Fields of dreams
Helping farmers meet their match has become a labour of love, writes Dianne Butler
HEN we first started I did not think I’d be getting wedding invitations in the mail and there’d be farmer babies,’’ Natalie Gruzlewski is saying.
It’s deep into season eight of The Farmer Wants a Wife and she’s talking about a series she has an enduring romantic relationship with, one that began during a severe drought and somehow survived. Survived and flourished, and went on to become the most fertile of all Farmer franchises in the world.
‘‘ And there’s love in this series, too,’’ Gruzlewski says, ‘‘ Not infatuations; there’s the real deal. I know what’s happened behind the scenes and who’s still together and it’s looking really promising. I think one of our biggest love stories has come out of this series.’’
She’s more than qualified to make this statement. And not just because she’s been host since it began in 2007.
Gruzlewski is like a Farmersavant when it comes to reeling off facts about this show. ‘‘ I know them (stats). There are five babies,’’ she says in a flash. ‘‘ I remember all of them (couples) and I stay in touch with a lot of them as well.’’ You’re joking. ‘‘ No.’’
How in touch? ‘‘ With Rob and Jo, they text me all the time, give me a call and send through images of their little girl. I spoke to Damien from Tasmania a little while back. Chris and Kim from series one, Devon and Kev . . . all of them, really.’’
Has she been to any of the weddings? ‘‘ I have. Nathan
Wand Amanda in Perth and Chris and Kim’s. They’ve since had another little baby.’’
So, clearly, her role goes beyond host now.
‘‘ I’m definitely like their mate,’’ she says. ‘‘ They see me as a bit of a mentor. I’ve been involved from the very beginning, so we form a good friendship. I just offer them advice where possible. I don’t even know if I offer them the right advice half the time.’’ She says the guys go to her behind the scenes a lot.
‘‘ Absolutely. It’s overwhelming, especially the first day with all the speed dates,’’ she says. ‘‘ It’s exciting and they are exceptionally brave for being part of the show.’’
They’re genuine guys, there for the right reasons
She has a lot of theories about why the show works (‘‘Love is something we can all relate to. It’s feel-good television, it’s therapy. What you see is what you get’’) and for someone working on a dating show and in television, she is remarkably uncynical about the process.
‘‘ There’s certainly a few girls who’ve shown up for their five minutes of fame but they don’t last,’’ she says. ‘‘ And I think a lot of the girls who end up on the farm are quite impressed with themselves at how capable they are. They’re genuine guys, there for the right reasons, not playing games, invested in finding a wife. This is a huge opportunity.’’
Gruzlewski, in her mid-30s and with a 13-year career in television, has been publicly linked to only two men — her former husband, pro-surfer Luke Egan, and her current partner, Gold Coast property developer Jack Ray. She attracted unwelcome publicity several months ago when Ray’s name became entangled with Lara Bingle’s, but Gruzlewski, known for her relaxed, coy nature, has been able to navigate the choppy waters of a life of celebrity with a steady hand.
‘‘ I just choose to keep my private life just that, private, and I don’t think it’s necessary to share too much of my personal life in public,’’ she says.
‘‘ There’s a level of interest because I host a show about romance and I’m completely fine with that. It comes with the territory but there are certain things I like to keep private.
‘‘ We attend public events all the time. I’ve often spoken about the relationship, everyone knows we’re together. We are fantastic. Everything’s great.
‘‘ Questions about my personal life . . . I’m absolutely fine with that. I’d certainly rather focus on the farmers’ love life than my own.’’
Maybe you’re just like most of us and your day-to-day life is quite ordinary.
‘‘ It’s not overly exciting, I can tell you,’’ she says.
But it’s tempting to wonder where Gruzlewski, a popular, talented, beautiful TV presenter, might be if she’d perhaps played the game a bit harder.
‘‘ I’m really happy. Nine has presented me with plenty of opportunities over the years. I’m filing lifestyle stories for news, my weather reports for National Nine News in Sydney.
‘‘ I’m still on the road with Getaway and Farmer so I’m kept quite busy and I’m loving where I am right now. I’m very fortunate to be part of a successful show, not only in terms of the ratings and the longevity of it but also the love for it and the weddings, babies.’’ The Farmer Wants a Wife, Wednesday, Channel 9,8pm