Tough to tackle: Why renovating on House Rules is much harder than top-level footy for AFL star.
Former AFL player and House Rules contestant Jared Petrenko is finding renovating a home on TV tougher than the sport he loves. Kerry Harvey reports.
Professional footy player Jared Petrenko (pictured above with his girlfriend Jessica Dover) says the rough and tumble of Aussie Rules is nothing compared to the pressure of being a contestant on House Rules.
“Footy was definitely a lot easier,” the 28 year old says, admitting putting his body on the line in front of crowds of 40,000 or 50,000 roaring AFL fans on a weekly basis for six years didn’t faze him.
“It was what I’d done my whole life and it’s different. Cameras aren’t right in your face and you are not getting asked questions about things you don’t have any idea about. I just relied on natural instinct.
“This is just a completely foreign experience for me. Having zero experience in renovating made it 10 times harder than previous experiences I have had.”
Petrenko, and his school teacher girlfriend Jessica Dover, 26, are one of seven couples from throughout Australia who signed on to renovate each other’s homes while competing for $355,000 in prize money.
Dover confesses she persuaded her limelight-shunning partner into applying for the show because she wanted a toilet door.
“He lived with mates before the show and it was just very much a lad pad. It was pretty run-down.
“The toilet didn’t have a door on it, there was mould on the ceiling of the bathroom; it was pretty filthy and not welcoming at all,” she says.
“I just couldn’t commit to staying there when it was in the state it was in.”
So ignoring the fact neither of them had ever picked up a paintbrush or a hammer, they put their application in, never for one minute expecting to be accepted and then find their Adelaide house the first one up for a makeover.
Acknowledging their own lack of skills – and unfamiliar with the abilities of their fellow contestants – there were some nervous moments.
“The only thing we were happy about is that people weren’t taking too many risks at that stage,” Dover says, adding that contestants become more adventurous as the show goes on.
However, they discovered handing over their home to a team of then perfect strangers was nothing compared with the demands of the show. The lack of sleep, travelling and public criticism all took a toll.
Petrenko is no stranger to public recognition from his football days but seeing a picture of himself and his girlfriend on the back of a bus took fame to a whole new level. Despite being fan favourites in Australia on this year’s show, the pair still copped their share of trolling on social media.
“People are very quick to judge and that was definitely the hardest part, I think, for all of us,” says Dover. “Knowing that every single thing you did, someone was going to have something to say about it, no matter how minuscule it was.
“No one knows what you are going through, except the past contestants, but everyone’s very quick to put their two cents in.”
However, neither Petrenko nor Dover has any regrets.
“The way it’s put us forward in our lives is definitely worth what we went through.
“It was tough, don’t get me wrong, but it’s put us miles ahead,” Dover says.
Meanwhile, Petrenko says the skills he has gained have more than made up for the embarrassment of learning them on television.
“There’s so many things that I learnt that looking back on it I think, ‘How did I not know that?’ ” he says, adding his newfound practical skills have even helped him into a new job.
Before House Rules, he had been working to combat truancy at some of South Australia’s most remote rural schools but gave up his job halfway through his House Rules journey.
“They were very understanding and said, ‘Take as long as you want’ but I had a particular role at my work and someone else was taking on my role as well as doing their own job and I just felt guilty about that,” he says.
“I’ve come out the other side now and I’m doing a job where I’m actually out on the tools a bit. If you’d said that to me a year ago, I would not have believed it, that’s for sure.”
Jessica Dover and Jared Petrenko