This one’s for the boys
Johanna Griggs’ healthy sons are one reason she supports the RCH Good Friday Appeal, writes Darren Devlyn
THERE seems little mystery behind Johanna Griggs’ status as one of Channel 7’s most bankable stars.
The punters respond to Griggs because they see her as the genuine article in an industry with more than its share of fakes.
Griggs has the all-important ‘‘likeability’’ factor, a pragmatic earthiness and the ability to have a laugh at her own expense.
And in media circles there’s an admiration for Griggs that stems from the resilience she’s shown in the face of adversity.
Her first major hurdle came in 1991, when her swimming career was short-circuited by chronic fatigue syndrome. Griggs bounced back by forging a new career as a presenter on Seven.
To work in commercial TV is to risk failure in the most public way. Griggs endured just that five years later when Seven fired her.
Never one to wallow in self-pity, Griggs dusted herself off and resurrected her career on the ABC and Foxtel, so impressing Seven that the network rehired her in 2000.
She hasn’t looked back, excelling as a presenter on shows including Better Homes and Gardens, Sportsworld, Auction Squad and the network’s Olympics and racing coverage. She even knocked back a huge offer to leave Seven for Nine.
But though committed to her career, Griggs is adamant her family is the No.1 priority.
The demands of motherhood were brought sharply into focus after the end of her marriage to actor Gary Sweet. She became a single mum to their boys Jesse, now 12, and Joe, 11, and is very aware how crucial she’s been to their sense of well-being.
Given the boys have been a recurrent emotional touchstone, it’s no surprise Griggs is passionate about charities that support children and is keen to play her part in the Royal Children’s Hospital Appeal on Good Friday.
‘‘There are a lot of people who work on the telecast who do more than me, but I’m just happy to be involved,’’ Griggs says.
‘‘I know it’s getting harder and harder for people to give money to charities, but this one is special. You see the stories (about sick children) that are told during the telecast and they really do get to you.
‘‘My boys have been incredibly healthy. When they were younger there were visits to hospital for gastro and a broken arm, but friends of mine with children haven’t been so fortunate. I feel I’ve been pretty lucky.’’
That sense of luck has extended to her love life following Griggs’ marriage to Todd Huggins.
‘‘It really doesn’t get any better than this,’’ Griggs says. ‘‘I have a really interesting and varied life and the kids and I are sharing it with someone who’s a delight.
‘‘It’s brought great stability to me and the boys.’’
Griggs had dated other men, but soon after her younger brother set her up with building foreman Huggins, she realised the relationship had long-term prospects.
GRIGGS, with her children at the forefront of her mind, was careful not to rush into a second marriage.
‘‘It wasn’t a difficult transition (for the children to accept her marrying Huggins),’’ Griggs says.
‘‘It was more of a transition for me, being a control freak. For 10 years I made every single decision. Then I met someone who was patient, relaxed and daggy. He’ll say to me, ‘Yeah, great idea, control freak’.
‘‘He laughs, says both of us are in the relationship when it comes to making decisions. He’s brought a balance to my life I really didn’t think was possible.’’
Griggs says her kids were ecstatic when she told them she was marrying Huggins.
‘‘They had pushed the relationship, anyway,’’ she says. ‘‘When I went away for the Winter Olympics, Todd hung out with the kids every day, kicked the footy with them.
‘‘He said to them, ‘I don’t just love your mum’. It was about all of us. ‘‘He’s a country boy who is not that comfortable with the idea of everyone knowing your business and he found this (media interest in their relationship) incredibly hard at the start.
‘‘He finds it weird people want to stop and talk when we go to the shops.
‘‘My attitude is, why shouldn’t people stop you to have a chat because if they’re not watching you on TV and ignoring you, you don’t have a show.’’