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Think Local

Before Josh Terrett and Charlotte Ekas from The Block became household names, there was Steve and Michelle Ball, another Northern Beaches couple, who took the plunge into reality TV.

Peninsula Living met the stars of Channel 7's House Rules and Reno Rumble at their Collaroy Plateau home - the same property that was transformed during the show in 2013.

The couple, who have been married for more than 30 years, made it all the way to the final of the first season of House Rules but were pipped at the post.

"It took us a few months to get over it and every now and then it still hits home. I mean, everyone wants their mortgage paid off, especially at our age, and the couple that beat us were in the early to mid thirties, so we have 20 years on them!" Michelle tells Peninsula Living.

It was an emotionally-draining journey, particularly for Michelle, who lost her father to brain cancer just six weeks before they started filming.

"That made it even more difficult. I was grieving so there were days when I'd be in the car somewhere and I'd just stop and cry. It felt like everything was a blur most of the time," she reveals.

Steve was a pillar of strength for his wife, and this was never more evident than during the casting phase.

"I actually applied for the show secretly without telling Steve and did all his answers and all my answers," Michelle smiles.

"I got a phone call from the casting people and they said, 'You have gotten through to the next round, and we want to come out and video you'. And I thought 'Crap... I better tell him...".

It took Steve only a few moments to give his consent.

"I didn't know what was involved and I certainly didn't expect what we ended up having to go through. However, we're a team, there wasn't a choice," he reflects.

The pair polarised viewers and had their fair share of run-ins with the other contestants, but as Steve says, only those that have been through it can understand the pressure-cooker environment.

"We're working anywhere between 20 and 24 hours a day and then it's just completely shrunk down to a 40-minute package on TV," he says.

"Some of the comments about us online were really cruel and you're just thinking 'I'm a human being and you're saying that about me'," Michelle adds.

"But our friends and family and everyone close to us know who we are as people and that's all that matters."

Who they are as people can really be summed up by the motivation behind their TV return.

The pair agreed to be on Reno Rumble to give other people that same incredible feeling they experienced when they first saw their fully-renovated home. Another reason was to try and make some money for their chosen charity, the Chris O'Brien Lifehouse, a non-for-profit cancer treatment centre and hospital.

"My mum had breast cancer a year before my dad was diagnosed with brain tumours and Steve's dad died of brain tumours 12 years ago, so there is a real personal connection to the charity," Michelle explains.

And has the pair crossed paths with Josh and Charlotte?

“Actually, we ran into Josh and Charlotte down in Melbourne and it was like 'Wow', we just instantly gave each other a hug and said 'So how was it?' They're the only other people in the world that would know exactly how it was and we can talk about it," smiles Michelle.

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