Reality TV

EXCLUSIVE: SAS Australia's Merrick Watts on the breathtaking moment that never made it to air

The Australian comedian faced his toughest challenge, but one thing got him through.

By Jess Pullar
Three months ago, Merrick Watts was just an Aussie dad - a 46-year-old comedian having seen out successful stints on television and radio.
But these days, the father-of-two has a lot more to his name.
If you've been watching TV show SAS Australia, then you'll certainly know why.
The Australian funny guy put his comic TV sketch shoes firmly away and brought viewers a completely different side to himself - a side that not only impressed, but also inspired.
Merrick was one of four recruits to last the distance on Australia's most gruelling reality TV show, and he was selected personally by the directing staff as an eventual winner alongside fellow castmates Nick Cummins and Sabrina Frederick.
SAS Australia put a slew of Australian celebrities through their paces like never before. Tasked with challenges posed to real life SAS recruits, the celebrities were thrust into icy cold waters, thrown from great heights and interrogated, to be tried and tested both mentally and physically.
"It was the first time I truly understood what 'mind over matter' meant," Merrick told Now To Love as the finale went to air.
"I never had a real world example of what it was like to have your mind pushed beyond what your body's limits are."
Merrick was put to the ultimate test - but he pushed through (with flying colours, no less). (Channel Seven)
But that, he did - and the result was nothing short of incredible.
Merrick has spent the last three months simply recovering after the show wrapped filming, but he managed to find time to chat to us about how he found the experience, and some of the key moments that got him through - some of which never made it to air.

Now To Love: Merrick! What an incredible journey you've been on, can you tell us how you've got on since filming wrapped?
Merrick: Recovery was very slow at the start. I still have some niggling injuries. I had two fractured ribs and impact damage on my back.
The thing that is unseen from a viewers perspective is that we completely exhausted our bodies and actually changed the physiology of them because they've gone into a survival mode. We lost muscle and became very skinny.
But I'm now back into running and yoga, my body is still slowly recovering.
Another thing was the mental fog. We had it for a few weeks [post filming], I actually don't remember much from the first week or two.
James [Magnussen] had it too - but when we drove back [after filming] we went straight to Maccas and had a massive thickshake. That was definitely the first thing we did when we left!
Great choice! And how prepared did you feel going into the show? Did the challenges surprise you?
I think I did the right kind of prep, but it was all on my own. I just thought everyone would be doing what I did which was train themselves. But the majority of people had strength and conditioning coaches. Some were pro athletes too.
But I thought my own training was the right thing to do. I did a lot of pack training which I'm glad about.
What I learned was that it's 80 per cent mental and 20 per cent physical - you've got to have that mental toughness of just being determined. I'm very determined and had that to push on.
But there was more to mental strength that I didn't realise until I was in the snow. I never had a real world example of what it was like to have your mind pushed beyond what your body's limits are.
In the snow [challenge] my legs were burning, we all agreed it was the toughest challenge. I worked my way through and was only behind James and Badger [Nick Cummins], and Billy [Mark Billingham, a directing staffer] was yelling at me to find that extra 20 per cent.
I was absolutely cooked, but all of a sudden I felt a burning desire in my stomach like a flame, it was just a switch in my mind.
I recognised that my body was in survival mode, but I just had to dig deeper. So I found this burn, increased my pace and output and made it into the lead.
It was the first time I truly understood what 'mind over matter' meant.
Merrick overcame his physical boundaries by mastering his mind. (Channel Seven)
What were the dynamics between the cast mates really like off-camera?
Well obviously I had some pretty testing moments with Firass [Dirani]. But it wasn't personal - after the show he's had a lot of things to say about me, but I don't dislike him, I just don't really care. He just wasn't the person I can operate in a team with.
But on a positive note, I forged an incredibly strong friendship with James.
Also Sabrina [Frederick] and I, we just hit it off from the get go.
On paper it seems like an odd bond - I'm a 46-year-old father of two and then there's this amazing 24-year-old woman who comes from a background of diversity on several levels. But we just had so much in common in other ways - we had the same moral compass, and the same desire in how we wanted to get things done.
That's what united us. We both wanted to get through that course the right way.
Merrick formed a special bond with AFLW player Sabrina Frederick. (Channel Seven)
We loved Sabrina! Who else surprised you the most?
Erin McNaught was amazing - she had so much grit and she's just an awesome person. She's really caring, and that's the stuff that people don't see.
When she [pulled out from the course] she did it for us. She pushed and pushed until the last moment.
I think that was one of the gravitational elements of that course, when we were in the accommodation we didn't just gravitate towards the strong - you start looking at who cares.
That's amazing, and something we didn't really see on screen - can you tell us more?
Shannan [Ponton] was a person who cared for us, he really helped us physically.
And there was great care from Badger [Nick Cummins] - he'd chop all the wood to keep people warm.
There was Sabrina who just genuinely cared about making sure people had a good mindset.
And Candice Warner, she was another carer – when I was chopping wood she'd take my wet kit and put it on racks to make sure it dried.
You really gravitate towards people who care.
That show could have gone for two hours a night [with those moments included]. The care we showed for each other, getting our clothes sorted and all of our conversations while we were getting transported, you missed all the conversations of us talking each other up.
That's amazing, we wish we had seen it! And finally, we'd love to know if you'll ever do a reality TV show, or SAS ever again?
[Laughs] I will not be signing up to series two. I'm done, I loved every minute of it, but I got exactly what I wanted from it. I have no regrets and no reason to go back.
At least six people have asked about me about actually doing the show now [for next season]. I told them that they have to ask themselves: If there was no money or cameras and you could never tell anybody about it, would they still do it? If their answer is yes, then I'd definitely say go and do it.

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