Joh of all trades

From swim­mer to sports pre­sen­ter to TV show host and ren­o­va­tion queen. Jo­hanna Griggs has proved her­self the mas­ter of ca­reer ren­o­va­tion.

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - TV Guide - - News - DEB­BIE SCHIPP re­ports

JO­HANNA Griggs was just a teenager when she burst into the public eye as a cham­pion swim­mer with bronze at the 1990 Com­mon­wealth Games. At 19, af­ter a battle with chronic fa­tigue syn­drome and a long come­back, she swam the fastest 50m women’s back­stroke in the world for 1993, hit the wall, and knew she had no more to give as a swim­mer.

“It had been so tough to get back to that point. I knew I couldn’t do it for a job any­more. I made the Aus­tralian team, but I re­tired the next day,” Griggs says.

The fol­low­ing day she had job of­fers from three dif­fer­ent TV net­works, and went with Seven.

More than two decades on, she pre­sides over one of Australia’s most popular re­al­ity shows House

Rules and the long-run­ning life­style pro­gram Bet­ter Homes and Gar­dens. On the eve of a new sea­son of

House Rules, Griggs, 41, re­lives some of the high points and the hats she has worn over those 22 years on the box … and one she’d pre­fer to for­get.

1 SPORTS RE­PORTER

“SEVEN of­fered me work as a sports pre­sen­ter and I was bloody aw­ful for a long time. In hind­sight that’s been a bless­ing in dis­guise, but it was tough,” Griggs says. “I might make mis­takes but I’ll never make them twice, but it was that con­stant battle of hav­ing to think on your feet. It was a great, but bru­tal way to learn be­cause you were do­ing it in the public eye and cop­ping crit­i­cism left, right and cen­tre but at the same time you learn to swim pretty quickly. “The first gig was as Seven sports news­reader in Syd­ney. I did Bathurst and then I got put on the ten­nis. And it was live, I’d start say­ing some­thing then start again and re­alise I couldn’t. There were sev­eral ‘don’t ever do that again’ mo­ments.

“I hosted Sportsworl­d with Matthew White on Sun­days from 2001 to 2006.

“That was an ab­so­lute rip­per of a time. If you love sport – and I do – that’s the per­fect show.”

2 OLYMPICS

“HOST­ING five Olympics [sum­mer and win­ter] and be­com­ing the first fe­male solo host of an Olympic Games [the 2002 Win­ter Games in Salt Lake City] is an­other high­light.

“I did Syd­ney Olympics Sun­rise [with An­drew Daddo], then hosted Salt Lake City solo, then went up un­til Bei­jing.

“Seven has the Olympics back next year, so I’m hop­ing I get a gig for Rio.”

3 HOME AND AWAY

THIS is the gig Griggs tried des­per­ately to keep se­cret – and suc­ceeded – for more than 20 years – her por­trayal of a Swedish back­packer in long-run­ning soap Home and

Away as a 17-year-old. “I was still swim­ming and mod­el­ling at the time … and that was just a gig that came up,” Griggs says. “I did it, knew how bad it was and de­cided I didn’t want to be an ac­tor.

“Part of my early ne­go­ti­a­tions with Seven was I was to have ev­ery copy in ex­is­tence of that ap­pear­ance in my pos­ses­sion.

“I man­aged to keep a lid on it for 22 years and it wasn’t un­til they started play­ing Home and Away re­peats that some­body worked it out.

“The Seven pub­lic­ity depart­ment rang me and said peo­ple were ask­ing if I’d ever been on Home and Away and they’d au­to­mat­i­cally said it wasn’t true. I just burst out laugh­ing and went, ‘ Well here’s a fun fact… it’s true. And it’s bad’.

“We all agreed to throw me un­der the bus be­cause it’s so hi­lar­i­ous.”

4 BET­TER HOMES AND GAR­DENS

“I HAD a break with the kids and came back to Seven to do sport, but they asked what else I like do­ing, and ren­o­vat­ing was it. Auc­tion

Squad evolved out of that and was great fun for four years, and House

Calls to the Res­cue was next. “Then Noni Hazel­hurst (for­mer BHAG host) was go­ing back to act­ing and I got of­fered the BHAG gig in 2005. At first I thought it was daggy, but we changed it up a bit and we all adore the show.

“We only have peo­ple who gen­uinely be­lieve in it and feel like it’s a bit of a gift to work on it.”

5 HOUSE RULES

“WE’RE al­ready shoot­ing se­ries four of House Rules as we wrap up se­ries three, so it’s all a bit crazy. I al­ways get asked if au­di­ences are suf­fer­ing ren­o­va­tion fa­tigue. Well I’ve been hear­ing that for al­most 20 years now.

“I’ve worked solidly for 15 years on them so they seem to have a mar­ket, and a place with view­ers. There’s plenty of them on air, the same as cooking shows, but at the mo­ment they still seem to be keep­ing up in­ter­est.

“I still have an ap­petite for it on tele­vi­sion and out­side – it’s my life away from tele­vi­sion as well, so I’d be a hyp­ocrite if I was over it be­cause we live and breathe it 24/7.”

HOUSE RULES TUES­DAY, 7.30PM, SEVEN

Bril­liant ca­reer: Clock­wise from above, with Matthew White on Sportsworl­d; in Torino for the Win­ter Olympics; as a Swedish back­packer on Home an­d­Away; and with Dr Harry on Bet­terHome­sandGar­dens.

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