Source  The Age

EDDIE McGUIRE may no longer be Channel Nine's main man, but the footy media star is still number one draft pick for Melbourne's AFL-obsessed radio stations.

As radio bosses put the final touches on their footy line-ups this week, Collingwood's high-profile president is weighing up several offers while visiting Dubai with the Magpies.

Ratings juggernaut 3AW and junior sports station SEN are both bidding for McGuire, who earned his footy stripes as a Triple M broadcaster before spearheading Nine's AFL coverage through The Footy Show.

McGuire returned to Melbourne from Sydney this summer after his exit from the Nine CEO job. Even his marque show Who Wants to be a Millionaire is on hold until later this year.

He expected to enter talks with radio stations last week, but broke his little finger in a surf accident and needed surgery to reattach the tendon.

Still suffering the blurring effects of pain killers — and apologising for any slurred words — McGuire tells Radio Waves he will start discussions with radio bosses on his return to Melbourne on Monday.

"In all honesty, I'm not any closer to making any decisions about radio," McGuire says. "I'll be talking to some people when I get back from Dubai."

Management at 3AW (which is owned by Fairfax, the publisher of The Age) is keen to sign up McGuire, having lost talented broadcaster Clinton Grybas, who died aged 32 last month. Grybas had told 3AW management he was switching teams to call most AFL matches for Fox Footy in 2008, leaving 3AW with a large hole to fill since November.

Any station that picks up McGuire will be paying a sizeable wage bill, which may preclude the smaller, lower-rating SEN. But radio insiders also say SEN is in with a chance after McGuire joined the sports station for four special calls last season. Others say McGuire's personality is too big to work with 3AW's resident powerhouse Rex Hunt. This may also work in SEN's favour.

And a major stumbling block for 3AW will be McGuire's weekly commitments to the Collingwood Football Club, precluding him from calling some matches. SEN is happy to take McGuire whenever he is available, while 3AW may expect a more regular commitment.

Station insiders confirm 3AW is also courting footy calling legend Dennis Cometti, but the mood is not hopeful. In the meantime, 3AW stalwarts Tony Leonard and Shane Healy will step up to fill the holes left by Grybas. Coaching legend Neale Daniher will also join the 3AW panel on Saturday nights.

3AW's big-ticket recruit is Collingwood retiree Nathan Buckley, who will offer match day special comments on Saturdays and a player's perspective to Sports Today on Monday nights. Buckley replaces disgraced ex-player Wayne Carey (who was dumped from AW last year, long before a string of alleged assaults hit the news last month).

SEN was also bidding for Buckley, but instead recruited Dogs star Luke Darcy for special comments on match days. Darcy is also part of a key line-up on Channel Ten.

In another addition at SEN, footy reporter Craig Hutchison will join ex-Cat Liam Pickering on Off the Bench from 9-11am on Saturday mornings. Hutchison was unceremoniously dumped by 3AW last year when ratings started to slump.

SEN's footy executive producer Ross Flegeltaub hopes McGuire will join his expanding team, which already includes Anthony Hudson, Kevin Bartlett, Dermott Brereton, Billy Brownless, Grant Thomas, David Schwarz and Wayne Brittain. He says several ex-players are also in negotiations with the station.

"Eddie was terrific for us last year and we'd love him to be part of the team in 2008," Flegeltaub says. "He can't commit to every Friday and Saturday because of his Collingwood commitments. Even if we only get Eddie every second week, that's fine with us."

Meanwhile, last year's

top-rating footy team at Triple M will start this season with the same line-up, with the possibility of a few new footy names offering special comments.

Triple M caller James Brayshaw will return to the mic with Brian Taylor and Garry Lyon, juggling his hosting role at The Footy Show and his new post as chairman of the North Melbourne Football Club. Brayshaw quit breakfast radio last year to spend more time with his wife Sarah and three young children. Here's hoping they like footy.

"I keep wondering to myself why I feel so good," Brayshaw says. "But it all comes down to the fact that I haven't just done three hours of breakfast radio on (Triple M's now defunct) The Cage."

Asked how he would feel lining up against McGuire on either 3AW or SEN, Brayshaw says worrying about his on-air competitors is the first step towards failure.

"Eddie is a magnificent broadcaster, so whoever gets him will be very fortunate," Brayshaw says. "But you can't worry about what other mobs are doing. As soon as you take your eyes off the ball, things go bad."

Triple M has lined up boundary-riding medico Peter (Doc) Larkins and ex-player Jason Dunstall for special comments. Negotiations are under way with several other special comments men, but Triple M management is keeping quiet.

Secret negotiations are under way to sign up ex-players and coaches at 774 ABC.