Leigh Sales: “I’m a work in progress”

One year on from farewelling 7.30, Leigh Sales reflects on why it was time to leave.
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For 25 years, Leigh Sales had a recurring dream that she was being chased and smothered by a tsunami. In the dream, she wasn’t always in the same place – she might be at the beach or in her car – but each time, the enormous wave would catch and overpower her.

However, the night she presented 7.30 – the ABC news and current affairs show she hosted for 12 years – for the final time, that all changed.

“I had a dream I was surfing,” Leigh, 50, tells TV WEEK. “It was a sign I’d made the right call to leave, because the news cycle is overwhelming and you’re drowning in it – now, I had a sense of skating on top of it.”

Leigh Sales is nominated for the TV WEEK Gold Logie Award. (Image: Paule Suesse)

It’s a little more than 12 months since the Walkley Award-winning journalist left 7:30 and although fans often come up and tell her they miss seeing her on television each night, she knows she made the right decision.

After quitting the show, Leigh publicly admitted she didn’t know who she was without it. So has she worked out who Leigh Sales is away from the camera?

“I think that’s a work in progress,” she reflects. “I needed the time to slow down and not have the phone ringing every five seconds – that’s been kind of liberating.”

Leigh is nominated for Gold alongside these incredible Aussie stars. (Image: Paul Suesse)

Leigh, who has two sons – Daniel, 11, and nine-year-old James – with her ex-husband Phil Willis, says she’s loving doing “what others feel is mundane”: school drop-offs and pick-ups and the nightly routine of dinner, bath and bed.

She never imagined, 12 months after leaving 7.30, she’d be nominated for the TV WEEK Gold Logie Award.

“I feel like someone made a terrible mistake,” Leigh laughs. “It feels kind of surreal – and it’s not lost on me that I currently have the least amount of time on TV [she hosts Australian Story on the ABC once a week].

“The less the Australian public sees of me, the more popular I become!”

Leigh finds being considered “popular” humorous, saying she wouldn’t have been with several prime ministers she interviewed over the years.

“If there was a Logie for ‘Most Irritating’, I’d nail that one,” she laughs. But the journalist long ago resolved it was her duty, as host of 7.30, to hold those in power to account.

“I’d always think, ‘I’m not here to be friends with who I’m interviewing – I’m here to be the representative of the people at home, and ask the questions they want answered,'” she says.

One year after leaving 7:30, Leigh reflects on her decision.

The question many want answered is: what will Leigh’s next big gig be?

“A few bits and pieces are in development, so I’m waiting for the right thing to land,” she says. “I’m quite enjoying doing behind-the-scenes work and I’ll also do a few more specials with A-list talent like I did with Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.”

As for the idea of actually winning the Gold Logie, Leigh isn’t writing her acceptance speech just yet, but knows where the statuette will live if she does.

“It will be my kids’ most prized possession,” she says. “They’ll end up playing with it and awarding it to their bunnies and I’ll never see it again!”

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