Showstopper: Old Dog up to new tricks
ROBERT Murphy was never your average AFL footballer.
A consummate professional, immensely talented and universally loved, he carved out one heck of a career across 18 seasons and 312 games.
But by and large, Murphy went against the grain.
A Bulldog, yes, but a very different breed.
OK, enough of the puns - he would hate that.
Not to put too fine a point on it, Murphy, or 'Bob', has always been particularly good at stringing sentences together.
Through his insightful and entertaining columns for The Age in Melbourne, Murphy's unique personality shone through.
An unabashed music lover himself, Murphy can count Australian superstar Paul Kelly as one of his biggest fans.
Yeah, the singer-songwriter, not the former Sydney Swans skipper and Brownlow Medallist of the same name.
Kelly even went as far as penning a tribute to Murphy before his 300th game for the Doggies last season.
Murphy's character-driven look at footy, and the world in general, takes a new turn with his own show, Bob - what else would it be called? - on Fox Footy.
Murphy is in the driver's seat, literally, taking to the road in his vintage Holden with best mate Arthur (his pet sausage dog) to interview well-known personalities - and a few footballers - about their lives and their mutual love of Aussie rules.
It's not your average football show - comments like the dreaded "taking it one week at a time" and a new non-favourite, "due diligence", would be deemed blasphemous.
"I have an allergic reaction to some of the cliches," Murphy said.
"I love the traditions of footy ... and the storytelling.
"In one sense this show's two people talking about the game, conversations all people would have, but not normally for television.
"It's about walking to the MCG on a Friday night, the smell of old footy club locker rooms, the sound of three-quarter-time huddles.
"That's the stuff that I have a real passion for."
There's no studio, ala the revered Open Mike with veteran footy scribe Mike Sheahan.
Murphy hits the road aiming to strike a chord with footy fans.
"We're driving to meet the guests," he said. "Then we sit down and chat ... at people's houses, the MCG, a band venue in St Kilda.
"We're not in the studio. Mike said we're not allowed in the studio," he adds with a laugh.
Rob Sitch, the brains behind such iconic movies and television shows as Frontline, The Castle and Kath and Kim, features in tonight's first episode, followed in coming weeks by Julia Gillard and Adam Gilchrist.
"It comes with a bit of pressure, if I ask the wrong question of Julia Gillard, you might get arrested," Murphy said.
Australia's first female prime minister, Gillard was also once the Bulldogs' No.1 ticket-holder.
"At least we had that common ground," Murphy said, adding there's a "common thread" to all of his guests aside from being footy fanatics.
"Everyone I've spoken to, they've got a performance aspect to what they do," he said.
"I'm interested in the 10 minutes before the performance. There were some really interesting themes that ran through."
A chat with veteran rocker Tex Perkins particularly hit home.
"The thing that shocked me I guess, I've gotten to know Tex Perkins quite a bit, I was really surprised that he gets really, really anxious before a gig," he said of the former Cruel Sea frontman.
"When he was younger he would throw up and question why his life had led to this point as a singer and putting himself out on stage.
"Talking about it, that's exactly how I felt before games of football.
"That surprised me, maybe it shouldn't have but you don't know, do you? He's the consummate frontman, he's so assured, so comfortable in that space, he wouldn't have any self-doubt."
Drafted to the Bulldogs as a raw, skinny kid in 1999, before building himself up to become Bulldogs skipper, and captain of the All-Australian side in 2015, Murphy reflects on his own anxiety.
"It was pretty much the whole way," he said.
"I would watch footy on a Friday night and think 'I can't do that', knowing that I had done it 150 times. But I had this wave of self-doubt."
Murphy, a husband and father of three who always presents as cool, calm and collected, admits he's a little anxious about how Bob the TV show will be received.
"I'm barracking hard for the show," said the fan of Enough Rope with Andrew Denton and Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.
"I hope people like the show. I hope they get it.
"I think it's good. What we've set out to do we've achieved. It's another different look at the game."
Superstar Fremantle skipper Nat Fyfe is among the guests. He also is often be described as a "different cat".
"I could be wrong, but I don't think we've heard two footballers in a conservation like that before," Murphy said.
Murphy retired at the end of the 2017 season.
Sadly, he missed being a member of the Bulldogs' drought-breaking premiership team of 2016 due to a knee injury.
It still haunts him, "which is pretty understandable".
But Bob's a glass-half-full kind of guy.
"I'm very aware that I could be digging ditches. I'm not really qualified to do much," he said. "To get to do this for a living, I've been pretty fortunate."
Bob will be screened each Tuesday at 8.30pm on Fox Footy (Ch 504).