Of all the potential topics to stir up heated debate on breakfast television, kids’ sports seems the most unlikely.
But Sunrise presenters Natalie Barr and Mel McLaughlin got caught up in an awkward back-and-forth over which sport is more popular among youngsters: cricket or basketball?
The two presenters were responding to comments from NBL boss Larry Kestelman, who’s been stoking the flames for basketball’s moment as ‘s top summer sport ahead of its season launch in October.
“Good luck, mate,” McLaughlin, filling in on the show for regular sports reporter Mark Beretta, joked. “It is important to aim high.”
Barr quickly shot back.
“I agree with him,” she said. “With the new generation coming up, basketball is absolutely more popular [than cricket] with kids.”
“At grassroots levels, it has fantastic numbers – they just need to convert it,” McLaughlin countered.
The comments sparked an odd argument, with hosts Sam Armytage and David Koch looking on enthusiastically as each presenter refused to back down. (Koch, a shareholder in the NBL’s Sydney Kings, surprisingly didn’t jump in.)
“Kids aren’t interested in cricket as they were, like previous generations,” Barr said.
“I think different competitions have changed. I think the shorter form has gotten back on board…” McLaughlin replied.
“Disagree,” Barr interrupted. “I’m surrounded by kids who love basketball…”
“Yeah, but they’ve gotta go to the games, they’ve gotta wear the jerseys…” McLaughlin said.
After trading volleys, the duo’s tiff was brought to a stop by the ding of a boxer’s bell as producers looked to get the show back on track.
McLaughlin, the weeknight sports presenter on Seven News, will remain on Sunrise while Beretta recuperates from a waterskiing injury.