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Meeting Merrick Watts

We had the privilege of interviewing comedian Merrick Watts, the winner of SAS Australia in 2020. Based on his sheer determination, courage and mental strength, we were keen to hear Merrick’s thoughts about life, family, career, the SAS experience and his tips on overcoming extreme challenges...

Merrick Watts showcasing his love of wine through the comedy event Grapes of Mirth

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE HOBBY?  Is drinking wine a hobby? I am a qualified wine expert and I love everything about wine. I also love AFL and barrack for Collingwood with a passion. I am also very good at eating Burger Rings. So, I guess what I am saying is that my hobby is drinking wine and eating Burger Rings whilst watching the footy? Oh my god, I just realised I am a disgrace.

 

GRAPES OF MIRTH

grapesofmirth.com.au

Merrick is heavily involved with Grapes of Mirth events at various locations around Australia. Keep an eye out for upcoming events in various posting locations. At its core, Grapes of Mirth is the bringing together of comedy and wine; sharing a wine, sharing a conversation, and sharing a laugh.

Comedy. Wine. Music. Podcasts. Cooking. Art. Fun.

 

WHAT IS A COMMON QUESTION THAT PEOPLE ASK YOU?  People often ask me “Where’s Rosso?”. I sometimes answer; “In the boot of my car until I need him!”, but the truth is that Rosso and I communicate regularly but see each other infrequently. We still make each other laugh - we have a long history together and have created a legacy that we are both very proud of (and surprised by!).


WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU?  People with passion for what they do regardless of what that passion is. Winemakers, comedians, sports people. I hate snakes but if I met someone who was passionate about milking venom from deadly snakes, I would be inspired. I would then probably have a go at it myself and end up dying - Hakuna Matata.


WHAT IS YOUR STRONGEST PERSONALITY TRAIT? My strongest personality traits are determination and resilience - they are symbiotic I believe. I can handle enormous stress and pain, but those two traits allow me to continue where perhaps others do not. During the “Pressure Test” on SAS Australia, we had a simulated hostage situation, and I was under the most pressure I have ever felt in my life, but I performed the best in that test - I have realised through this experience that I perform well under pressure.


WHAT STRATEGIES DO YOU USE TO MANAGE MENTAL HEALTH AND STRESS?  Daily Meditation, daily exercise, reading, constantly upskilling in new areas of learning. Grow or die - I am always looking to grow myself. Always learning, always testing myself with new challenges.


BEST MOMENT OF YOUR LIFE?   Leaving a hospital with my son in my arms after thinking we might have lost him to illness in a foreign country. My children's births are an obvious highlight, but the relief of not losing the person you love the most is like winning lottery x 1 million - gratitude trumps illation.


WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?  This advice has stayed with me since I was a young boy From my Mum - Never trust a man who does not like women as friends. From my grandfather - Only two things start wars - greed and religion. My grandfather was orphaned during WW1.


DID YOUR EXPERIENCE ON SAS AUSTRALIA CHANGE YOUR LIFE? IF SO, IN WHAT WAY? SAS Australia was the most transformative experience in my life, and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity afforded to me. The preparation physically but more importantly mentally equipped me for the show and the show itself just solidified and galvanised my new strengths. You go in one person and come out another through a fulcrum of pressure and you understand yourself both good and bad in a way you never dreamed of. As they say on the show- they break you down into tiny pieces and the “real you” will be exposed. There’s no hiding who you really are - I was happy with that.

WHAT STRATEGIES DID YOU USE TO OVERCOME CHALLENGES ON SAS AUSTRALIA? I conditioned my body with fitness but also pain and discomfort until I was truly comfortable with discomfort. Exposure therapy to things like extreme cold (daily ice baths) and lots of pack marching with 40+ kgs. I also knew that it was 30% physical and 70% mental, so I conditioned my mind using meditation and other techniques - I wholeheartedly believe that meditation is the secret to success. Mind over matter. Park the pain, crack on.


WHAT WAS THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECT/S OF YOUR SAS EXPERIENCE? Emotional control - Lack of sleep and food is the catalyst for testing someone’s emotional control. I felt bad when I saw good people voluntarily withdraw or fall to pieces, but I had to park it quickly and not lose focus. I also had a challenging circumstance with fellow recruit Firass Dirani that at that time and place was affecting my moral beliefs and therefore my emotions. I believe I held my emotional control, but I also did not suppress it which sacrificed my core beliefs in teamwork. I felt I was balanced because I was justified; I still do. Having said that, I harbour no ill feelings towards Firass. It was always about that time, that place and the purpose of why we were there. We actually got along very well before the show. It’s the pressure applied and people's reactions that are the true test of that show.


HOW WOULD YOUR BEST FRIEND DESCRIBE YOU?  Probably not modest. Reliable, determined, loyal. Hopefully funny as well?


FAVOURITE MOVIE AND WHY?  Caddy Shack - it made me want to do comedy.


FAVOURITE BOOK AND WHY?  I recently read Dan Pronk’s “The Combat Doctor” about an SAS Doctor on operations in Afghanistan - it is an excellent book.


HAVE YOU EVER VISITED THE TOP END?   I have visited many times and I love it. The Territory is one of the few places in the world where you can transport your mind back in time millions of years in the blink of an eye.


WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE IN THE TOP END? My wife and I travelled to the NT on our first holiday together more than 20 years ago. I remember swimming in Litchfield National Park thinking “this may be the most beautiful natural experience on earth”

I also really love Darwin. Too many cities get swept up in competitive comparisons. Darwin doesn’t care. It’s just Darwin and that’s what I love about it.


Interviewed by Deb Herring Committee Member The Top Ender Magazine

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