In 2009, Beau Ryan was plying his trade for the West Tigers in the National Rugby League. A strong and powerful winger, he looked every inch a full-time footballer. But when he wasn't terrorising the opposition at the weekends, his head was ticking over in TV-land.
That same year, Beau started making regular appearances on Nine Network's long-running The Footy Show and something shifted – a small, almost subtle change, but a change nonetheless. Beau was a talented footballer, but he was a natural on TV too.
Before long, he became part of the furniture on The Footy Show and, when his playing career came to an end in 2014, Beau became a full-time co-host. He remained in that role until the program's cancellation last year. Since then, all eyes have been on the 34-year-old former pro to see where he might end up.
And then along came The Amazing Race, a show with a proven track record in Australia, but a format that was a little tired.
Enter Beau, whose major currency is cheek and charm. Jumping at the chance to fly around the world and have some fun, Beau signed on the dotted line.
He tells TV WEEK he's learning, much like the contestants on the show, that slow and steady wins the race.
Hosting The Amazing Race Australia is a big deal. When did you first get approached to do it?
I remember the day they pitched it to me at Channel 10 clearly, and I was instantly into it. I didn't talk about money or anything, I just said, 'Yep, sign me up, this is bang up my alley.' My manager was annoyed [laughs], but I didn't hesitate. I've been waiting to host a show on my own for a while. I've felt ready – and this came along at the perfect time.
You built a big fan base during your time on The Footy Show. Did you feel pressure to leverage that?
For a long time, my hands were tied at the Nine Network. The Footy Show took up a big chunk of the year. I liked the team we had, and my role, but when Paul Vautin left [in 2017], I never looked at the lead role, and was never offered it, but I knew that wasn't my destiny. I knew I was headed elsewhere.
Opportunities must have come your way since it was cancelled?
There has been plenty of stuff I've said no to. I've had a lot of options – some good and some bad – but I wanted to back my ability in the last 12 months. So I've been honing my skills on radio, preparing for what was next. Then The Amazing Race came along, and it felt right when I was offered it. I've done a lot of live television, so it was exciting to do a bigger format show. Plus, I felt like I was in a good place mentally and physically, which you need to be to host a series like this.
Did you watch the previous series?
I didn't watch the last Australian series [in 2014], but I watched a lot of the US one; I got right into it. But ours will be different. We've put our spin on it. I'm a very different style of host to [US host] Phil Keoghan or [former Australian host] Grant Bowler.
I'm not as stiff as those guys. I did most of the challenges, so I know what the contestants are heading into. During production, we were just ahead of the contestants. We'd been filming pieces to camera and they'd be right behind us. I wanted to try every challenge and be a proper part of the race.
How did you pull up?
The physical challenges weren't too bad – I try to keep pretty fit – but I freaked out when I had to jump off a gorge in Africa. I don't like heights, so I was convinced I was going to die. I was up there thinking, 'I'll be smashed on a rock, but this would be great for the ratings!'
Reality shows live and die by their casting. You're someone who rolls with people from all walks of life. Were you impressed with who they found?
The casting is brilliant. We have people from different walks of life and different ages. We've got Judy and Therese – they're nuns who have been getting a lot of airtime. Then we've got Sid and Ash, the Bondi Insta-couple. We've got Rowah and Amani, the Muslim mother-and-daughter duo from Western Sydney. They've been through some tough times in life and are determined to prove they can do anything. That was one thing I noticed – that a lot of contestants are representing more than themselves, which I love.
It's one of the most brutal programs to sign up for. What was the hardest thing for the contestants during production?
The sleep deprivation is next level. You'd fly to Vietnam, do a six-hour challenge, then be on a plane to Africa. Like, how many time zones can you cop in one day? It's the sleep deprivation that starts to get people in the end. Plus, having no phone is really hard, especially for the contestants with young kids. It's six weeks away, with no phone, so you can't check in. It's a real rollercoaster.
Speaking of kids, how did yours go without Dad?
They were fine! I'm just glad my daughter Remi is finally excited about something I'm doing. She's never excited about any of the shows I do, but finally she's semi-proud. So that makes me feel like a semi-good dad.
The Amazing Race Australia airs Monday and Tuesday, 7.30pm, on 10.
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