Verity Johnson: I snuck into the secret Fieldays Rural Bachelor mansion

OPINION: I want Kenneth to win Rural Bachelor of the Year. Not because I think he's the best-looking (that's Ross), or the funniest (probably Tractor) or the most articulate (definitely Josh). But he's got the best logic for being here. You get the feeling this is far, far out of his comfort zone, and it takes a certain type of reckless courage to be here.

"My girlfriend broke up with me so I decided to give this a crack," he says, pushing back a tangle of hair that would make a hipster kale green with envy.

It's hard to meet girls in his line of work.

"I'm 30 and I've had one girlfriend - it lasted two years."

It's mostly him hanging out with his family all day and singing along to the radio in the milk shed. Plus he's no good at small talk and worries girls will think he's weird. He's not weird, he just doesn't talk to a lot of girls. But he wants someone to have coffee with and go shopping. He laughs, it's not the most "farmer" thing to say.

"Yeah, I'm a townie trapped in a farmer's body!"

I'm having dinner at the Fieldays Rural Bachelor pad. Yes, they have a secret pad where they're all kept. And yes, people aren't allowed to know about it or enter it. But yes, I managed to wriggle a dinner invite. I snuck in for a wine with these eight sheep-shearing singletons, who are all shacked up while they compete in the various agricultural tasks over the Fieldays week.

It's a sprawling, secluded location rather like the official Bachelor mansion. But instead of Dominic Bowden, they have the charming owner Nick who knocks out elaborate dinners like they're instant noodles. He also takes care of their laundry - there's a pile of undies on the pool table.

The boys' clean undies.
The boys' clean undies. Photo credit: Verity Johnson/Newshub.

The mansion itself is the living stereotype of a proper Kiwi bach. It's built to be rampaged around; comfy, spacious and flaking at the edges. But they're at home here, hanging in the kitchen, Speights in hand, fags on the bench, bowls and bowls of steaming food in front of them. It's like Hogwarts for horny famers.

On screen, these boys look like someone put a gruff, grumpy Bambi on breakfast television. They seem like jokes; bumpkin parodies who love dirt and hate townies. But at home with a beer they're charming, unexpected and utterly dateable.

There's Ross, the big, good-looking mainlander who makes Bear Grylls look like a Powerpuff Girl. Gordie, the Australian, who's the closest living thing to Crocodile Dundee. There's Scott, the wholesome, philosophical yogi. Cute boys Matt and Jason, from south Canterbury and Northland, who could have just stepped out of a Britpop boy band. Josh, whose cotton-eyed Joe demeanour belies an incredibly reflective mind. Tractor, aka Sean, who's funny in the 'you annoy me but I'm still listening' way. And Kenneth, who like me nurses an unashamed love of Pitbull.

Not only are they unexpectedly quirky - they're also utterly intolerant of bullshit. In proper Bachelor form, I tried to ask them their star sign. They either didn't know it, didn't care, or didn't even know star signs were a thing.

They had a similar disdain for dating apps like Tinder. Some of them admitted to having used it but hating it. Ross, and I'll paraphrase out the expletives here, said something like, "I'm too old to be using that now." He clearly thought Tinder dates were on the same level as play dough play dates. He's 26 - in a Jaffa world he'd still be living at home.

Most of them were similarly dismissive of the idea of going on reality TV to find love. It just all seemed a bit fake - the girls, the plot, the 'love'. And in this superficial era, where our hair colour to our coffee choice is determined by its Instagram-ability, it was perhaps the sexiest thing you could say.

The bachelor pad's garden, complete with bowl of Speights.
The bachelor pad's garden, complete with bowl of Speights. Photo credit: Verity Johnson/Newshub.

There's also something simultaneously endearing and heartbreaking about their honesty on the loneliness of the job. Perhaps the person with the most experience is Gordie, who lives with nine other blokes on a station in the Outback. The nearest town is Laura, which has about six buildings in it. You don't really meet a lot of women, your one chance is the local rodeo. Is it lonely?

"Yeah, the days are fine because you're always busy," he pauses, "but the nights can be hard."

He doesn't even get internet on many of his jobs, so Facebook is out.

"You go to bed pretty early, but I can't sleep early so I'm usually the last up… it allows you a lot of time to think."

They don't sugarcoat it. They can go a whole day not speaking to anyone. Gordie might not be alone much longer though, given he's currently winning the polls for the favourite Bachelor.

I came away feeling that all of them are incredibly dateable though, more so than any of the official Bachelors themselves. (Well, for me anyway.)

The secret to their appeal is their honesty. From their music tastes, to their opinions on Tinder, to their critique of their situation. It's a pity that the authenticity that would make them great TV stars is the very thing that would never let it happen.

Verity Johnson is a Newshub columnist.

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