When we left our interview last week, Russell was playing the biggest game of his life: his final game on Sale Of The Century – the culmination of seven nights. I asked him how he dealt with the very concentrated stress of that competition; whether he had any self-talk, or mantras, that might have helped him through….
RC: I think the mind tends to work against itself, in a way. If you tell yourself to focus and concentrate, your mind will do the opposite. That’s like meditation; if you try really hard to meditate, it’s not going to work. I think you’ve gotta let things drop away, you know? You’ve got to be very super sensitive but relaxed, and let things drop away. You can’t tell yourself to concentrate, or to focus, or to be ready, or to be brilliant. I think it is kind of the opposite in a sense. That’s the best way I can put it, I think.
SH: On your final night, when the pressure was very high, do you remember the total value of the prizes you were playing for?
RC: Yes, yes. I was playing for $142, 000 of money and I had already won some other money on the ‘Cash Card’ and things like that. All together the value of prizes and money was $315, 000 or something like that, which in those days it sounded like a lot more money than it does now.
SH: Yeah, that was 20 years ago. That’s life-changing!
RC: It was, it was. Of course, they reminded you of that… “Russell, our carry-over champ is playing for $315, 000. Can this book reader from Elsternwick stop him, or can this editor from Perth stop him in his quest for $315, 000?” And of course they had got the best people to play against me, and the woman right next to me was very nervy and very fast and she knew some stuff. She actually answered the first four questions but she got two right and two wrong so then we were back to the beginning. Then I got my first one right and then from then on my focus just kicked in and I really went through quite smoothly.
SH: How much did you win by? Was it close?
RC: This makes me very happy. I won by 74 points. It’s great if people want to come over and look at the tape of it now, I’ve put it onto DVD. It’s amazing because my focus did not let up until the very final buzzer. I never allowed myself to enjoy that lead – whatever lead I had – until the very final buzzer at the end of that show, and you could see all that pressure – all those weeks and months of anticipation and pressure – all just lift off. Just as a human phenomenon, it’s quite amazing to see that pressure just dissolve in a moment.
I can remember – like you – I can remember the last “Who Am I?” question. It was one of the answers I most proud of, and it was a good capper for my whole time on Sale of the Century. I don’t know if I’ll get these dates exactly right, but I think it was “I was born in 1922 and died in 1986. I went into the bar in-”. Bzzz! Somehow my synapses just came together and I just knew it was Justice Lionel Murphy. For no particular reason, just those synapses met and I got that ‘Who Am I?’ in the space of 3 seconds. That shut the door on the other people picking $25 off the board and being competitive in the final Fast Money. That was the question that shut the gate, and it was my best get on ‘Who Am I’. It was a good thing.
Of course, Russell did win that final game by 74 points, and he did end up taking home $315,000 worth of cash and fabulous prizes. And that’s what I’ll be talking to him about next time. What did he do with the money? What exactly were those fabulous prizes? And how does it feel to be a Quiz Show Winner? Be sure to check in for Russell’s insights into all those questions, and many more besides, in the final part of our exclusive interview next week, right here at howtowingameshows.com!