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Celebrity Families

"I've got too much to lose": How Rebecca Maddern reacted after her co-host Richard Wilkins caught COVID-19

There was a lot more at stake for the Ninja Warrior host.

By Melissa Field
Just days before Melbourne locked down for the second time due to the pandemic, Rebecca Maddern invited TV WEEK to her light-filled inner-city home ahead of the return of the show she co-hosts Australian Ninja Warrior.
But despite the stylish furnishings, chic artworks and fresh flowers that adorn the space it soon became very evident that Rebecca - and her husband, cameraman Trent Miller - aren't the home's only inhabitants.
A roar from Rebecca's dinosaur-loving daughter Ruby – and the scattering of toys and balls – announced that the Maddern/Miller residence is very much Miss Ruby's domain!
"Meet my little tomboy," laughs Rebecca, 42.
"This one is obsessed with dinosaurs, kicking balls and sport," she adds. "I may have my own Ninja Warrior on my hands one day."
That Rebecca speaks with such evident pride and love for her two-year old is understandable as she didn't have the easiest road to first time parenthood, at 40, in 2018.
"That's why Ruby is such a delight to Trent and myself," says Rebecca, who fell pregnant with Ruby after three unsuccessful IVF attempts.
"I'm sure all parents must feel this way but, because I had Ruby a little later in life, I say to my husband 'I think I love her too much.
"I'm going to have to see someone about it because I don't think it's healthy. I just love her too much.'"
"I just love her too much" - Rebecca and her daughter Ruby share a close bond. (Rebecca wears a coat by Harris Wharf from Grace, a cream jumper from Witchery and pants by Joseph). (Tina Smigielski)
That devotion is understandable. Ruby is a too-cute dream in front of the camera.
Mother and daughter play and giggle together. But, Rebecca admits, parenting a toddler during a global health crisis hasn't been altogether easy either.
"At the beginning of [the first] lockdown, Ruby would go to the front door, point and say 'park, slide, park!' It was heartbreaking," says Rebecca.
"I love to take Ruby to the library for story time, swimming lessons and to the swings for playdates so it was really hard to not have those options."
All the same, Rebecca says she cherished the enforced time spent with Ruby and Trent.
"You'll never hear me complain about time spent with them," she says.
"You've got to turn negatives into positives. I know how blessed I am to have Ruby and so I love the closeness that we've all been able to enjoy at this time."
Ruby is a big park fan - and will patiently wait till the end of lockdown to return! (Rebecca wears a coat by Proenza Schouler from Grace, a jumper from Dion Lee, and pants from Witchery) (Tina Smigielski)
Outside of lockdowns, Rebecca says she juggles her responsibilities as a mum with her work, on Australian Ninja Warrior, Weekend Today and Wide World of Sports, by tag-teaming with her husband.
"Trent is a very hands-on dad," she admits. "When I started on Weekend Today in January, I was flying up to Sydney every weekend and that meant they got to enjoy some very special daddy and me time."
However that job came with a huge scare for Rebecca in March, when her co-host Richard Wilkins was diagnosed with Covid-19.
"It was really shocking and frightening," says Rebecca.
"Of course I was greatly concerned for Richard, but then I had huge concerns for my own family. My parents are in their late seventies, my daughter was just about to turn two and then there was my husband and his work colleagues to think about."
Rebecca swiftly underwent a test for the virus and says waiting for the results was terrifying.
"Your mind runs away with you," she says. "It was really unnerving. You're thinking 'I've got too much to lose' if this doesn't come back negative. I really don't envy anyone who is positive or has had to go through the testing process. It was quite concerning but thankfully, my test came back negative. It was a huge relief."
The Weekend Today team got a shock earlier this year when host Richard Wilkins tested positive for COVID-19. (Channel Nine)
That meant, says Rebecca that 'the show could go on.' She began co-hosting Weekend Today from Melbourne.
"That's been amazing," she says. "Once we nutted out the technical challenges we became the only breakfast show broadcasting from both Sydney and Melbourne," explains Rebecca.
"I'm a Melbourne girl though and through so I've loved that."
The transition has been so seamless, that some viewers have pointed out that she and Richard are not social distancing.
"We look close together on screen but we're actually in different states," she laughs adding that any negative comments or trolling that she faces as a woman in TV 'doesn't affect' her.
"I block, delete and move on," she says. "I'll never let a keyboard warrior get to me."
Rebecca has a thick skin when it comes to social media. (Tina Smigielski)
Rebecca will be on screen again soon for the fourth season of Australian Ninja Warrior.
She filmed the show, with co-hosts Ben Fordham and Freddie Flintoff, just as the pandemic hit, which of course impacted how the athletes could compete.
"As the situation unfolded we had to remove the audience from the arena," says Rebecca.
"But it doesn't in any way hinder the performances by the athletes – which include mums, office workers and even some grandparents - which are just extraordinary."
Rebecca hints also that the show's fearsome - and so far untameable - Mount Midoriyama is close to being conquered too.
"What can I say? I think we're all going to see something very special," she adds.
It's not all work for Rebecca though. She says that ever since Ruby was born, she and second husband Trent, who she wed in 2014, pencil in Thursdays as their date night.
"It doesn't always happen because Trent travels for work too," she explains, "but if we can grab a bite to eat together and fall on to the sofa by 9pm every now and again, we're happy."
Ultimately though, it's the family she's created that Rebeca is proudest of.
"It's a difficult time for everyone right now," she acknowledges.
"But I feel incredibly lucky to not only have a job - that I love - but a very special family who I adore."
You can watch Rebecca on Australian Ninja Warrior Mondays and Tuesdays at 7.30pm - Channel Nine.
WATCH: Rebecca Maddern talks about her "miracle" pregnancy:

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