It’s hard not to watch SAS Australia and think, “I could do that.” It’s practically every teen’s dream: the world’s most intense and adrenaline-packed obstacle course, complete with khaki uniform and army duffel bags, only with the added pressure of ex-special forces agents spitting insults directly into your face, while simultaneously tearing your character to shreds.
The beginning of the new season was no different to the last, showcasing just why the show is such a success. Celebrities were immediately thrown into the deep end - literally, with a task that required them to scale a ladder beneath a helicopter before mounting it and getting safely back inside the other end. Should they fail, fall, or show off, they’d plunge to the icy depths of the choppy waters below.
For those unfamiliar with the show, SAS Australia takes a number of celebrities from all walks of life and thrusts them into scenarios few could ever experience in their lives. While it’s hard not to get something of a kick out of seeing celebrities humiliated on TV, some of the tasks are so daunting, you can only watch with a hand covering one or both eyeballs. But as is so intrinsic to SAS training, character development is essential and when you’re dealing with egos as big as those sported by influencers and rising stars, you can expect a dressing down or two.
For Sam Burgess, that dressing down came on episode 1 of the reality series. After a messy and very public divorce, multiple court appearances and a drug-driving charge, few expected Burgess to front the cameras and appear on the show. But perhaps wanting to rewrite the narrative or tell his story in his own words, Burgess is taking part and in the middle of night one, he’s dragged into the staff barracks and chained to a metal chair to be interrogated by the soldiers about his past controversies.
“They found cocaine in my system while I was driving my car. Pretty embarrassing, pretty embarrassed about that,” he says. “The last 18 months, I felt like a loser. My marriage broke down. I’d just retired from sport. My ex father-in-law had taken an AVO against me…Two days later I retired, I separated my marriage.”
One of the soldiers asks, “Was it already on its way out?” To this, Burgess responds: “Yeah, a little bit, yeah. I don’t think I was the greatest husband at times. I embarrassed my wife. I had an affair with a girl - a woman in Melbourne. Yeah. It’s true. I was away on tour. Regretful that it happened.”
It was an emotional revelation to be made on TV, but Burgess continued. “I’ve actually put myself into rehab for four weeks. Just completed 28 days of rehab. Because the last 18 months have been crazy. Everything I touched turned to shit. Decided to get back on my feet. I started coaching again, we started doing well. I got given the head coaching role. A lot of things were put int he press by my ex-wife and ex-father-in-law. And consequently I had to stand down from both roles, so I lost it all again.”
He added, “Since then, there’s been a police investigation into me about some behaviour that she’s claimed. I turned to drinking, taking drugs. I thought I could manage it but it got to the point where I was pulled over for DUI with drugs in my system which is all over the press again and stops me from seeing my kids again and I just checked myself into rehab.”
Raw and at times, difficult to watch, it seems SAS Australia will truly push its contestants, not just physically but psychologically too. This season looks set to be an emotional rollercoaster, with a number of tasks that will knock the breath out of viewers tuning in from the comfort of their own home.