Barry Hall is officially a changed man. The AFL great has swapped the footy field for his most important role to date – being a dad to his two-month-old son Miller, who he welcomed with partner Lauren Brant, 28, in May.
The self-confessed softie admits looking after a newborn has made him more protective of his family than ever before.
“He’s just so innocent and little. I hope we don’t have a girl because I’ll be even more protective than I am with Miller,” Barry tells us.
Here, the 40-year-old gives us a look into his exciting new world as a parent...
With an AFL career spanning decades playing for clubs like the Sydney Swans, St Kilda Football Club and the Western Bulldogs, Barry has kicked some incredible personal goals.
But he always longed to start a family and believes having Miller in his '40s has worked out for the best.
“The stars have aligned. I didn’t have kids for some unknown reason and it might sound bad but thank god I didn’t,” he tells Now To Love.
“I’m 40, I’ve done everything I wanted to do in life and now I’m ready for the kids! People might think in the ideal world that’s a bit late but for me, it’s perfect timing. I’m loving it. By the time he’s up and running, I’ll still be able to kick the footy with him and have more [kids].”
“I always wanted kids and being a dad is fantastic, I absolutely love it.”
The gentle giant just can’t get enough of his bub.
“Miller’s my whole world now. He’s eight weeks old and I’ve done nothing for eight weeks except look at him and dote over him. It’s great!”
“When I do have to go to work, I miss him! Even if it’s for an hour or so, I just can’t wait to get home to him.”
Miller might only be two months old but Barry’s first taste of fatherhood has him hooked.
“We want three more kids so we’re going to have four kids and a dog,” he shares.
“I know a lot of people who have had four kids and it’s a lot of work and quite full on but it’s also a lot of fun.”
While Baz is keen on the number four, he might need to fill his partner in as he confesses: “I’d love to have four kids but I haven’t spoken to Lauren about that! But we’ll work something out.”
Yep, Barry Hall isn’t just a talented AFL player. Turns out, he can also deliver babies.
Putting to bed the stereotype of the queasy partner watching on as their significant other gives birth, Barry says he was in the trenches – quite literally.
“I was in there and amongst it! I actually delivered Miller. They said come round, his head was out at that stage, and she’s going to push and he’ll come straight out, so just make sure you’ve got him. It was great!”
“It was just a surreal thing, women are remarkable,” he beams.
Barry admits one of the most surprising things about welcoming his son was waiting for the shock to wear off and the love to kick in.
“A lot of people told me that as soon as the baby comes out, you’ll feel this undeniable love that you’ve never felt before. This might sound bad but I didn’t feel that at all,” the I’m A Celeb star tells us.
“I was quite emotional but it wasn’t 'til the weeks after his birth that I started to feel those sort of feelings. I think because the birth is so surreal and graphic… but now I’ve got this overriding protector sort of feeling for him! Even if people smoke near him, I get really protective. I think I was just in shock for a while,” he says.
That’s not to say he wasn’t a blubbering mess!
“Driving home from the hospital, I had him in the back of the car and I was doing ten kilometres an hour because I was scared! Something just came over me, having a little baby in the back and he’s ours – I just started crying,” Barry laughs.
“Lauren was in the back and she goes, ‘Are you crying?’ And I was like, ‘No!’ To have my little baby, which I’ve been waiting for for so long – I was overcome with it all.”
That’s why the sports star has teamed up with Kleenex as their Soft Spots ambassador – because he wants you to know it’s OK to let the tears flow.
In fact having suffered from depression after he retired from AFL, he’s a huge advocate for mental health.
“I speak with Lauren quite a bit. We’re quite an open book and we’re pretty honest with each other and make sure we’re there as a support,” he shares of looking after his own well-being.
“I’ve got some really close mates I speak with daily and if there’s anything coming up or I feel a bit down, I talk to them about it. It’s something we need to do because a lot of guys don’t. They’re too proud to open up and that’s where the trouble starts. If you don’t get it out and try to stop the issues, it will just bubble up.”
After starring on the 2015 series of I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!, Barry famously got off on the wrong foot with former Hi-5 singer and his co-star, Lauren.
Fast forward two years and the pair, who often clashed on the show, still can't believe they ended up together.
"It’s insane that we’re here! She said to me the other night, ‘Would you ever think that I would have been with someone like you?’ And we both said no, not at all! In saying that, it just felt so right the whole time. Everything that’s happened – and yes it’s happened quite quick – it’s just felt so right!"
"It’s about giving people a second chance. I had an impression of entertainers and all that sort of thing… just because some entertainers are a certain way, doesn’t mean all of them are. Lauren is really, really friendly and the opposite to what I thought she’d be," he admits.
For now, marriage can wait but it's definitely on the cards.
"I’ll certainly look at marriage at some stage, definitely. Lauren’s the one for me," he says.
With Lauren hailing from the Sunshine Coast and Barry having repped both the Swannies and the Western Bulldogs, what jersey will Miller wear at home?
"He’s a Queenslander, definitely, so he’ll barrack for the maroons, but I think if he does want to play AFL and if he is quite good at it, I think the father-son rule means he’ll play for the Swans."
"He might be a ballet dance or a lawn bowls player, who knows? But he’ll do whatever he wants and we’ll support him no matter what."