Back to the boardroom

Making waves: Dawn Fraser (centre) on the season opener of <i>The Celebrity Apprentice</i> - a fish-and-chip challenge -  with fellow contestants (from left) Roxy Jacenko, Prue MacSween, Layla Subritzky, Stephanie Rice and Prinnie Stevens.
Making waves: Dawn Fraser (centre) on the season opener of The Celebrity Apprentice - a fish-and-chip challenge - with fellow contestants (from left) Roxy Jacenko, Prue MacSween, Layla Subritzky, Stephanie Rice and Prinnie Stevens.

She is an Olympic legend, renowned across the world for her feats in the pool, including winning gold at the same event at three separate Olympics. So why on earth would someone as iconic as Dawn Fraser want to appear on Nine's reality television show The Celebrity Apprentice?

The 75-year-old has a simple answer: ''Because I like the show.''

After sitting down for an extended interview, Fraser has a glint in her eye when she talks about appearing on the mainstream television series, saying she had fun trying something completely different.

''Look, I must admit I have enjoyed it, it's been interesting - one of the most interesting things I've done in my life with other people, because it's shown other people's personalities and another side to them,'' Fraser says.

''I had a discussion with my daughter and my grandson and I said, 'You know, I'm 75 years of age, do you think I should do it?' And they said, 'Yeah, it'd be good fun'.''

Fraser appears in the series of the show alongside athletes including Stephanie Rice, Dermott Brereton, Jeff Fenech and John Steffensen. There's also former reality-TV stars Rob Mills (now a respected theatre performer), Layla Subritzky and dancer Kym Johnson, plus publicists Roxy Jacenko and Prue MacSween, ageing rocker Brian Mannix, comedian Peter Berner and former Ready Steady Cook host Peter Everett. It's an eclectic list - one on which many viewers might never have expected to see Dawn Fraser.

''Look, it's all a game and the thing is, I keep in the back of my mind it's all for charity,'' she says with a smile.

Fraser has already revealed that her competitive streak didn't help her see eye to eye with Rice during filming.

''I'm a very competitive person. I'm a lot more mature than she is and what I see coming out of a young sportsperson I didn't like, and I had to say something,'' Fraser admits.

''It's very hard to hold back and not say something. You know, say, 'You're not doing the right thing, you're showing off, you're too cocky' and stuff like that.''

But Fraser believes Rice took something from her advice during the show. She hopes so, anyway.

Taking on an elder stateswoman role for the show appears to have come naturally to Fraser, but she admits it was hard work at times.

''I've always been a patient person,'' she says.

''I learnt it when I was swimming, because I've got a terrible temper and it's not a side that I like, so I've tried to keep that temper away. I've tried to keep a calmness.''

On-set she used her own methods to keep her cool.

''I go away from the team members, I talk to myself, I keep myself calm and I'm always the first one to apologise. I don't want to hurt people with my tongue, that's not a nice thing.''

Fraser says that apart from raising money for charity - something she says she thought of constantly while taking part in the show's challenges - she wants to inspire young people who are watching the show.

''I've got something to give and it's inspiration I can give to kids. I'd like to do that.''

Like many people of her generation, Fraser seems genuinely concerned by some of the serious problems facing young people today. She believes things could be different if parents were firmer with their children.

''In those olden days it was, 'Learn to respect your elders, only speak unless you're spoken to'. And it's all changed. I don't think parents today are bringing up their children the way they should be brought up. They should respect their elders. That's why we have so many kids out on the streets, druggies; you know, these gang fights and kids going off and getting absolutely blind drunk … I never thought Australia would ever, ever come to this.''

Mind you, there are plenty of young people who impress her. She has a much-loved grandson, Jackson, whom she trusts so implicitly she has let him take her Olympic gold medals to his school's show-and-tell.

Fraser says publicist Jacenko was a wonderful contestant. ''She's very good, she's vibrant … she's on the ball and I admire that in her.''

And Fraser is clearly pleased to be on air with Mark Bouris after the two met socially some years ago. ''He's a lovely man. He's a great bloke. I met Mark many years ago in Paris at the World Cup and I guess he chose me because he wanted to see if I could [do it].''

The new series of The Celebrity Apprentice screens on Tuesday at 8pm on Nine.

Banking on an audience for economics

When Deborah Knight departed the Ten Network in shock circumstances two years ago, the experienced reporter and presenter was relieved to be hired almost immediately by Nine.

Now Knight will be the host of Financial Review Sunday, a new Nine show in conjunction with Fairfax publication The Australian Financial Review, which premieres today.

''It's great,'' Knight says. ''I've been at Nine for two years and I guess a lot of it is being in the right place at the right time.''

She says that apart from canvassing the government's economic decisions, it will be a show about financial and business topics for all Australians.

''We hope to break news as well on the business and political front, and also help everyday people make decisions with their own budgeting,'' Knight says.

She looks back on her departure from Ten with sadness. ''I've never shied away from the shock of not having my contract renewed,'' she says. ''It blindsided me entirely. Anyone who has their employment decision made for them, it's a terrible decision to be confronted with.''

She has clearly now settled into Nine. ''I was really fortunate - and I've now made a pretty good home there.''

Financial Review Sunday airs on Sunday at 10am on Nine.

This story Back to the boardroom first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.