Gladiators Mark McGaw reveals the bribe that launched his sporting career

''I was scared.''
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Former NRL star Mark McGaw’s love of sport was born after his father bribed him with 20 cents at the age of five to get on the field and play footy.

“I was scared, and I didn’t want to play,” Mark, 59, tells TV WEEK. “Dad said I could go and buy lollies after the game, so I went on and had a blinder. I realised I could do pretty much any sport. I played soccer, cricket, volleyball and tennis and I was doing it all at the age of five.”

“My job is to keep these blokes and girls in line.”

(Image: Supplied)

Mark is one of the original Gladiators, starring as Hammer when Gladiators first screened nearly 30 years ago in 1995. He’s now back, but this time as the show’s rule-enforcing referee.

“My job is to keep these blokes and girls in line,” Mark says. “I had to stand my ground and say, ‘Don’t mix up your ambitions with your abilities – and that’s coming from an OG [Original Gladiator].'”

Mark says while a lot of the games are the same as they were in the 1990s, several elements of the show have changed since he was last in the arena.

“Attitudes are different, the set is different – and, naturally, the referee is different,” he jokes. “There are a couple of little surprises that we didn’t have in 1995 that are going to be awesome.”

Mark (left) as an original Gladiator.

(Image: Supplied)

On the field, Mark was able to overcome a serious injury he suffered when playing for the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

“We were playing Manly, and I snapped my shin bone in half,” he recalls. “My doctor said, ‘You’re done – your career is over’. He then said, ‘If it’s fractured, there’s no chance [of playing again], but if it’s just snapped, we’ll see if I can line up the bone.’ The next day they did an x-ray and it was perfectly in line. Six months later, I was 100 per cent fit.”

This week, the Gladiators compete in the arena for a spot in the quarter-finals. Drama-filled episodes feature competition-ending injuries, controversial referee calls and nail-biting battles.

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