House Rules

House Rules EXCLUSIVE: the heartbreaking story of Chelsea and Wayde Dunley

The couple were going to appear on House Rules as contestants, but what happened next shocked everyone.

By Alex Lilly

In an upcoming special episode, the final House Rules teams are giving back to a family whose lives were turned upside down last year. And you're definitely going to need the tissues for this one.

Childhood sweethearts Chelsea and Wayde Dunley had applied to be contestants on the show last year, but when Wayde tragically passed away soon after, everything changed.

Now, one year on, it's House Rules' turn to help the Dunleys out, and speaking exclusively to Now To Love, Chelsea reveals how much the renovation means to her and little daughter Koa.

How did Chelsea and Wayde Dunley meet?

Chelsea and Wayde on their wedding day.
Chelsea and Wayde on their wedding day.

Chelsea met Wayde Dunley way back when they were just five years-old at primary school. They then went on to attend the same high school together.

"He asked me to be his girlfriend when we were age 13."

"We spent a lot of years together, you don't hear about it so much anymore, people being together from so young."

The couple, who shared a love of House Rules, married in 2012 and welcomed baby daughter Koa in 2016.

Wayde was a prominent member of the NRL community. *(Image credit: GoFundMe.com)*
Wayde was a prominent member of the NRL community. (Image credit: GoFundMe.com)

"Wayde and I had always joked about going on there before we even bought the house that really needed renovating. I love interior design and he was a landscape gardener so when everyone else our age was going out every weekend, we'd be making sure we'd be getting up early and working on the house and the garden, we just loved doing that sort of thing."

Chelsea and Wayde tried for two years to get a house in their dream destination of the NSW south coast.

"The house prices down there are quite expensive, we only bought a two-bedroom miner's cottage that was 110 years old so it needed a lot of love and obviously it was quite small, so once we had our daughter Koa, that was the thing that gave us a push."

"We never thought we'd be able to afford to renovate to extend our tiny old house so that's when we decided to apply for the last season."

How did Wayde Dunley die?

Tragedy struck in July 2017 when Wayde fell from a cliff at Big Marley Beach at Bundeena while on a fishing trip.

Wayde, who was a rugby league player for the West Tigers and East Campbelltown Eagles, was climbing down the rock ledge when he fell. He was flown to St George Hospital in a critical condition but later died from a fatal head injury at just 28 years-old.

"There was nothing they could do for him," says Chelsea.

Just the day before his accident, the two had sent off their final audition tape for House Rules.

Wayde and Chelsea sent their final audition tape just a day before his accident.
Wayde and Chelsea sent their final audition tape just a day before his accident.

How did House Rules get involved?

Thankfully, Chelsea and Koa had the support of friends, family and the rugby league community but one day, something life-changing happened.

"My husband's parents said to me out of the blue, "You haven't got out of the house for a little while. So dress up, we'll take you somewhere nice for breakfast.'"

When they arrived later than expected though, Chelsea's in-laws stalled and then told her that a neighbour was at the door to give something to Koa.

"I had Koa in my arms and walked to the front door and I gasped before I opened it because there's a little glass window above it and I could see one of those fluffy mics."

Naturally, Chelsea had the shock of her life when she opened the door and saw House Rules host Johanna Griggs standing outside with a television crew!

"I remember her introducing herself and I was like, 'I know who you are! What are you doing at my house?' They tried to interview me and I couldn't even answer because I was in shock!"

We'd have a shock if Johanna Griggs turned up on our doorstep too!
We'd have a shock if Johanna Griggs turned up on our doorstep too!

Chelsea says at the time of Wayde's accident, the house renovation was everything that they were working towards and seeing the house was a totally surreal moment.

"We always used to write goals for the future, I've got them hand-written, things that he wanted to do and get done, so obviously that was at the top of our list."

"As soon as I opened the door, I would've opened the door to a specific room of the house and that looked completely different. I don't think it sunk in for about a week after we moved back into the house."

"There are so many memories we made in that house and I wanted to still come home to what felt like my home. We bought an old cottage because we love the character of those old houses and I didn't want that feeling of a brand new home."

"I was initially in shock but good, happy shock. What I saw was so much for what we had hoped for, I was so overwhelmed, so grateful."

Chelsea and Koa love tuning into House Rules every week though they can't pick a clear winner.

"They're all deserving winners. Each team has some strong characters and funny ones and I love that. Honestly, I don't think any team is more deserving than the other, I wish them all the best of luck."

Wayde Dunley's legacy

Despite such a tragedy, Wayde Dunley's legacy lives on with his family and Chelsea even agreed to donate Wayde's heart to a patient in need.

"He was a fit, young man and with the big, beautiful heart that he had, hopefully it would continue to beat.

They wrote to me saying how they'd gone from planning his funeral to writing the biggest bucket list and I was like 'Yee ha That's what I want to hear!' That was really comforting, I hope they make the most of his heart."

And there's no doubt that little Koa, now 20 months, will always remember her dad.

"She was seven months old when he died and it was only a week later she started crawling. So all these milestones have just been shared between her and I but there are photos everywhere in the house, I show her videos, we talk about Dad, so she obviously knows who he is."

"Everything that's happened, hopefully it will be beneficial to Koa and it'll show just how in love her parents were and always will be."