Announcing her departure from Today Extra on Thursday – an exit awash with rumours she’s returning to Seven – everything about Kruger’s warm farewell indicated there was not a drop of bad blood left with the network.
And she hasn’t exactly had a smooth ride.
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Complete with balloons, a two-tier designer cake and champagne, it came amid a week of headaches for Nine – the pressure point located squarely on the Today show’s hosting desk.
On Monday, a stale farewell to parting host Georgie Gardner soured the already-troubled morning program further still, and on Friday morning – hours before the studio erupted in tears and applause for Kruger’s goodbye – a bizarre send-off to sports reporter Tony Jones had people scratching their heads.
All three had decided not to see-out the rest of the year.
While Jones will stay with Nine following his departure from Today, and Gardner’s future with the network is yet to be confirmed, it’s impossible not to compare their goodbyes to Kruger’s.
So how did Sonia Kruger manage to dodge the uncomfortable and successfully jump ship with nothing but well-wishes from the network?
It’s all in her career timeline:
Sonia Kruger has been a prominent figure in the media for over two decades. She became a household name following her acting debut as “Tina Sparkle” in the AFI Award-Winning film Strictly Ballroom in 1992, aged just 27-years-old – a crack at Hollywood fame well within reach.
But her acting career never took off.
Instead, she embarked on a career as a television presenter – a career which actually started on Nine, all those years ago.
She held a stint hosting iconic children’s variety show, Simon Townsend’s Wonder World on the Nine Network in the mid-90s, before shifting to Seven.
Moving on to become an entertainment reporter for Today Tonight, Sunrise and 11AM through to the early 2000s, it wasn’t until 2004 she became a fixture on Dancing With The Stars.
She co-hosted the series with Daryl Somers and Daniel MacPherson for 11 seasons.
In September 2008 Kruger was confirmed to host makeover reality show 10 Years Younger in 10 Days, then after 14 years, she moved to Nine.
LEAVING SEVEN FOR NINE
In November 2011 Kruger announced she was leaving both Dancing With The Stars and Seven Network to pursue other opportunities – namely a development deal with the Nine Network that would see Kerri-Anne Kennerley (now with Ten) ousted from her long-running morning show Kerri-Anne.
Kruger was confirmed to host Today Extra (former known as Mornings) with singer/actor David Campbell – who also defected from Seven for the role.
At the time, a Seven insider quipped to Perth Now; “Seven is the star factory of 2011. We make them, and they take them.”
The following year, Kruger picked up the hosting gig of Nine’s Big Brother reboot, remaining at the helm until it was axed in 2014.
On 18 July 2016, during an appearance on Today, Kruger called for a complete ban on Muslims entering Australia, in agreement with an opinion piece by commentator Andrew Bolt.
“Personally, I think Andrew Bolt has a point here, that there is a correlation between the number of people who … are Muslim in a country and the number of terrorist attacks,” she had said.
“Now I have a lot of very good friends who are Muslim, who are peace-loving who are beautiful people, but there are fanatics.
“Personally I would like to see it stopped now for Australia. Because I want to feel safe, as all of our citizens do, when they go out to celebrate Australia Day.”
Kruger defended her comments saying “I believe it’s vital in a democratic society to be able to discuss these issues without being labelled racist.”
A racial vilification complaint against Kruger was made to the Civil and Administrative Tribunal over her statement about Muslim immigration.
Nine Network applied to have the complaint dismissed without a hearing, but it was refused. The complaint was made by Sydney man Sam Ekermawi, but the tribunal ultimately judged that she did not racially vilify Muslims because religion is not a race.
SAYING GOODBYE TO TODAY
“After eight fabulous years, I’m leaving the show and the Nine Network. I’ve had an amazing time here and I’ve been privileged to work on some top-shelf programs,” she told Today Extra viewers on Thursday.
“It has been an absolute blast but it is time for me to go and do something new. You know what it is like, Dave. Spread your wings. Tomorrow is going to be my last day on the show and as a thank you to you at home for having me in your living room every day, we are putting together something special to celebrate. It will be semi-professional, hopefully,” she said ahead of Friday’s farewell.
Campbell, who declared he’d “only just found out” the news himself, said there would be “a lot of tears” during Friday’s final episode — and appeared to make a cheeky joke about fellow Today host Georgie Gardner, who did not return to the show after it was announced last weekend that Karl Stefanovic would take over again in 2020.
“We are going to have a lot of laughs tomorrow and we will be going to go out big. Or you just don’t have to turn up. It is one or the other. It is on you,” he said.
The Today Extra host made the “big announcement” a week after it was widely reported in the Australian media that she was moving from Nine to Seven.
But while an emotional Kruger confirmed she was leaving the network, she made no specific mention of where she was headed.
LEAVING NINE FOR SEVEN: THE RUMOURS
Kruger is believed to have signed a “seven-figure” deal to return to her former network in 2020, nine years after defecting to Nine.
It’s understood Nine had initially presented Kruger, 54, a new three-year contract worth more than $1.5 million, but negotiations broke down and she accepted Seven’s offer.
Kruger, who has also hosted singing contest The Voice, remains contracted to Nine until the end of this year.
Seven declined to comment when contacted by news.com.au, but sources at the network have previously suggested she may front its upcoming revival of Big Brother.
It’s as though history just can’t stop repeating for Kruger.