How I became “Australia’s Brainiest Quizmaster” – Part I

Hello. How are you? That’s the ticket.

Okay, yes, alright – look; I know that the tagline for is “PRACTICAL TIPS FOR WINNING GAME SHOWS, FROM SOMEONE WHO’S BEEN THERE AND DONE THAT… TWICE!” And I also know that so far, I’ve only really talked in depth about the first of my two game show wins, on Temptation, in 2005.

I GET IT; alright, alright, calm down, everyone… Sheesh!

So today, I present the first of a four-part series on how I became – on the Big People’s Television at least, if not necessarily in real life – “Australia’s Brainiest Quizmaster”.

But first, a bit of background for you… Australia’s Brainiest Quizmaster was a one-off special that aired in Australia, on the Ten Network, on February 19th, 2006.

Sandra Sully 2

Newsreader Sandra Sully, the host of ‘Australia’s Brainiest Kid’, and all the ‘Australia’s Brainiest’ specials.

It came off the back of Australia’s Brainiest Kid, which was an adaptation of Britain’s Brainiest Kid. The success of that series saw Network Ten keen to keep the ratings coming, and so a series of Australia’s Brainiest specials was commissioned almost instantaneously.

The first three specials were Australia’s Brainiest Comedian (whose winner, Mikey Robins chatted to me for the blog), Australia’s Brainiest TV Star, (whose winner, Julia Zemiro, also kindly gave me an interview), and the one I participated in… Australia’s Brainiest Quizmaster. And putting to one side the fact that “Quizmaster” usually refers to the host or compère (i.e. the question-asker, rather than the question-answerer), it really was great fun.

The year was 2005 – after my Temptation win (obviously), but before my appearance on the Temptation Quizmasters special (more of which, in a later post), when I was approached to go on Australia’s Brainiest Quizmaster. At that time, I was still riding high, and full of confidence from my Temptation win. I thought “Sure, why not?! I’ve earned it! I’m one of the elite now, Baby – it feels good! Plus… a bit of more of the spotlight? A self-aggrandising TV appearance? You bet – why wouldn’t I?!”

It was only when I got into the studio on Record Day, and saw the competition, including the one and only Cary Young – The Man Who I had grown up watching win Sale Of The Century again and again and again; The Man Who’d won more Sale Of The Century ‘Champion of Champions’ tournaments than I could count; The Man Who’d been writing quizzes for newspapers for years; The Man Who I saw as nothing less than INVINCIBLE…

… that I started to feel a whole lot less sure of myself.

My eight opponents (the Australia’s Brainiest format started with nine contestants, who were eventually whittled down to three) were formidable quizzers indeed. They comprised:

– Temptation champion Brigid O’Connor,

– The two Who Wants To Be A Millionaire millionaires – Martin Flood and Rob “The Coach” Fulton, and the first man to win the $500,000 on WWTBAM, Trevor Sauer.

– And Sale Of The Century champions William Laing, Maria McCabe, Virginia Noel (who would also go on to win Series 3 of The Einstein Factor the next year), and the man himself… Cary Young.

As I fronted up to the first round, I wondered if I’d bitten off more than I could chew. How long would I manage to last? Would I be one of the first players eliminated? A cold, creeping thought that in my arrogance, I hadn’t considered before, was only just starting to hit me now…

This could be embarrassing. Very publicly embarrassing.

Very embarrassing indeed.

The first round was multiple choice, and I did not nail it. At all.

Four clear winners advanced to Round 2, and we three also-rans, who didn’t do quite so well (William Laing, Virginia Noel & I) had to play for the two remaining places in Round 2, with a fast round of “Matching Pairs”. In this example, we had to match four capital cities with their corresponding countries, as quickly as possible.

Capital cities

Fighting off instant panic as they all appeared before me, I went with the ones I knew first; Sofia belongs to Bulgaria, Budapest belongs to Hungary, Warsaw belongs to Poland and therefore Bucharest had to be the capital of Romania. I would not have been sure about Bucharest… but starting with the Familiar and working down to the Unfamiliar paid off (luckily there were only 4 pairs). Somehow I’d kept my head, and matched the pairs ever so slightly faster than Virginia. I was through to Round 2.

And then there were six…

Round 1 had seen the elimination of Brigid, Maria and Virginia, leaving just we six male contestants. To determine who would play first in Round 2, we played a codebreaker game. Using a phone style keypad, the task was to decode the name of a famous painter. The clue was “33427”;

ABQ Codebreaker

I remember feeling overwhelmed when first confronted with this puzzle, and then taking a breath, and loosening my focus; the first two letters had to be DE, FE, EF or ED, didn’t they? Then, I found myself pulling back, viewing the whole word from a distance as it were, and the pieces of the puzzle DEGAS seemed to fall into place. It was that loosening of focus that allowed me not to get bogged down in each of the 5 letters, and see the word as a whole. Of course, this all happened in just a few seconds. And yet I was still only the third quickest of the six of us. I would not be the first to play in Round 2. But at least I had booked my place there…


And that’s where we’ll leave it for this week. Check back in next week, to see if I make it through Round Two of ‘Australia’s Brainiest Quizmaster’ without getting eliminated!


One thought on “How I became “Australia’s Brainiest Quizmaster” – Part I

  1. Pingback: quiz master australia – Quiz Directory

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