Australian Ninja Warrior faced an intense three week filming period this year at its new home at Melbourne Showgrounds, with host Rebecca Maddern missing two days of filming while she was isolated.
“I did get tested before we started filming Ninja Warrior, because my colleague on Weekend Today, Richard Wilkins, tested positive. So we had a little bit of a scare at the start of filming, and I did miss two episodes, hence the inclusion of Shane Crawford,” she tells TV Tonight.
“We got through that, I got a negative test and as they say the show could go on. But in saying that, there were 48 hours there, where it was a really unnerving and unsettling time. It was at the very start of when COVID was really affecting Australia, so there were lots of unknowns.”
Audiences on set may decrease in size across the season, but according to Maddern, there is no diminishing of action and drama.
“Changes in guidelines came in every 48 hours”
“We certainly start with family and friends so it doesn’t really look any different to normal,” Maddern reveals. “And then as the season progresses, it get less and less because changes in guidelines came in every 48 hours, so we just roll with that.
“Towards the end, there isn’t a lot of crowd but but I don’t think the athletes minded too much. They probably didn’t even notice to be honest. They’re so focused on the course, that it doesn’t affect their performance at all.
Returning contestants include fan favourites “Flashlin’ Ashlin” Herbert, Olivia Vivian, and Season 3 winner Charlie Robbins.
“We’ve even got more grandparents applying this year, and some do very well. They’re from all walks of life and that’s what I think is one of the most appealing aspects of Australian Ninja Warrior... these are ordinary Australians that do extraordinary things.
“We’re always open to anybody who thinks that they can conquer the Ninja Warrior course. It’s a pretty rigorous testing process to actually even get through to compete. We have thousands upon thousands applying for the show and we’d be running at 365 days of the year if we said yes to everyone.
“If you don’t get a tear in your eye there’s something wrong with you.”
“One of our athletes only has one leg and he has come back for Season Four and he is incredible. If you don’t get a tear in your eye there’s something wrong with you.”
Introduced this year is the Power Tower, which sees the best two from every heat going head to head for a semi-final advantage.
‘This is impossible, this is unfair”
“When I first looked at it I thought, ‘This is impossible, this is unfair. How is anybody going to complete this Power Tower?’ It gives them a crucial 10 second time advantage going into the semi final,
“This is something that we have never seen in Australian Ninja Warrior before. It’s usually athletes vs the course, and this year it is Ninja vs Ninja running side by side, under the clock, for a 10 second time advantage to go into the semi finals.
“But calling it, it’s over in the blink of an eye.”
Australian Ninja Warrior 7pm Sunday on Nine.