Two decades have passed since Nicky Buckley lit up our screens as co-host of the popular game show Sale Of The Century.
But as the gorgeous star welcomes New Idea into her beautiful family home, nestled among bushland at Bells Beach on Victoria’s rugged Surf Coast, it quickly becomes clear one thing hasn’t changed – Nicky’s still the same smiling, down-to-earth personality Australia fell in love with all those years ago.
Since they left Melbourne for a permanent sea change 15 years ago, Nicky and her husband Murray Bingham have relished living away from the spotlight with their three sons, Cooper, 21, Jasper, 19, and Baxter, 15.
‘At the time, we had started running a restaurant down this way and we had also been holidaying down here a lot,’ says Nicky. ‘We found that this was where we really wanted to be.
‘I remember when we first made the decision to move here for good, people said: “But won’t you feel isolated?” That’s never, ever been the case. It’s so easy to drive back to Melbourne whenever we need to and the lifestyle here is amazing. It’s been the most wonderful place to bring up the kids – we’ve made some very close friends and it’s also been incredible to have the ocean so close.’
Indeed, for Nicky, hearing the roar of the sea late at night is a joy she’ll never take for granted.
‘We all spend a lot of time at the beach,’ she says. ‘I get together with a group of girlfriends to do stand-up paddle-boarding and then we go and have a coffee together afterwards. It’s so much fun.
‘Muz and Jasper also love the surf. Jasper was actually out in the water just yesterday, even though it’s freezing at the moment!’
Having bought a smaller block of land in the area, Nicky and Murray – who now runs a successful gardening business – are ready to downsize and build their next dream house.
‘We always knew that we would make a move at some stage and that this wouldn’t be our forever home,’ says Nicky.
‘We have always wanted to build a new home to live in and now we have that bug of wanting to shake it up. It’s a new challenge for us and it just feels like the right time to do it.
‘When this block of land close by came up, we thought: “That’s perfect!” And we just jumped in.’
Meeting her childhood sweetheart Murray – who modelled on Sale Of The Century – when she was just 16, Nicky knows how blessed she is to have found her lifelong soulmate.
‘We freak out when we count those years,’ she laughs. ‘It’s just flown, but we’ve really enjoyed parenting together. We’re very fortunate, and now this feels like a lovely new chapter for us.’
That said, there’s certainly no sign of an empty nest – something Nicky couldn’t be happier about.
‘The boys are all still living at home and they’ll definitely be moving with us to the new house,’ says Nicky, adding with a smile: ‘We’re building to keep them at home! I honestly feel blessed that they’re still with us.
‘When they come home at night and say: “What’s for dinner, Mum?” I’ll be like: “Really? Still?” But I just love having them around.’
And it’s possible Nicky and Murray’s eldest son Cooper may play an important role in the build of the new home.
‘He’s currently doing a chippie’s apprenticeship with a local builder so, if all the stars align, it would be really cool if he ends up working on the house,’ she says.
Meanwhile, Nicky has only fond memories of her time on TV, from Sale Of The Century to Blind Date, The Today Show and as a contestant on Dancing With The Stars, and with reports the quiz show is set to make a TV comeback, she says: ‘I would welcome the return of Sale Of The Century. There is nothing like it on TV at the moment where a family of teenagers through to the elderly can sit down together and enjoy and participate in a game show that has something for everyone.’
Yet few are aware that, despite having long been one of our most recognisable faces, she almost headed down a very different career path.
‘I started studying economics, accounting and politics at uni,’ she reveals. ‘My father was an accountant and I’ve always enjoyed accounting and economics, but it wasn’t for me. I basically deferred the course and started modelling – and then never went back. I always enjoyed my work, so it was never hard.
‘These days, I’m working a lot as an emcee, which I love,’ she adds. ‘There’s a lot of variety. I’ve worked really hard in that space to grow my profile as a serious emcee, rather than a token one. I really enjoy it, and I also work with a realestate company doing video presentations. I get to see some beautiful homes. And now building the new house will be our own project.’
Future plans aside, Nicky doesn’t hesitate when asked what she will miss most about her current home.
‘Waking up to the kookaburras, and seeing the kangaroos nibbling on the front lawn at dusk,’ she replies with a smile. ‘We have put our heart and soul into this house, but now it’s time for another family to enjoy it. We are ready to hand it over, and with our blessing.’
For the full story see this weeks issue of New Idea, on sale now.