Ninja Warrior farmer

How a dairy farmer became a Ninja Warrior


Tractor forks, dairy pipework and hay bales are an Australian Ninja Warrior's three secret weapons.


Australian Ninja Warrior Brad Vanderland has three secret weapons: tractor forks, dairy pipework and hay bales.

Oh, and there is the kids' tree swing, too.

"I'd show you my training course but they've eaten it," Mr Vanderland said.

The 34-year-old dairy farmer is rapt to be in the semi finals screening on channel Nine next week and his determination to conquer the nigh-on-impossible obstacle course may also have changed his life.

Young, hard-working, resourceful and passionate about growing grass, Mr Vanderland is exactly the sort of person the dairy industry wants to attract.

He now works for Denison sharefarmers Max and Tameeka Vera and, although he hopes to become a sharefarmer himself, there are barriers.

"The industry says it wants more young people but, looking at what farm owners go through puts many off," he said.

"When the dairy crisis hit and then feed became so expensive, farmers didn't have the money to hire enough labour and they don't have the work-life balance they should.

"You wouldn't choose to work on a dairy farm unless you loved it.

"Realistically, there is plenty of competition for young people from other industries that pay a bit better and are easier on the body.

"But I like being outdoors and making things, so that's why I'm a farmer."

Even so, keeping up with farming and parenting does not leave a lot of time for going to the gym.

At 5am, Mr Vanderland rises to milk the farm's 400 largely Friesian herd.

By 7:30am, he is back to get breakfast and see his two girls, Emma, 10, and Darcey, 6, off to school before heading back out into the paddocks to feed the cows.

Dinner is at about 6pm.

Amongst it all, Mr Vanderland said it was easy to lose focus on looking after himself.

"I was smoking 20 to 30 cigarettes a day, not feeling very fit, wheezing and didn't have energy," he said.

"When I saw the ad for Australian Ninja Warriors, I said, 'I'll do that'."

"Everyone just laughed so I got online and signed up straight away.

"I booked in to see a hypnotherapist and gave up smoking after two sessions, seven days apart.

"I never looked back.

"Yes, I enjoyed smoking but I'm breathing so much easier, I can keep up with the kids and I'm saving a lot of money."

With little time to visit the gym, training took on a very agricultural flavour.

"I hadn't done any training before so I just made up what I thought might work," he said.

"I'd set up the tractors to use the forks as monkey bars and jump from tractor to tractor and around the hay bales.

"I put 10 metres of rope up in a tree and figured if I could go up and down it four times without stopping, I'd be able to get up Mt Midoriyama.

"I did yoga once a week for flexibility, dead hangs and chin-ups in the dairy because I saw the Americans having to hang off things when they slipped, and lots of push-ups.

"Each day, I did hard core training for an hour and then random bits of exercise whenever I had a spare minute."

Mr Vanderland trained for two months, passed a physical test to enter the competition and was in front of the cameras at the end of the third month.

"When I saw the other competitors, I thought they were way out of my league," he said.

"You see the course for the first time the moment you start and with the crowd, cameras and lights, I was so nervous.

"When I fell off, I realised I'd just sort of zoned out and forgot about the run-up."

Mr Vanderland is obliged to keep the result a secret while the show airs but has no regrets.

"It was amazing, the time of my life, awesome," he said.

"It made me realise that if you want something, you can do it and I wanted to show my girls that, too.

"The kids are over the moon."

Mr Vanderland will train even harder for Australian Ninja Warrior next year.

In the meantime, he is doing the Push-Up Challenge fundraiser where participants do 3128 push-ups in 21 days, representing the number of Australian lives lost Australia due to mental health issues in 2017.

"Mates of mine have been in bad places, especially those without family support," he said.

"Feeling good physically and mental health go together so it makes sense and I want to raise some funds to support people who need it."


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