Yvonne Sampson
Yvonne Sampson

Star’s fear over job-killing gaffe

LIVE TV comes with as many spills as it does thrills, but you've just got to roll with them.

Few know that better than former Channel 9 turned Fox Sports NRL presenter Yvonne Sampson, who has become one of the most respected sports broadcasters in the business.

As the Queenslander gears up for another season gracing our screens, news.com.au caught up with her and fellow presenters Lara Pitt and Emma Freedman at Fox Sports' 2018 launch of its dedicated rugby league channel Fox League to talk about working in the greatest game of all.

Sampson has led broadcasts alongside Andrew Johns and Brad Fittler, Pitt has worked on the Matty Johns Show with Gorden Tallis, Bryan Fletcher and Nathan Hindmarsh and Freedman - new to Fox - works on the Triple M Grill Team alongside Matty Johns and formerly Mark Geyer

From biggest on-air blunders to how they rein in their male colleagues, here's what the women had to say about life in front of the camera and behind the microphone.

More and more women are making their voices heard in rugby league.
More and more women are making their voices heard in rugby league.

Have you ever had a horror moment on air you thought might mark the end of your career?

Sampson: It was my very first State of Origin and I got through the pre-game - which I don't remember a lot of because I went into a blind panic - and I got into the final moments. The last few words I had to say were, "Here is your State of Origin, these are your callers: Way Warren." They took the coverage and I thought to myself, "Did I just say Way instead of Ray?" (Ray Warren is an iconic rugby league commentator) like I had a Wascaly Wabbit moment and unfortunately I had said Way Warren and I thought, "That's it, that's how I lose my job." Ray is a professional and would never have mentioned it but that's certainly one of those moments you'd like to go back and have another go at.

Freedman: I probably have multiple times. I swallowed a fly once on the Today Show when I was working there and that as you can imagine didn't end well with me spitting it back up and partially choking. I luckily haven't sworn on air yet but I do have quite the sailor mouth so it's probably only a matter of time.

Pitt: I've never sworn before, that's definitely a positive. There'd be countless times where I felt like I have stumbled. We had blooper reels at Fox Sports News when we used to read the news and we used to laugh at ourselves - things like pressing the autocue and making it go backwards instead of forwards then just laughing live on set. I don't think I've done anything that made me feel like I was going to lose my job.

Yvonne Sampson couldn’t believe she’d stuffed up introducing one of rugby league’s most famous callers of all time.
Yvonne Sampson couldn’t believe she’d stuffed up introducing one of rugby league’s most famous callers of all time.

What's it like working with the guys when they're being immature and you're trying to do a serious job?

Freedman: There was a topic (on the Grill Team) they wanted to do where I just said, "No, we've gone too far," and they laughed and I laughed and luckily they listened. Everyday there's those kinds of things. They usually relate to bathroom business or stuff in the bedroom and it's funny to a point but you've got to pull them back sometimes because not everyone's that accustomed to that quality of broadcast, and by that I mean poor quality. I will refrain from telling you what topic that was because I think that would garner a poor reaction.

Pitt: I had such a ball working with the boys on Matty's show ... as a straight journo I probably was bringing more of the hard hitting news edge stuff. Sometimes it is hard to make those four boys concentrate for long periods of time. Matty was usually the best of all of them but Fletch and Hindy, sometimes I'd throw them a question and they'd be like, "What? Sorry? I'm not even listening." Not because it's me but because they're just not used to talking footy, they're just used to having a laugh. I have big brothers so I'm definitely capable of having to try and keep people's attention and they really felt like big brothers to me. Sometimes I felt, "OK, let's go, let's move along," but that's part of the fun and that's why Matty's show works so well and they're the fun guys and you just have to pull them into line sometimes.

Sampson: Joey (Andrew Johns) and Freddie (Brad Fittler) are so entertaining and I miss them dearly but we have a lot of fun as you can see in the Fox crew as well. Joey and Freddie were so wonderful to work with ... they're so intimidating because they're immortals and legends of the game and so I would treat them with due respect but very quickly they became friends. They were so welcoming and so respectful so all of a sudden I became part of their crew. The thing with TV - live TV especially - it's interesting because they were out of their comfort zone so sometimes they look to me to save them and I don't know if I did very often but I felt so grateful and thankful that guys like Joey and Freddie and Gus (Phil Gould) and Wally (Lewis) and Locky (Darren Lockyer) and Sterlo (Peter Sterling) - they were all so wonderful and very embracing of having me on their team.

Emma Freedman has to call her radio colleagues out when they go “too far”.
Emma Freedman has to call her radio colleagues out when they go “too far”.

Have you ever felt being a woman would hamper your ability to succeed in what has traditionally been a male-dominated area?

Pitt: It's not anymore. We've got such a strong line-up of presenters at Fox Sports, we've all been doing it for a very long time and I don't think if you ask any of the girls that work alongside me, none of us feel the numbers game is an issue - just gain the respect and credibility that you have to in this industry just like anyone else. I never ever felt like it was going to be the thing that stopped me from getting to where I wanted to be. Ultimately, if you know what you're talking about, if you're qualified and you're good at your job, it honestly never felt like a hurdle that I had to overcome. Maybe it was for people 30 years ago - I imagine it would have been a different story then but not so much now.

Sampson: No one's ever made me feel unwelcome or that me doing my job wasn't acceptable. I started off as a sports journalist and I did regional television for 10 years and I never saw myself as the female sports journalist I was just like the other regional journos covering local footy. I would never hope that a player would talk to me differently because I'm a woman. I'm very lucky to say gender has never been a deterrent and it's never held me back in any regard. I'm a footy fan first and foremost and I'm very lucky to be able to work in rugby league.

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