Glenn Robbins returns as bumbling adventurer Russell Coight in All Aussie Adventures
Coight: “My father, Russell Coight Senior, was a great man, he taught me everything I know about bushcraft, outback survival and gun safety. I’ll never forget his last words, ‘ Are you sure the safety catch is on…?’”
When Russell Coight ( Glenn Robbins)* walks into the restaurant, heads naturally turn. Whether this is due to his celebrity status or the fact he accidentally knocked over a tray of empty wine glasses remains unclear. But one thing is – Coight’s back.
“I don’t reckon I ever went away. Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t come up to me in the street wanting an autograph, a selfie or some sort of compensation payout. That’s the lasting impact of my TV show,” Coight says.
After apologising for being late ( his “sat nav got lost”) Coight asks for a steak ( well done) and a pot of beer, and so breakfast begins.
The obvious question is: where has this TV legend been for the past decade or so?
“My wildlife park keeps me pretty busy, especially now that the RSPCA has lifted their ban,” he says.
Coight’s wildlife park, located just outside of Darwin, recently made headlines when an overseas tourist was hospitalised.
“In hindsight the crocodile petting zoo was a little ambitious” he admits, before ordering a second beer ( to replace the one he accidentally knocked over).
But just because Coight has been absent from our screens doesn’t mean the pioneering presenter hasn’t been busy behind the scenes.
“I’ve had a bunch of shows in development,” he says. “Boot
Scootin’ With the Stars almost got up and my new concept
Outback Ninja only stalled when the producers refused to allow live ammunition on set.”
Coight’s disdain for rules and regulations (“the nanny state”) becomes obvious the longer you talk to him.
“TV’s become so safe, so boring. You can’t smoke, you can’t have beer, you can’t refer to women as a sheilas – unless their name actually is Sheila, it’s crazy…” he says.
As well as his TV work, Coight has remained passionate about sharing his love of the outdoors with the younger generation.
“Kids are our future, but so many of them miss out on learning basic life skills: hunting, tracking, rolling their own cigarettes,” he says.
Coight recently took a group of inner- city kids into the outback. “That was a top trip,” he says. “The aim was basically to get them off their computers and teach them survival skills; how to hunt, how to find water, how to avoid getting lost.”
The fact that several members of the group did in fact get lost and had to be airlifted to safety does not seem to bother Coight.
“They learnt from the experience. They found an inner strength. And if only I could have found them it all would have worked out. But then the bloody newspapers got onto the story,” he says.
Spend any time with Coight and you quickly realise he has a love- hate relationship with the press.
“I was up in North Queensland recently helping to rebuild a school classroom that had been destroyed. Not one newspaper mentioned the amount of hard work I put in. All
they talked about was the fact that I was the person responsible for destroying the classroom in first place. What does that tell you?” he says.
When Coight talks about his own upbringing, it’s clear where he got his bush skills from.
“I grew up in the bush. Mum and Dad owned a farm, we used to move a lot. I’d often come home from school only to discover they’d gone again. That’s where I learnt my tracking skills,” he says.
At the mention of his parents Coight becomes visibly emotional ( the third beer may well have also played a part).
“My father, Russell Coight Sr, was a great man, he taught me everything I know about bushcraft, outback survival and gun safety. I’ll never forget his last words, ‘ Are you sure the safety catch is on…?’”
But could there be a softer side to this hard- bitten bush battler? For a start, there’s the much- hyped release of his first fragrance, Koight.
“I helped design it personally. It’s a mixture of eucalyptus and wattle, with base notes of diesel. Available at all good service stations,” he says.
Then there’s rumours of romance with a certain TV personality.
“I’ve always considered myself a confirmed bachelor, but a few months back I was lucky enough to make a guest appearance on The Real Housewives of Alice Springs,” he says. “I was helping out one of the ladies with a rodeo segment and, let’s just say, something went click. Turned out to be her lower back.
“We plan on dating as soon as she’s out of the body cast”.
Back to All Aussie Adventures, Coight explains what viewers can expect from this new series.
“One difference this time around is that we’ll be focusing a lot more on camp cooking,” he says.
“I’ll be whipping up some amazing bush tucker in the camp oven. The recipes have gone up a notch – wait until you see my croquembouche damper. We’ll also be having a mystery box – each week you have to guess what marsupial I’m cooking with”.
Of course, for many people the thought of “going bush” is pretty daunting. Coight offers his No. 1 piece of advice:
“Always remember to take water. Unless you’re going north during the wet season, in which case take an umbrella. I’d also recommend throwing in a copy of my best- selling guidebook, Coight’s Camping Compendium. You’ll find hundreds of handy hints for heading bush. It’s also edible ( in an emergency situation) and – if nature calls – the last 20 pages are printed on soft double- ply paper.”
By this stage the plates have been cleared and the owner is hovering. “Reckon this bloke wants an autograph” suggests Coight. ( Turns out he wants Coight to move his car as it is blocking the restaurant’s loading dock).
Before he leaves, Coight talks about what he’s most proud of. “It would have to be my work helping to protect our precious native wildlife,” he says.
“I was lucky enough to recently have a rare species of pygmy possum named after me. Scientists didn’t even know this creature existed until I drove over one up in the Kimberley. It’s now known as Coightus Extinctus.” And, with that, Coight turns and leaves the restaurant.
Man of the land: Russell Coight ( Glenn Robbins).