The new 2GB breakfast host, who has brought his own style to the slot vacated by Sydney veteran Alan Jones, is back for season four of Australian Ninja Warrior from Sunday, July 26. He said WA’s Olivia Vivian and Ben Polson were having another tilt, along with 15 other West Australian ninjas in the 140-strong line-up.
“The stars all come from WA because there’s something in the water in the West and you throw up all these amazing ninjas,” Fordham said.
The show’s new Tower of Power will pit contestants against each other, instead of the clock. The champion of each night’s tower race then gets a 10-second time advantage going into the next night – ultimately competing for $400,000, if they can make it to the top of Mt Midoriyama – otherwise, it’s a $100,000 prize.
Fordham said the jury was still out on whether the tower was his idea or that of his good mate, and co-host, Rebecca Maddern.
“This is probably the most successful innovation in the show’s history – I claim to have had a dream and then told Bec and she ran off and pitched it, and she’s looking like a genius,” Fordham laughed.
The anchors were to have been joined for the season by larrikin former England cricket all-rounder Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff, but he was forced home when COVID-19 began. Filming suffered another temporary blow in March when Maddern began self-quarantine, having sat next to Richard Wilkins, who had tested positive to the virus.
Former Hawthorn great and The Footy Show funnyman Shane Crawford was called to fill the gap.
“It was quite amazing, he went from being a viewer to being a commentator and we had a great time and we enjoyed Crawf’s company so much that we decided to hang on to him, even when Bec came back,” Fordham said, suspecting the show’s popularity came down to the viewers’ natural sporting competitiveness.
“I think it’s a success because it’s got that element where people sit at home saying ‘aw, they shouldn’t have done it that way, she’s got a bad grip’,” he said.
“Everyone knows the concept of an obstacle course … and I think it naturally lends people to start wondering how they’d go.
“And the good thing is that you do have some people who turn up from nowhere and end up knocking over the professionals, and there are some people who now call this their life.”
Fordham’s own obstacle course saw him add another radio gong to his cabinet in November – affording him the opportunity to take his ailing father on a boys’ trip to Brisbane, to watch him collect it.
That’s helped in the grieving.
“He stretched himself to be there on that night … it was a really special thing to do together and I was really glad I got the chance to do it,” Fordham said.
John Fordham, who launched the Head and Neck Cancer Foundation in March last year, after being diagnosed with the disease two years earlier, was the one who secured his son the radio work experience which lit the fire under the journalism career that saw a 21-year-old Fordham scoop a coveted Walkley Award for his radio coverage of the 1997 Thredbo disaster.
Fordham, who has moved seamlessly between TV and radio, says his parents’ hard work with The Fordham Company – now run by his mother, Veronica, and younger brother, Nick – propelled his career; something he doesn’t let his staff forget.
“When my team came to join me on the journey to switch from the Drive Show to the Breakfast Show I gave each of them a voucher to go out to my favourite restaurant but I said; ‘you’ve got to take your mum and dad with you because … never underestimate the role that your parents have played in getting you guys to this moment’,” he said.
Fordham’s own zest for breakfast radio – (he’s already down to just one afternoon nap a week) – is boosted by a 3am outdoor shower each day, to avoid waking the children. With wife Jodie Speers up early too, to read breakfast news on Channel Seven, they’ve found a nanny – in the local hardware store.
“I met a lady called Pam in Bunnings about three months ago and she was a very funny, charismatic grandmother and … I said ‘what’s your number … you just never know, I might need your number one day’.
“So sure enough this week I called her – it’s funny who you meet – and she’ll step in and save the day.”
Just like a ninja.
Australian Ninja Warrior airs on Channel Nine, which owns this masthead, on Sundays at 7pm, and at 7.30pm on Mondays and Tuesdays.