Television favourite Ninja Warrior back with new twists and turns

HOSTS: Ninja Warrior returns on Sunday with, from left, Andrew Flintoff, Rebecca Maddern, Ben Fordham and Shane Crawford.
HOSTS: Ninja Warrior returns on Sunday with, from left, Andrew Flintoff, Rebecca Maddern, Ben Fordham and Shane Crawford.

JUST getting Ninja Warrior season four completed and onto TV screens took more manoeuvring than the show's famed obstacle course.

Filming began in Melbourne back in March just as the coronavirus pandemic was kicking off in Australia, and even before the cameras began rolling there was a major hurdle.

Co-host Rebecca Maddern missed episode one to undergo testing for COVID-19 due to earlier appearing on the Today Show next to entertainment doyen Richard Wilkins, who contracted coronavirus from Hollywood star Rita Wilson. Maddern returned a negative test and rejoined Ninja Warrior alongside co-host Ben Fordham.

Next former English cricket captain Andrew Flintoff was forced to return home to the UK as the pandemic worsened, or risked being stranded in Australia away from family.

"There were a few challenges along the way, but it was very much focused on the cause and everyone was just trying to get in and do their best," Fordham says.

Across three seasons Ninja Warrior has become a ratings winner for Channel Nine, combining drama, athleticism and personal stories of triumph. This season is no different.

The highlights include the return of cancer survivor and mother-of-two Tash Sergi, policeman Jake Baker who owns pet rats and former circus acrobat Skye Haddy. This season will also introduce the power tower, a four-storey structure, which pits two ninjas in face-to-face competition.

Fordham's media career has also kicked on since last season, after he replaced retired radio king Alan Jones in May as host of the prized 2GB breakfast show. Fordham says Ninja Warrior provides an entertaining outlet.

"For me to be able to commentate something is a lot of fun," he says. "I grew up wanting to be a sports commentator and life put me on a different course. So to be able to do that for a couple of weeks a year is bit of a buzz. I don't pretend to be an expert at it, and neither does Bec [Maddern], but we have a lot of fun doing it."