TEARS, tantrums and tool belts — they are the main ingredients of The Block, but the cherry on top of the casting cake is to find a pair of charismatic, relatable villains.
This time around, on season 14 of the popular Channel 9 renovation program, Sydney couple Hayden and Sara have filled that slot nicely.
And ratings have boomed on the back of it.
EPISODE 44 — ‘WHAT’S WITH THE POTTY MOUTH?’
EPISODE 43 — ‘YOU’VE GOT TO BE REMEMBERED FOR SOMETHING’
EPISODE 42 — WHAT COULD GO WRONG WHEN ‘IT’S ALL GOOD’?
There were threats of walking off within weeks of the three-month build beginning, claims of unfair treatment by the judges and expletive-filled yelling matches with other contestants.
But “tools down” has been called on renovations and auction day is fast approaching.
The pair have been watching the drama in their multimillion-dollar TV pad unfold while they’re 900km away in their comparatively humble Bondi flat.
Bondi couple Hayden and Sara Vale. Picture: AAP Image/Quentin Jones
Styling at their Bondi home. Picture: AAP Image/Quentin Jones
“They had to have a team where they pushed their buttons and they reacted, and that was us,” Sara said.
“Well, that was you, Sara,” Hayden added.
“Yeah, it was me. Because they knew that I’d react,” she admitted.
“Every season does have that couple, but I don’t think every season should have one. There’s no need,” she said.
Sara, a 32-year-old flight attendant, added that couples are bound to have arguments on camera.
“They all go through their own thing, so it shouldn’t necessarily be a character cast. It should just be you’re watching each couple go into their own things. They’re fighting with each other; they’re agreeing with each other,” she said.
Not always happy.
Blown away by the state of the Old Gatwick
So what have the colourful couple, who are parents to two-year-old daughter Harlow, learnt from opening up their lives on national television?
“To never renovate again!” Sara said.
“No, no! To always have good sleep!” adds Hayden, a 45-year-old construction project manager.
Their regular spats peppered with plenty of “bleeps” from the Channel 9 censorship brigade may have raised Australia’s collective eyebrows, but Sara said that’s just the reality of renovating.
EPISODE 41 — ‘I’M FALLING DOWN A PSYCHEDELIC RABBIT HOLE’
EPISODE 40 — ‘I JUST CAN’T WAIT UNTIL IT’S ALL OVER NOW’
EPISODE 39 — ‘NOONE IS GOING TO DIE ON THE BLOCK’
EPISODE 38 — ‘I DON’T WANT TO BE HERE FOR THE NEXT TWO WEEKS’
“But, we have learnt to talk about doorways …” Hayden started before his wife interjected.
“More appropriately!” She finished.
The couple were referring to one of their more spectacular on screen blow ups where she threatened to destroy a badly placed door with a hammer. Hayden reacted by saying “thousands of people wanted to come on this show and all you’ve done is whinge”; then added “Get a divorce then, I don’t give a s*#t!”
Her bold response at the time was “I don’t even know why I married you.”
But that’s all water under the renovation bridge now.
Happy the stayed on the show.
Garden in bathroom one was the first big controversy for them. Source: The Block
An out-there bath had mixed reviews too.
“Look, I feel like if you can’t renovate with your husband, then basically the relationship wasn’t meant to last, and we’re stronger than ever,” she said with hindsight.
“We’ve been married for a year now; we’ve been together for about four, and we’ve got a baby. We’ve got a life together, so it would be pretty stupid of us if we were to throw it down the drain just because we didn’t get along a couple of times during a renovation,” she said.
However, the experience has been far from easy.
“It’s been really hard, probably the hardest thing I’ve had to do. It’s actually harder than childbirth! Childbirth is generally over, even if you’re unlucky, in about 48 hours but this is like three months of hard slog, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” she said.
“Now that I’ve done it, I think they should rename it Construction Survivor,” Hayden said, adding that he underestimated how different it would be to his everyday job.
“I was expecting it to be easier than it was, because I’ve got the experience. Getting things right in terms of the technical side of things wasn’t difficult for me. It was the time frame, especially doing bathrooms in six days. It’s something I’m not used to doing,” he said.
And the negative feedback also took them by surprise.
“Keeping our confidence was hard for us because we got cut down a lot. We went in with confidence at 110 per cent, but after the third week our confidence was below zero,” he said.
“Throughout the season it was hard, they were tough on us compared with the others,” Sara said.
“They just weren’t sure on our vision or style,” Hayden said.
And that style was all about the art deco architecture.
“I lived in an art deco building for nearly 10 years and know that period of architecture really well. And Sara knows Melbourne, and we just wanted to renovate the old Gatwick. We didn’t want to stand on the rooftop while the builder stood up a brand new, prefab frames and build a modern apartment,” he said.
Despite the wave of negative feedback and at times harsh scoring from the judges, the pair said they’re now pretty confidence that their apartment is a winner.
“Seriously, every person that comes through, they’re like, ‘What were the judges talking about?’
They’re stronger than ever after the adventure. Picture: AAP Image/Quentin Jones
It’s funny because I’ve overheard — let’s just say some key people on the show — say, ‘Oh, we’ve really got to eat humble pie here, because this place is absolutely amazing.’”
“So, after our turbulent ride, it’s all come together really well, and a lot of people were giving us praise to sticking to our guns where we could, and delivering something that which is what we wanted to deliver. We got there in the end and we’re hoping to get a really good result,” Hayden said.
And if they win and walk away with the $100,000 cash prize and any other money made on auction day, the pair said there are plenty of bills to pay and the rest will go towards their next life goal — another renovation.
“Yeah, we’ve bought a place down the south coast of Sydney and we’re going to completely renovate that, that’s our next project.”