Sport doesn’t really take a holiday in Australia – it’s very much a 365-day concern.
The sports of summer have legions of devoted fans, but there’s something special about the approach of the winter months that gets the punters a little extra fired-up.
Pay-TV provider Foxtel recognises this, and it’s giving the people what they want … and then some.
Its Fox Sports stations are gearing up for the 2014 seasons and special events with programming that offers everything from informed analysis to light-hearted entertainment.
National Rugby League fans are going to be especially pleased with what Fox Sports has in store over the coming months, with Super Saturday – presented by Olympic athlete turned award-winning broadcaster Matt Shirvington – delivering 11 hours of live NRL coverage every weekend.
“It’ll test the limits of viewers,” Shirvington says, laughing. “But there’s no better way to do this than start the day with the Holden Cup and move on to the NSW Cup before an NRL triple-header beginning at 3pm.”
The Saturday broadcast will also utilise the wisdom of a number of former NRL players, with “Shirvo” excited by the addition of two new faces, the recently-retired Steve Menzies and Scott Prince.
“They have 649 NRL games between them,” he says. “You can’t get much more experienced than that.
“So it’s phenomenal to have them on board, and we’ll be rotating a lot of talent between the commentators we have at the venues and back at the studio, where we’ll be breaking down and analysing the games.”
Shirvington describes his introduction to broadcasting as “a baptism of fire”, but he has emerged as one of Fox Sports’ most respected presenters.
However, he downplays his achievements, saying with a smile that “if I can ask the right questions to the right people, I think we can satisfy the audience’s needs”.
Taking a more irreverent approach to the game is Monday Night With Matty Johns, the popular sports-entertainment program hosted by the renowned former NRL champ.
He works alongside ex-players Gorden Tallis, Brian Fletcher and Nathan Hindmarsh (“he’s shown us a really different side – he’s very funny”) and journalist Lara Pitt.
Johns says his show has undergone a shift in tone since its premiere last year.
“It’s funny how the show has evolved,” he says. “It used to be fairly serious analysis but then we realised people were getting that Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. By the time Monday comes around it can be a bit exhausting. So we’ve added a bit of irreverence.
“We talk about the game, but we realise that it’s only a game. And people have had it shoved down their throats for the last four days before they get to us, so we don’t get bogged down.
“We try to keep it light and breezy, and a bit naughty at times. If we’re having a good time, the people at home are going to be enjoying it as well.”
* Super Saturday screens for up to 11 hours on Saturdays on Fox Sports 1. Monday Night With Matty Johns, screens at 9pm, after live Monday-night football, on Fox Sports 1. Check the Foxtel guide for other upcoming games, previews and shows.