Maclure figured it was a friend pranking him and hung up. Lane called back and soon after Maclure found himself in a commentary booth alongside the likes of Lane, Dwayne Russell and Stan Alves.
"All I tried to be was myself, never anyone else. I treat it like I'm at the footy with my mates and we're talking about the game. Front of the ball, behind the ball – you can't see it on television, but it gives you a clear picture of how organised teams are. That's what I would tell my mates and that's what I try to do on radio and TV."
When he offers an opinion, on air and off, Maclure speaks in sharp, rhythmic sentences – the verbal equivalent of bullet points. His tone is quiet, but compelling, and he never resorts to melodramatic flair or exaggerated opinions to claim the spotlight. His weekly pairing with the analytical David King on AFL 360 is must-see, cutting through the torrent of ever present AFL chatter and sometimes rankling clubs and current players.
"I don't second guess myself, I just try to be honest. I get in a lot of trouble sometimes for that, especially with my own club," says Maclure. "Do I care about that? Of course I do. But I want to be true to myself and the people who employ me, and some people just don't like the truth."
Carlton's woeful season, given definition by the parting of ways with coach Mick Malthouse, who had acknowledged in his final fortnight an unhappiness with Maclure's comments, made the player turned pundit a lightning rod for dissent, but Maclure never succumbs to the hysteria of the expert become mob leader. "Don't think about it," is a phrase he repeatedly uses – Mark Maclure doesn't judge his own work through the eyes of others.
"Least is best," says Maclure, offering his broadcasting philosophy. "Keep it short, keep it sharp, keep it neat, and keep it pointed. And that works."