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EXCLUSIVE: Channel 10 newsreader Sandra Sully reflects on her stellar 30 year career

''I thought it would end in tears.''
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Sandra Sully is laughing.

She’s looking over the photos that TV WEEK has collected to celebrate her 30 years at Network 10, and she’s spotted the one of her with Ronn Moss.

Taken in 2005, it shows The Bold And The Beautiful leading man with his arm around the Aussie newsreader.

“His manager is trying to organise a date between Ronn and I,” she remembers.

“And I’m dying, because I’m thinking, ‘He’s the beautiful one, I’m the bold one!'”

The hilarious photo in question!

(Credit: Getty)

The actor’s manager wanted Sandra to go out with Ronn on a Saturday night. But that particular night, Sandra was already committed to hosting the Surf Life Saving NSW awards.

“His manager said, ‘Well, Ronn will come with you.’ I said, ‘Look, it’s to celebrate surf lifesaving, not to celebrate The Bold And The Beautiful’s Ronn Moss, who’s in the room.’

“So yes, I turned down a date with Ronn Moss for the surf lifesaving awards, and they never ever knew the sacrifice I’d made!”

Healthy career

It’s one of the lighter moments in Sandra’s long and successful career in TV journalism.

Best known for her 18 years on 10’s Late News, the 54-year-old is currently presenting Sydney’s 10 News First.

That’s pretty impressive for someone who, when she was growing up, never imagined a future in the media. In fact, she started out working in health and fitness.

“I was teaching aerobics, and was the manager of a couple of gyms,” she explains. “I realised health and fitness was more of a hobby than a career, so I thought I’d do other things.”

Sandra in the early days of her career.

(Credit: Supplied)

Sandra “fell into journalism by accident” after getting a job as a TV production assistant through one of the women in her running class.

She was working as a reporter at Channel Seven in Brisbane at the time of the famed Fitzgerald Inquiry into police corruption in Queensland in the late 1980s.

“I just fell in love with journalism and the power of it,” she says.

However, the idea of being in front of a TV camera didn’t particularly appeal.

“I was a nervous wreck, because I’d never had any designs on doing that,” Sandra admits. “But I fell in love with the craft and had to get my head around actually doing stand-ups and pieces to camera.”

Spending a couple of years working in Canberra helped.

“I think being away from family and friends forced me to just apply myself and not be too mortified every time I saw myself,” Sandra says. “I had to get over that.”

Onwards and upwards

In 1992, an unexpected opportunity came Sandra’s way. By then she was working as a reporter for 10 in Sydney.

“One Friday afternoon, I’d come back from being general reporting on the road when the 2IC at Network 10 tapped me on the shoulder,” she remembers.

“He said, ‘I was wondering if you could help us out on Monday morning, Sandra?’ I said, ‘Sure. What would you like me to do?'”

What the network bosses wanted her to do was to co-host the national breakfast show Good Morning Australia. She’d be taking over from Kerri-Anne Kennerley.

“I just went, ‘I don’t know if I can do this,’ and they said, ‘No, no, you’ll be right.’ I said, ‘What am I going to wear?’ And they said, ‘Go down to Kerri-Anne’s wardrobe and pick something,’ and I went, ‘I can’t do that!’ It was just bizarre.

“I thought, ‘This is all going to end in tears, but you’ve been given the opportunity, so have a go.'”

Of course, it didn’t end in tears. Sandra went from co-hosting Good Morning Australia to presenting the news – first in Sydney, and, from 1994, Ten Late News nationally.

At one point, Sandra became the story herself when a new set and a different opening shot meant viewers caught a glimpse of her legs. Some people started declaring she was “too sexy” to read the news.

“You never usually saw them, but lo and behold, a newsreader has legs!” Sandra says. “The network was thrilled with the publicity and I was the bunny in the headlights. I just had to roll with it. It didn’t bother me – I thought it was all a bit silly.

“But I loved doing the Late News. I loved our team. We did really well. We broke a lot of big stories.”

Sandra never imagined a career in front of the camera.

(Credit: Supplied)

Front and centre

A story Sandra will always be remembered for is September 11. She was on air in 2001 when the first of the planes struck one of the Twin Towers of New York’s World Trade Centre.

“For a moment, I was concerned that it was some really bad hoax, because it was so surreal,” she remembers. “When the second plane went in, I knew it was terrorism.”

Sandra calls it a “terrifying night”.

“I honestly believed it was the beginning of World War III, because that’s what it looked like,” she says. “For those who were with me that night, we lived the horror, the terror and the drama. I probably didn’t sleep for four days.”

In 2013, Sandra got another opportunity to try something new: co-hosting the crime show Wanted with Matt Doran.

“It was fantastic,” she says, although Wanted didn’t make it beyond a year.

“As a group, we were disappointed the network didn’t pursue that,” Sandra says. “I think that was a mistake, in hindsight.”

Right now, Sandra is enjoying presenting 10 News First with Matt Burke and Tim Bailey.

“They’re great guys,” she enthuses.

“We genuinely like each other and I think people can see that. We’re always sending each other up, and that’s fun. The news has become a little bit more conversational, and it’s not as stitched up as it used to be 30 years ago.”

Sandra says she’d like to keep presenting the news “as long as I enjoy it”.

“I don’t have any grand plans – I’ve never been a planner,” she admits.

She’s had the “tap on the shoulder” before and knows it could happen again.

“I was reading the five o’clock news in Sydney and was axed. I just asked to go back on the road. Like everyone else, I had bills to pay. It wasn’t about being in front of the camera, it was about being involved. I would have been happy on the production desk.”

Sandra has plenty of other things to occupy her at the moment besides TV.

There’s her podcast, Short Black, which is “going gangbusters”.

There’s also her new book, being launched on International Women’s Day in March.

As well, there’s her family life, with businessman husband Symon Brewis-Weston and stepdaughter Mia, who has just turned 15.

Sandra describes Mia as a “good young human being and a very impressive young lady”.

“She has a strong sense of injustice and I know that comes from all her parents,” she says. “We just try to empower her to chase her dreams, but be a good person. It’s not about where you get, it’s about how you get there.”

As for Sandra herself, she’s “really happy” at this point in her life.

“I’m really, really proud to have got this far and to have worked with some real champions of the game,” she says. “I’m always mindful I can improve. There are more things to do.

“I’m a ‘glass half-full’ type – and a Queenslander at heart with a sunny disposition.”

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