SAS Australia: What makes celebs go on the brutal reality show

·Contributor
·12-min read

SAS Australia may be just a TV show but the requirements to get into the SAS are amongst some of the hardest military tests in the world.

And the show's directing staff, Ant Middleton, Mark 'Billy' Billingham, Jason 'Foxy' Fox and Ollie Ollerton, have said that they don't make it any easier just because their recruits are celebrities appearing on TV.

2021 SAS Australia contestants
The contestants on the 2021 season of SAS Australia. Photo: 7 Network

"We work just as hard as the recruits in order to give them an experience that is true to the selection process; that realness and authenticity of what it’s like to step into the shoes of a Special Forces operator," chief instructor Ant says in a statement.

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So what makes someone want to challenge themselves to this level, on TV for everyone to see and critique? 

Here SAS Australia's latest recruits reveal what made them decide to push themselves to their personal limits for a TV show!

Alicia Molik

Alicia Molik
SAS Australia 2021 contestant Alicia Molik. Photo: Instagram/@alicia_molik

The Tennis coach from Perth thought she would put herself to the test by entering the show. "I feel as mentally tough at 40 as I’ve ever felt in my life," she says. "My kids would think it was pretty cool too."

However, she confesses that it was different to what she expected. "Once in a lifetime and an eye-opener to not being in control of anything," she said describing the experience, adding: "It’s all torture."

Bonnie Anderson

Bonnie Anderson
SAS Australia 2021 contestant Bonnie Anderson. Photo: instagram/@bonnieandersonmusic

Singer and actor Bonnie, 26, was keen to put herself to the test by doing the show. "I have always loved a challenge, and love to better myself daily," Bonnie says. "I believe I had what it took to push myself and go into the course with an open mind and hoped I came out with many lessons." 

However, it wasn't easy sailing. "It’s like nothing you could ever imagine. Watching it on the telly isn’t anything like actually being there and doing it," she reveals. "For me, I felt that it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done emotionally. It really stripped me down and forced me to deal with emotions I have suppressed in the past."

Brynne Edelsten

Brynne Edelsten
SAS Australia 2021 contestant Brynne Edelsten. Photo: instagram/@brynne_edelsten

For socialite Brynne, 38, this was about putting the person she used to be firmly in the past. "I had the worst year of my life in 2020 and it forced me to rebuild and put myself back together," Brynne explains. "After going through tough times, I had become so much stronger, both mentally and physically." 

Like the other recruits, Brynne underestimated just how tough the training would be. "This is definitely the toughest thing I have ever attempted. I thought I was in pretty good shape until that first day when I realised that physically, I don’t stand a chance of completing the course."

Dan Ewing

Dan Ewing
SAS Australia 2021 contestant Dan Ewing. Photo: instagram/@_danewing

Soap star Dan may have played the tough guy but what made him attempt to be one IRL? "I am obsessed with growth and chasing the best version of myself," Dan says. "I sought to not only test that state of being in the ultimate pressure cooker, but to take my perspective on life to a whole new level."

And the actor, 35, seems to have achieved his goal. "I have grown more than I could have imagined and pushed myself further and through more pain and suffering than I thought I could endure while gaining some incredible lifelong friends on the way," he explains.

Emma Husar

Emma Husar
SAS Australia 2021 contestant Emma Husar. Photo: instagram/@msemmahusar

As a former politician, Emma will certainly have developed some thick skin, which would have helped her come to the task prepared for what the training and tests threw at her. "It felt like a way of overcoming the issues I faced in 2018 at the end of my Parliamentary career and ‘prove to Australia’ that I am not what I was accused of," she reveals. 

"I also had some experience of the ADF as a Member of Parliament and have enormous respect for what our armed services do. This experience offers the ordinary Australian some insight into training and life in the Special Forces, and showcases the skills and dedication required to serve the nation, which can sometimes be hard to understand," Emma, 41, adds.

Erin Holland

Erin Holland
SAS Australia 2021 contestant Erin Holland. Photo: instagram.com/@erinvholland

As a former beauty queen, you may not think Erin has what it takes. So what makes a model and TV presenter sign up for this sort of test of her physical and mental strength?

"I absolutely cannot say no to a challenge or a life-changing opportunity, and this was the ultimate test," she explains. "How can you say no to an experience that you know one hundred per cent will help you grow as a person, no matter how difficult it is? It was a no brainer."

And life-changing it was for Erin, 32. "Without a doubt, the most challenging and eye-opening experience of my life. I feel like I have truly changed and grown as a person," she says.

Heath Shaw

Heath Shaw
SAS Australia 2021 contestant Heath Shaw. Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images

This former AFL footballer may be a man of few words but that didn't stop him from taking on the challenge of the SAS.

Asked why he took part, Heath, 35, responded: "To try something unique and [get] out of my comfort zone". But for him, it was clearly a challenge worth taking part in. "It was the toughest, most positively rewarding thing I’ve ever done," he says.

Isabelle Cornish

Isabelle Cornish
SAS Australia 2021 contestant Isabelle Cornish. Photo: instagram/@isabellecornish

Twenty-six-year-old actor Isabelle still possess the bravery of youth and that may have helped her decide to go on the show. 

"I like to seek opportunities that will help me to grow. The SAS selection course was a new challenge to throw myself into," she reveals. And going into the show like that meant that she also gained a lot from the experience. "[I learned] the importance of committing to courage and backing yourself one hundred per cent," she explains. "When I faced tasks I wasn’t sure I could complete, I just told myself that I could and I did."

Jana Pittman

Jana Pittman
SAS Australia 2021 contestant Jana Pittman. Photo: instagram/@janapittmanofficial

Is there anything former Olympian Jana, 38, can't do? It seems if she puts her mind to it, she gets it done so it comes as little surprise that she was up for the challenge of SAS Australia.

"I wanted to challenge myself physically, particularly after having a baby only months prior," she explains. "I also wanted to test my mental strength. I was particularly keen to do SAS as I have always wanted to be involved with the Australian Defence Force. I have several family members, including my brother, who have served and I wanted to experience a little of the world they lived in."

Jessica Peris

Jessica Peris
SAS Australia 2021 contestant Jessica Peris. Photo: instagram/@jessicasperis

Jessica is another athlete who wanted to see just what she was capable of. "I wanted to see how far I could push myself, physically and mentally," she says.

And it seems she took away more from the show than she did in her years as an athlete in terms of personal growth. "I learnt that I have held myself back so much in my life because of my fear of failure and my fear of committing myself to a task," Jessica, 31, reveals. "But without failure, there can be no growth. It doesn’t matter how slow you progress as long as you keep moving forward you will eventually get to your destination."

Jett Kenny

Jett Kenny
SAS Australia 2021 contestant Jett Kenny. Photo: instagram/@jettkenny

He may be an iron man on the beach but Jett, 26, was keen to see if he could be an iron man in life. "I went in there with a goal to push myself to either my physical or mental limit, to then try and apply that to my training and life outside of SAS," he says.

But the lifeguard thought they could actually be even tougher on the show. "I believe it could have been the toughest test if some things were different," Jett explains. "But for a lot of professional athletes, what they put themselves through to get to the top is one of the toughest things."

John Steffensen

John Steffensen
SAS Australia 2021 contestant John Steffensen. Photo: instagram/@johnsteffensen

Like most of the athletes on the show, John wanted to see if he still had what it takes to be at the top of his game. "[I wanted] to see if I can still push myself both physically and mentally like when I was athlete," he says.

"It was the worst and best experience of my life," John, 38, reveals. "I was able to delve back into the mindset I used as an athlete and grow and refine it to help me, post-show, to be a better human."

Kerri Pottharst

Kerri Pottharst
SAS Australia 2021 contestant Kerri Pottharst. Photo: instagram/@kerripottharst

As another former Olympian, Kerri, 55, was keen to get involved in the show. "I couldn’t resist the challenge to push past what I thought was possible and what others thought was possible," she explains. "I wanted to do something most women wouldn’t do and would think was crazy, especially at my age, to show what’s possible when you let go of your fears and doubts. I wanted to prove that there is no 'over the hill'."

Well by simply joining the show she more than proved that. "We limit ourselves by carrying around so much fear and doubt," she says. "Once you learn to let go of those thoughts and calm your mind, it’s incredible what you can actually do!"

Koby Abberton

Koby Abberton
SAS Australia 2021 contestant Koby Abberton. Photo: instagram/@kobyabberton

The former 'Bra Boy' has certainly had a colourful past but what made the now yoga teacher want to accept this challenge?

"I like easy money and enjoy training," Koby, 42, says. "I also like to tease people and have a good time. Fourteen days training in the dirt with celebs and hard men sounded alright to me."

But he's not afraid to admit that the experience has changed him just a little bit. "I laughed the whole time and was also scared the whole time. I even broke some personal boundaries, being screamed at and trying not to react," he reveals. 

"I ended up an angel and my life has changed for the worse. I nodded at policemen last week. I despised myself after it cause my heart remains the same. I really respect what the SAS are trying to do. We’re living in a weak world of sheep and do-good little b***hes. The DS are men and they have morals and reason and the world is missing out on this today. I think them boys should be running countries."

Manu Feildel

Manu Feildel
SAS Australia 2021 contestant Manu Feildel. Photo: instagram/@manufeildelofficial

A chef is not someone you'd expect to be signing up for this kind of public trials but Manu, 48, was ready to see what he had. "After watching the first Australian series, I thought it would be a great challenge to put myself through," he says.

"The worst thing was my fears and phobias surfacing and being unable to shake them off. I really should have learnt to be in control of my emotions," he reveals.

Mark Philippoussis

Mark Philippoussis
SAS Australia 2021 contestant Mark Philippoussis. Photo: instagram/@mphilippoussis

As another retired sportsman, Mark, 44, was testing himself to see if he still had what it takes. "[I wanted] to get out of my comfort zone and push myself to my limits and beyond, physically, emotionally and psychologically," he explains. "Also, to prove to myself that I could do it."

Like many, he expected it to be physically challenging but hadn't prepared for the mental challenge. "I knew it was going to be the toughest thing I have ever done physically, but didn’t know how hard it would be psychologically and emotionally too."

Pete Murray

Pete Murray
SAS Australia 2021 contestant Pete Murray. Photo: instagram/@petemurraymusic

You wouldn't think a 51-year-old musician would throw his hat in the ring for this kind of thing but maybe you haven't met Pete! "Believe it or not, this kind of thing excites me," he reveals "You can’t do these tasks in normal life and being pushed as far as you can, physically and mentally, is something I feel will only benefit me in my future."

And the experience was everything he expected and more. "In the first task, I felt like I was going to die, but straight after it I was so pumped up with adrenaline that it felt amazing. Nothing you do can really prepare you for what you are about to experience," he says.

Sam Burgess

Sam Burgess
SAS Australia 2021 contestant Sam Burgess. Photo: instagram/@samburgess8

The NRL is often seen as the tougher of the football codes physically so it's easy to see why Sam, 32, thought he'd probably experienced something akin to the difficult environment of the show. "I retired from sport and sport has been my life since I was five years old. I missed the competing and camaraderie and I wanted to see if I still had that winning mentality,"he explains.

But there were a few things that came as a surprise to the former prop. "There was a moment when I thought I genuinely believed it was too much, but I broke through," he reveals. "I didn’t expect it to be so intense from the first minute to the last minute. There is no down time."

SAS Australia starts next Monday, 13 September at 7.30pm on Channel 7 and 7plus.

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