Herald Sun - Hit - - COVER STORY - / COLIN VICKERY

“I’M SO fired up and I’ve never been more am­bi­tious than

I am now.”

That is Madeleine West on the set of Play­ing For Keeps, days be­fore rev­e­la­tions emerge that the 38-year-old has sep­a­rated from her part­ner, chef Shan­non Ben­nett, after 13 years. West has a lot more on her plate than cop­ing with the split and rais­ing six chil­dren.

In weeks, West will be­gin a di­rect­ing stint on Neigh­bours.

She is also busy scriptwrit­ing and has al­ready pub­lished par­ent­ing book Six Un­der Eight and chil­dren’s se­ries Lily DVAP.

After years of putting her pro­fes­sional ca­reer on hold, West is go­ing full steam ahead.

“My kids are at a good age for me to re­ally dig deep into the (tele­vi­sion) in­dus­try and I’m re­ally en­joy­ing it,” West says.

Play­ing For Keeps marks a new step in West’s act­ing ca­reer, as she’s play­ing the lead part.

The show is based around the lives of the women whose part­ners play for AFL club, the South­ern Jets. West is Kath Rickards, wife of coach Brian Rickards. Kath prides her­self on be­ing the men­tor and den mother to other club WAGs (wives and girl­friends).

Olympia Valance is Tahlia, girl­friend of Jets cap­tain Connor Mar­rello. Other WAGs are played by An­nie May­nard and Cece Peters.

“Kath is def­i­nitely the queen (of the WAGs),” West says. “I’d never seen a char­ac­ter like her on com­mer­cial tele­vi­sion in Aus­tralia be­fore.”

Valance had just moved to Hol­ly­wood after quit­ting

Neigh­bours when she was sent the script of Play­ing For Keeps.

“I thought ‘this is a re­ally good one for me to come back for’,” the 35-year-old says. “Talia has so many lev­els and so much depth to her.

“I’m friends with lots of women that are with foot­ball play­ers and I’ve taken quite a few things (for the Tahlia char­ac­ter) out of my own life.

“It (tele­vi­sion celebrity) is a sim­i­lar world (to foot­ball WAGs). You’re in the pub­lic eye, you have to put on a bit of a show but you also have to keep some­thing for your friends and fam­ily.

Valance says she is in awe of West’s abil­ity to jug­gle act­ing, di­rect­ing, and writ­ing with the de­mands of moth­er­hood.

“I don’t know how she does it — she is Won­der Woman,” Valance says.

West, like Kath, is some­thing of a den mother on the set.

“I have five daugh­ters and I want to be a role model for them,” West says. “You can’t have ev­ery­thing all the time but you can give it a red hot go.”

WATCH PLAY­ING FOR KEEPS, Chan­nel 10, Septem­ber 19, 8.30pm


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