Kelly and the Swans get the show on song

AFL Grand Final, Channel Seven, Saturday, 2.30pm

THE AFL was deeply embarrassed last year when the musical version of Meat Loaf proved no more edifying than the boarding-house equivalent.

Particularly given chief executive Andrew Demetriou, usually associated with Italian tenors rather than glam-metal rock stars, had attended a backslapping press conference with Mr Loaf before the big game.

As a result, not since Angry - although not as angry as he has become - Anderson belted out Bound for Glory in the ''Batmobile'' at Waverley Park will the grand final entertainment be watched with such intense curiosity. Can the AFL defy the heavy - quite literally, in Meat Loaf's case - weight of history and get it right this time?

Little wonder the league has gone for a couple of local, safe-as-houses choices: Paul Kelly leaping and bounding, and Tim Rogers being hipster cool before the game. The only risk comes with the half-time show, when the ''I know the song [Sweet Disposition] but I'm not sure who sings it [Temper Trap]'' act will perform. Otherwise, in prospect, there is a very real threat the entertainment will be - pinch yourself - entertaining.

The disappointing aspect of the grand final lead-up is the absence of football. It used to be a rare televised look at the under 19s and reserves. More recently, it was the under-18 TAC Cup grand final that provided a sneak peek, for footballing trainspotters, at some of the best young draft prospects. But the under 18s now precede the VFL grand final and Fox Sports has pinched the loveably shambolic North Melbourne grand final breakfast. That has left Channel Seven to fill the void with what has become the prickly pear of televised sports: panel shows.

Attempts to attract eyes otherwise fixated on cold beers and barbecued sausages to the screen start at 9am when Seven's usual suspects - Leigh Matthews, Mick Malthouse, Kevin Sheedy, Tim Watson, Leigh Montagna and Brett Kirk - discuss the game. That is followed at 11am by two more hours of pre-game discussion. This time with less usual suspects including Chris Judd, Nic Naitanui and Steven Motlop.

The alternative to - or, perhaps, result of - these discussions will be to take a pre-game nap to recover from watching Seven's nod to grand final broadcasting history, the grand final marathon.

Seven has been heavily criticised for not showing the main game in HD. A Twitter account - @AFLinHDpls - has amassed more than 60,000 followers. This is becoming a touchy subject for the network and the league.

Meanwhile, Fox Footy's typically exhaustive, and occasionally exhausting, approach is to cover everything the rights holder does not. That includes Friday's grand final parade, where players who would rather be picking lint out of Plugger Lockett's belly button than taking part in a procession in the city are displayed like prize bulls.

Fox Footy has done a decent job topping and tailing its Seven-commentated finals coverage with - you guessed it - more panels.

Jason Dunstall, Paul Roos et al have provided clear-headed observations. Although things can sway towards the paralysis side of analysis when we cross to David King and Cameron Mooney in the ''war room''. (A touch Churchillian for those of us who preferred The West Wing's ''situation room''.) So, finally, via more panels than you'll find on a space vehicle, to the game itself. It might be cruel to the work of Dennis Cometti and Bruce McAvaney to suggest this year's match will be defined not by who is calling, but who is not. But after a year of sensory overload, the fact Brian Taylor has been spared commentary duties - and we have been spared him - is a blessing of leper-curing proportions.

A blessing for Seven is the presence of the Sydney Swans.

Sydney against pretty much any Melbourne club - let alone a powerhouse such as Hawthorn - provides the perfect ratings combination. Even if, for some of us, it might be the music as much as the match that determines if it is a perfect day.

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop