“An intervention was needed because Firass’ behaviour and attitude had literally brought several female recruits to tears, for which he was totally unremorseful,” Merrick tells New Idea.
“This angered me and others. We felt he was not only selfish and disruptive but a danger to the group’s chances of making it through selection.”
So enraged was Merrick – who was ‘duty recruit’ at the time – that he attempted to have Firass removed from the reality show.
“I regret nothing I did,” Merrick says of the incident. “I was supported by every single person there. Except maybe Firass.”
Merrick also rejects Firass’ claims made since the show aired that he was painted as a villain.
“I do not buy the villain narrative at all, nor does anyone else who was there,” he says. “Not one other person there did anything to cause a group punishment.”
While he may not have had much time for Firass on the show, Merrick did get on well with former swimmer James Magnussen and he praised Erin McNaught, describing her as “a tiny titan”.
“She may be a beauty queen, but her grit and determination alongside her mental strength was formidable,” the former radio presenter says. “Jackson [Warne] also surprised me. Incredible focus for a man his age. But his genuine, polite and completely unaffected nature was always great to be around.”
Ever the comedian, Merrick admits he tried to make fellow recruits laugh while filming.
“I would try to raise other people’s spirits as it would, in turn, raise my own,” he says. “Plus, they had nowhere to go. They were actually comedy hostages. Loved that crew.”
For more, check out the latest issue of New Idea. Out now!