Channel Nine’s Adelaide news director has defended his network’s dismissal of former AFL star Warren Tredrea, telling the Federal Court the sports presenter’s on-air performance had failed to improve — despite a glowing 2018 performance review describing him as an “excellent ambassador”.

Tredrea is suing Channel 9 South Australia, claiming the network unfairly terminated his contract in January 2022 because he refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine. 

The former Port Adelaide captain is seeking almost $6 million in lost wages.

The court has previously heard the network had “concerns” about Tredrea’s on-air delivery and stumble rate, and was worried it could damage its reputation or business interests.

The court on Thursday heard details about a performance review from late 2018, with news director Jeremy Pudney questioned about the document.

Tredrea’s legal team quoted from the review, noting Mr Pudney had described Tredrea as an “excellent ambassador for Channel Nine and Nine News Adelaide”.

The performance review also stated Tredrea’s presenting skills continued to develop and improve, and he had strong contacts and delivered exclusives.

Tredrea’s lawyer stated no comments were made in a box for feedback on “what could go better”, and said Mr Pudney had instead marked Tredrea as “superior”, while Tredrea had rated his own performance as “exceptional”.

a man in a suit walks away from a Federal Court.

The network’s Adelaide news director Jeremy Pudney gave evidence.(ABC news)

Tredrea’s lawyer said that, according to the network’s performance standards, “superior” meant delivering “high-quality outcomes” and exceeding the “expected contribution”, and that the “quality of work was excellent”.

In response, Mr Pudney told the court Tredrea did not make consistent improvements after 2018.

“There were periods of improvement and there were periods of setbacks increasingly,” Mr Pudney said.

When questioned about why there were no written statements in relation to Tredrea’s poor performance, Mr Pudney responded “we are one big newsroom”.

“I have direct conversations with people on a regular basis,” he said.

“I had many of those discussions with Warren Tredrea and many other people who contribute to what’s on-air.”

a lawyer on the left and former sports presenter walk outside of federal court dressed smart.

Tredrea is seeking $6 million from his former employer.(ABC News)

Mr Pudney said Tredrea would “absolutely be aware” of his performance as he would have reviewed the bulletins after they were aired.

Tredrea’s legal team told the court that on July 1, 2020, an email exchange between Mr Pudney and the network’s national news director, Darren Wick, discussed renewing Tredrea’s contract.

The court heard that, in the exchange, Mr Pudney raised concerns Tredrea was being paid too much in relation to the hours he worked, and pointed out the former footballer should improve on his delivery.

a woman and man walk towards federal court dressed smart.

Tredrea outside the Federal Court.(ABC News)

Tredrea’s lawyer told the court Tredrea did improve during his time at the network, but Mr Pudney disagreed.

“The improvement didn’t continue,” he said.

“There were periods of good performance, and there were periods of poor performance, often periods of stumbles.

“My view is that there was never consistent improvement.”

When Mr Pudney was asked about his glowing 2018 review of Tredrea, his response was that he had only been the news director for a few months at the time, and was not paying close attention to his performance.

The matter will return to court on Friday.