The Bachelor Australia

Bachelor Nick Cummins: "Men struggle with the emotional stuff"

The most interesting Bachelor yet tells Genevieve Gannon why he originally turned down the gig and what changed his mind.

By Genevieve Gannon

Nick Cummins arrives at The Australian Women's Weekly's photoshoot on a crisp winter day, shrugs off his shirt, and surprises the team by playing some Mariah Carey to "get morale going".

Australia's newest Bachelor is a moustachioed pro-sportsman who adopted the nickname "The Honey Badger" after seeing the ferocious marsupial "rip the canastas" off a lion on Animal Planet, so his 90s pop diva music choice is unexpected.

But then Nick Cummins is a study in contradictions.

A larger-than-life character on screen who is surprisingly reserved in person, he rose to fame as a fearless Western Force winger who achieved the dream of playing for Australia, only to give it up for a more lucrative contract in Japan that would enable him to support his family when they needed him most.

His post-match interviews won him legions of fans for his brash commentary ("Mate, he was off like a bride's nightie") but he will take any opportunity to talk about the crisis in male mental health.

He runs outback retreats to help isolated men heal their hearts and minds, and is an outspoken advocate for self-care, but he thinks nothing of walking more than four kilometres with blood pouring out of a hole in his back.

Wait. You what?

Nick with his dad Mark Cummins.
Nick with his dad Mark Cummins.

The badger hoists up his shirt, revealing a fresh, port-wine crescent on the small of his back, curving dangerously close to his kidney.

Nick had been mustering wild bulls on a mate's property in the Northern Territory when he came off second best after a run-in with one of the beasts.

"I heard this jzzsh-jzzsh," he says, eyes wide. "I spun and it was about a metre away, at pace."

In a flash, the horn pierced his side. Nick hit the deck. Moments later he was being rushed to Kununurra, a tiny town over the WA border. At the dusty air field, Nick clambered out of the plane and walked four kilometres to the local hospital.

"It's all good now though," Nick says. "That's just what bulls do. It was just being a bully."

"That's just what bulls do. It was just being a bully."
"That's just what bulls do. It was just being a bully."

It's an anecdote that says a lot about the man who was raised by a single father in a house of eight children.

The Cummins clan is a close-knit one.

In 2014 Australian Rugby Union released Nick from his contract on compassionate grounds because his father Mark had been diagnosed with stage two prostate cancer and Nick wanted to help support his father and younger siblings Lizzie and Jo who have cystic fibrosis.

"Things were looking a little bit grim for a bit, and Nick said, 'Dad, I can make a fortune, why don't I head over there?'" Mark recalls. "That's one thing I love about my family. They're all tight."

That same year, Nick was dubbed "the world's most Australian man" for his love of Aussie slang.

"Mate," he'd say, "He was busier than a one-armed bricklayer in Bagdad."

The media lapped it up. Hordes of fans would front up to his rugby games wearing curly wigs. All this begs the question, why would an eligible young man, who loves the outdoors, and values his privacy, sign up for a dating show that would require three months of shooting in isolation and invasive speculation on his private life?

"First up I said no," Nick says. But after thinking about it, he warmed to the idea of meeting women who didn't come with pre-formed expectations of The Honey Badger.

"I came across the idea: they're not going to know me. They can judge me for who I am and not what I do. And that's attractive for me," says Nick. "Often when you go out to a pub or a club people want to be there for the wrong reasons. If there's a chance to meet someone and start a fresh I want to take it."

He wasn't nervous about the process but he is a little apprehensive about how he will be portrayed when the show airs this week, and he was struck by how quickly feelings develop in the charged environment of the dating show crucible.

"Once you start to catch up with them a couple of times and you can see some feelings start to develop that's when it gets most scary," he says of the 25 Bachelorettes.

Love, vulnerability and what it means to be a man in a modern world are all issues he has been grappling with lately. "These days, people struggle with the emotional stuff. Especially males," he says.

Being The Honey Badger puts Nick in a unique position to show men that there's nothing wrong with giving another man a hug, telling him you love him and speaking up when things are getting too hard. He's shaken by Australia's shockingly high suicide rate, and in particularly the way depression and despair is carving a destructive path through communities of farmers, miners and returned servicemen.

"It's the biggest killer of young men," Nick says. "Country suicide rates are through the roof."

With his own friends, he makes a point of being physically affectionate and he runs camping trips for small groups of men. As they gut fish they caught themselves, and cook them over a fire they built with the bare hands, hearts crack open, and confessions pour out.

"After, they're so light again," Nick says. For all the glamour and money sport and TV fame has brought, this is the type of work that excites him most.

Read the full interview with Nick and his father Mark in the month's Australian Women's Weekly, on sale now. The Bachelor airs Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7.30 PM on TEN.

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