Fi­nal bid

Will buy­ers show their hands for The Block’s Brad & Lara?

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - TV Guide - - Front Page - – Deb­bie Schipp

Re­al­ity ren­o­va­tors Brad Cran­field and Lara Wel­ham thought it all looked pretty easy.

The Mait­land cou­ple were help­ing ren­o­vate Brad’s par­ents house last year as the 2011 sea­son of The Block went to air.

“We thought, ‘how hard could it be’?” Wel­ham says, with a rue­ful laugh.

“We were say­ing ‘oh, they make it look so hard, and look at the help they get and surely the time re­straints can’t be that bad, we can do all that, surely’.”

But af­ter four months of dust, jack­ham­mers, blues with builders, tight bud­gets and snatched hours of sleep, The Block’s most pop­u­lar cou­ple says they’ve learned a lot more about ren­o­va­tion – and way too much about sleep de­pri­va­tion.

“We were those silly peo­ple. We thought it would be easy,” Wel­ham says of the pro­gram.

“There were no easy days, no quiet weeks – but we wouldn’t have missed a minute of it.”

Tonight the pair, whose laid-back style has made them the viewer favourites face off one last time with their ri­vals: best mates on The Block, Dale and So­phie; broth­erly build­ing duo Mike and An­drew and the team view­ers love to hate – long-suf­fer­ing Dan and acid-tongued Dani – to see if it’s all been worth it.

In a two-hour fi­nale the win­ner will be re­vealed – auc­tions were held last night un­der a veil of se­crecy that pro­duc­ers hope will stay low­ered un­til tonight’s fi­nale. In a bid to keep the re­sults se­cret, only reg­is­tered, se­ri­ous bid­ders were al­lowed to at­tend the auc­tion, con­fi­den­tial­ity agree­ments were ex­changed and the four Block cou­ples were put into lock­down un­til tonight’s fi­nale is broad­cast.

The Block cou­ples were just hop­ing their prop­er­ties sell – last year only one house cleared at auc­tion in a flat mar­ket. The other three sold pri­vately the next week.

Block tra­di­tion dic­tates that each cou­ple takes the profit on their houses, and the win­ner – the cou­ple whose prop­erty makes the most money over its re­serve price – re­ceives an ex­tra $100,000. Cran­field and Wel­ham may have the big­gest house on The Block, but Wel­ham warns this could make win­ning more difficult.

“We are go­ing to have the big­gest re­serve, and it’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween the re­serve and what the house ac­tu­ally brings that will win it – so I think we have the big­gest chal­lenge,” she says.

“Hope­fully some­one wants the big­gest house and will spend a lit­tle bit more.”

Last year’s fi­nale was a rat­ings block­buster and signs this year point to The Block do­ing it all again.

What be­gan as the di­lap­i­dated shells of four South Mel­bourne cot­tages

We were those silly peo­ple. We thought it would be easy

be­came a hit show as Chan­nel Nine again found an ap­petite for re­al­ity ren­o­va­tion on TV.

While The Voice has been re­al­ity’s glam­orous huge rat­ing star this year, The Block has been its hard­work­ing cousin with reg­u­lar one mil­lion-plus rat­ings, five days a week.

The ac­tual ren­o­va­tions were fin­ished well be­fore the show went to air, which Wel­ham says has meant liv­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence twice over.

“We did all the work, then we’ve watched it play out on tele­vi­sion,” she says.

“When we were ac­tu­ally there it all be­came a bit of a blur, so watch­ing it go to air has been ... there have been a few cringe mo­ments for me usu­ally when I cried, but that’s just me.

“We’re happy with how we’ve been por­trayed.”

The cou­ple’s last­ing legacy is the close friend­ship they have built up with fel­low “Block­heads”, Dale and So­phie.

They may have been up against each other in the race to ren­o­vate, but the four have be­come ex­tremely close.

“We’re solid; when­ever we go to Mel­bourne we all catch up,” says Wel­ham, as she jokes about Dale and Brad’s “bro­mance”.

Cran­field and Wel­ham are a lit­tle hum­bled by their pop­u­lar­ity with the view­ers.

“We cer­tainly didn’t ex­pect that.” she says.

“We are just av­er­age, nor­mal peo­ple, maybe that’s why peo­ple like us.”

And that cer­tainly hasn’t changed be­cause of a re­al­ity show – de­spite a flurry of pro­mo­tional ap­pear­ances which has taken them across Aus­tralia in re­cent weeks, both head home to Mait­land – and their day jobs – when­ever they can.

“I went back for about seven weeks ( Lara is a PE teacher) and Brad ( a fit­ter and ma­chin­ist) goes back for a cou­ple of days when­ever he’s in town,” Wel­ham says.

“Brad is full-time. He just has a very un­der­stand­ing boss who knows he’ll be back when the dust set­tles.”

Four months on, The Block has not at all dimmed the duo’s ap­petite for home ren­o­va­tion.

They’re plan­ning to do it all again – without the cam­eras – to build their dream home in the Hunter Val­ley.

“We’ve al­ready got the house – it’s just that it’s in three pieces,” Cran­field laughs.

The pair is re­lo­cat­ing a fed­er­a­tion home – cur­rently in “stor­age” on a va­cant site – “as soon as we find the land”.

“The dream is 20 or 50 acres to put it on,” Wel­ham says.

“We want to stay quite close to Mait­land and that’s the prob­lem be­cause it’s quite ex­pen­sive, so a win on The Block would be a nice help.

“It was or­gan­ised be­fore we got ac­cepted onto the show, so it’s kind of been on hold.

“One thing’s sure; I won’t be be­ing Brad’s ap­pren­tice again,” she laughs.

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