“It’s im­por­tant that women, and men too, are re­ally clear about their bound­aries”

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Front Page - Play­ing For Keeps pre­mieres 8.30pm, Wed­nes­day Septem­ber 19, on Net­work Ten.

WITH PLANS TO com­plete her law de­gree on hold for now, West is con­tent to dish out jus­tice at home. “Selling their toys is al­ways a good one,” she says of her novel ap­proach to pun­ish­ment. “I picked them all up and put them in a box. I ac­tu­ally didn’t sell them, I gave them to char­ity. They’d had warn­ings and I told them if they did it again I was go­ing to sell their toys. So I fol­lowed through. I did it. Three times. And it worked.”

Be­lieve it or not, West never set out to re­pop­u­late Mel­bourne’s Toorak. “[Hav­ing six chil­dren] wasn’t part of the plan at all. It just kept hap­pen­ing. The uni­verse just had a very strange sense of hu­mour on that par­tic­u­lar day or week of each month.”

It’s a jug­gling act that draws the ad­mi­ra­tion of friend Ge­orge Calom­baris. Their two fam­i­lies hol­i­day to­gether, and his wife Natalie Tri­carico catches up with West for pots of tea and oc­ca­sional “cheeky Ne­gro­nis”, Calom­baris says.

“She wants to act, she wants to di­rect, she wants to write books, she wants to be on ra­dio,” the chef tells Stel­lar. “I don’t know where she gets sleep in there.”

Yet West, who is the first to ac­knowl­edge “it’s ex­haust­ing mak­ing sure they eat all the right things all the time and that they are al­ways on time and do all their home­work”, read­ily ad­mits to scream­ing in frus­tra­tion some days.

“What is the per­fect ver­sion of mother­hood? In my mind it’s a move­able feast,” she says. “I want my me­mories to be me laugh­ing with them about the bub­bles that have spilled out of the bath­tub and all over the place, and the fact we had ice-cream cake for break­fast on Mother’s Day, and that on some Sun­days we just sit in our py­ja­mas all day and close the cur­tains and pre­tend it’s night-time and watch end­less movies.they’re the me­mories I want to leave, not the fact that there was al­ways a neatly pressed uni­form at the end of the bed, or that their beds were al­ways made and their rooms were kept im­mac­u­lately.”

L ucy Zelić is in love – and it shows. She’s bask­ing in sun­light on the deck of her new home on the New South Wales Cen­tral Coast as the topic turns to her part­ner, A-league foot­baller Corey Gameiro. The 31-yearold’s face lights up as she dis­cusses him. It has been a whirl­wind, she ad­mits – they have been dat­ing for five months, and they moved in to­gether in July, not long af­ter Zelić, a soc­cer pre­sen­ter with SBS, re­turned from World Cup host­ing du­ties in Rus­sia. She was work­ing 18-hour days, fronting more than 200 hours of live cov­er­age that in­cluded 57 matches and 60 shows. As busy as she was, she still had oc­ca­sional thoughts of pack­ing boxes and book­ing an end-of-lease clean as she pre­pared to pack up her Bondi apart­ment and es­cape the city for a sea change along­side Gameiro, who had joined the Cen­tral Coast Mariners from Bris­bane Roar. It started as a solid friend­ship – the pair met through her work – be­fore long phone chats “evolved into where we are today”, Zelić tells Stel­lar. “He took me by sur­prise, and us get­ting to­gether took us both by sur­prise. But it’s the best sur­prise I’ve ever had. I think I can com­fort­ably say for the first time in my life I’ve reached a place where I feel like noth­ing is miss­ing. I chased my dream, foot­ball, and what I was pas­sion­ate about for the bet­ter part of 10 years, but now I’ve got some­one in my life who not only un­der­stands my work but is on the same page with fam­ily val­ues and morals.

“I’d ar­rived at the point where I was think­ing, ‘ What’s the next step for me, what does the next chap­ter look like?’ I wanted to be with some­body and start a fam­ily of my own. With work and my sched­ule it wasn’t ex­actly easy to go out and meet some­one; I’m not some­one who en­joys night­clubs and bars, so I wasn’t re­ally putting my­self in [that] po­si­tion. I’d reached a point where I had to fo­cus on be­ing happy within my­self, en­joy­ing life and what I al­ready had – a won­der­ful fam­ily and great friend­ship net­work.”

Zelić’s pas­sion for foot­ball was ig­nited early dur­ing her Can­berra child­hood by fa­ther Frank and older broth­ers Ivan and Ned, who both went on to play pro­fes­sion­ally. She com­pleted a Bach­e­lor of Jour­nal­ism, ma­jor­ing in sports busi­ness, at the Univer­sity of Can­berra and was con­tent stay­ing in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal, fil­ing match re­ports on lo­cal games. She did the hard yards on com­mu­nity ra­dio be­fore earn­ing an op­por­tu­nity with Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion Aus­tralia host­ing its of­fi­cial pod­cast, then moved to the SBS in 2013. When the broad­caster won the A-league rights, it asked Zelić to do a screen test. “And the rest is his­tory,’’ she says.

Her ca­reer goal was to an­chor a World Cup tele­cast from the host coun­try. And she scored it in June, but not with­out con­tro­versy at home for her au­then­tic yet flam­boy­ant pro­nun­ci­a­tions of coun­tries and play­ers’ names. It’s a style that was im­ple­mented at SBS by late broad­cast­ing icon Les Mur­ray, who cited re­spect for the play­ers. But that didn’t mat­ter to some view­ers, who heaped scorn on her. And not for the first time.

“In 2014, I hosted my first World Cup from the stu­dio in Aus­tralia and re­ally suf­fered a lot from the feed­back on so­cial me­dia. It tested my re­silience, strength and my own self-be­lief be­cause I did ques­tion my­self, and won­der was there any merit in this,’’ Zelić says. “For­tu­nately I pushed through, and ar­rived at a place where I re­alised it doesn’t mat­ter if you’re do­ing a good or bad job – you’re al­ways go­ing to be at the cen­tre of some kind of con­ver­sa­tion.

“Com­ing into Rus­sia I made a promise to my­self I wouldn’t look at so­cial me­dia, be­cause I wanted to fo­cus on the task at hand and be in the mo­ment. When ev­ery­thing kicked off back at home, the only aware­ness I had of it was get­ting a whole lot of won­der­ful, beau­ti­ful mes­sages of sup­port, so when I did en­quire about what hap­pened I found out it was about the pro­nun­ci­a­tion! I found it re­ally bizarre, be­cause it’s some­thing Les had been do­ing since he started at SBS and some­thing I did in 2014, so it felt like a new con­ver­sa­tion over old news.”

But the me­dia storm con­tin­ued, with some ac­cus­ing her of be­ing pre­ten­tious with her pro­nun­ci­a­tions. Still, Zelić says she wouldn’t change a thing. “Speak­ing Croa­t­ian for the first four years of my life – hav­ing that sec­ondary lan­guage and speak­ing some Ger­man and Ital­ian as well… mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism is im­por­tant to me, and close to my heart,’’ she says. “I had to laugh be­cause it’s some­thing I’ve been do­ing my whole ca­reer at SBS. I didn’t just wake up one day in Rus­sia and start do­ing it. I haven’t changed the way I speak in nearly 32 years.”

Be­sides, she’s busy. Amid un­pack­ing the last of her boxes, Zelić re­turned to work last month to kick off host­ing du­ties for SBS’S Pre­mier League cov­er­age. She’s en­joy­ing her new com­mute and uses the ex­tra driv­ing time to lis­ten to pod­casts, make work calls and chat with fam­ily and friends. “I’ve never been so pro­duc­tive! Life is re­ally, re­ally good.” Lucy Zelić hosts Pre­mier League cov­er­age ev­ery week­end on SBS.

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