I’m a Celebrity: Anthony Mundine reaches ‘breaking point’, throws in the towel

Anthony Mundine said he "went out with a bang" on <i>I'm a Celebrity</i>.

Anthony Mundine said he "went out with a bang" on I'm a Celebrity. Photo: Network Ten

While a beef with fellow boxer Danny Green was mischievously drummed up as the feature event of his appearance on I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here! it was a fight with his own emotions that saw Anthony Mundine make an early exit from Ten’s reality TV show. 

Confessing on February 8 he was throwing in the towel, Mundine said, “My heart was aching ever since I got in here, for my kids. I thought I could block it out, but I reached breaking point and I need to go home.”

After lasting 11 nights in the South African jungle, Mundine bade a genuinely moving farewell to his campmates, choking back tears when talking about wanting people to see the real him, not “some arrogant dickhead”.

When addressing his allegedly mortal enemy Danny Green directly, he said, “If we spend too much time together, we’d probably be boys, ya know.”

Mundine was the second male athlete to pull the plug on this season. Blaming depression, tennis player Bernard Tomic quit after just three nights.

While Tomic, 25, seemed worn down by his short experience, Mundine, 42, sounded chipper confirming the news of his departure on his Facebook page.

Doing the radio rounds on Thursday, drumming up publicity for an event that hadn’t happened yet on TV screens, host Chris Brown said Mundine “didn’t look right” when he turned up for the viper room challenge with live snakes, which proved his Waterloo.

“The normal Mundine swagger wasn’t there,” he told WSFM.

“In four years, [Mundine and Tomic] are the first to walk out.”

Also walking out: audiences.

The show’s 2018 premiere drew 1.274 million viewers. But by Tuesday’s episode, only 626,000 viewers were tuned in — ratings reportedly lower than any episode last season.

I’m A Celebrity producers must now work out whether the drop in viewers is directly related to having such a polarising figure as Mundine front and centre, or whether the show itself has simply punched above its weight until now and the premise invariably means large viewer numbers are lost once the celebrities are revealed.

The much-hyped feud with Green didn’t exactly make for a rumble in the jungle, with their fireworks usually confined to lame bouts of slanging and challenging each other to a boxing rematch.

Sometimes juvenility can be genuinely amusing. This was just irksome.

As Channel 10 would have been praying for, Mundine generated headlines for his provocative beliefs.

He labelled same-sex relationships as “confusing to society” and revealed his edict that women dress as he tells them: “She can wear a dress, not a short skirt, not above the knees, for their own good.”

Neanderthal utterances notwithstanding, it is possible people got to see a side of Mundine that was genuine, humble, and often thoughtful.

Until now, the show has a history of retaining male athletes. English cricketer Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff won the first season, AFL player Brendan Fevola the second. Collingwood’s Dane Swan came second in 2017.

Mundine’s hasty exit means his chosen charity Indigenous Community Volunteers won’t get any money, and there’s speculation he may forfeit the appearance fee, which is said to be contingent on any celebrity lasting at least two weeks in the jungle.

If having Tomic on board was borderline exploitative, the Mundine experiment came across as a cynical, slightly desperate punch after the bell for ratings.

Ironically the real highlight of the show was Tiffany and Shannon Noll’s improvised song writing session, resulting in a horrible power ballad with the chorus, “We’re here in South Africa, where magic’s all around.”

Apart from the wildlife, which was escaping en masse like a tsunami was approaching.

Now that’s entertainment.

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