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Comment > Love Thy Neighbour: Toadie Rebecchi by Si Hunt

I wasn't a Neighbours child of the Nineties. That's my shame. Now before you cast me aside, sneer and maybe shoot me a withering look of disdain, I must add that I'm no 'newbie'. I'm hardcore. I remember Madge and Jim and Paul's long-forgotten first wife Terry. I WAS THERE WHEN KYLIE AND JASON GOT HITCHED (or, at least, I taped it and watched it back on Betamax when I got home from school). And all thirteen regenerations of Lucy (oh wait, that's Doctor Who). But I drifted away for a period (had some stuff to do, going to Uni and so on, it's no excuse though) so I missed out on Dee, and Karl 'n' Sarah Gate (yes, I know), and Tad and Stonie and that weird trend of characters named after fish. Coming back to it later, I found it all a little strange. Which might make me exactly the wrong person to write an article celebrating one of Neighbours' most durable characters - Toadfish Rebecchi.

Let's dive in at the deep end and note that Jarrod 'Toadfish' Rebecchi has been a fixture of Ramsay Street for exactly twenty years this weekend. That's an almighty long time for a programme with such a high cast-turnaround as Neighbours - he's effectively Australia's Ken Barlow. That, surely, wasn't meant to happen. The revolving door of teen characters on Neighbours tends to dictate that after about three or four years (less, if American casting directors come knocking) the previous crop of beautiful teenagers will bid farewell to Ramsay Street (providing a bike crash or kayaking incident hasn't picked them off first), pack up their kit and pave the way for some more fresh faces to knock on Susan's door and demand to be taken in. But like boy bands breaking up, there isn't actually a physical law that decrees this has to be so. All you have to do is not leave - and so it is that troubled teen tearaway Toadie is amazingly still on the Street.

The writers and producers have been kind, to be fair. That's not to take anything away from Ryan Moloney (we'll come to him in a moment) but Toadie has had his fair share of epic storylines down the years - most notably the Infamous Case of his missing wife Dee, last seen plummeting off a cliff on the way to their honeymoon. The tantalising prospect that she might yet one day turn up casts a typically soap-like humorous shadow over Toadfish, and as a result it seems to be the storyline that everyone remembers. Yes, it would be ridiculous but it didn't stop Harold. That said, there was rather a sensitive storyline a few years ago when Toadie finally put to bed the memories of his (probably deceased) bride and moved on with his life to marry recovering addict and eternal fusspot Sonya.

It's been just one of many stories which have developed the character from the long-haired troublemaker who once caused trouble with Billy Kennedy, into a fully-fledged adult with a family of his own. The long lifespan of the character has enabled him not to get pigeonholed for a particular type of storyline. He's been the schoolboy, the uni student, the maturing adult and finally the father, and the writers have delivered on serving up many wild storylines to suit each incarnation. Those of us who remember Toadie's journey to fatherhood can acknowledge that it was rather muddled, however. As I recall, he acquired Callum first before Sonya turned up later, as a dog trainer, and eventually revealed as Callum's long-lost mum. And then there was a 'wannabe son' who never turned up at the airport - but such sidesteps are par for the course on a long-running and swiftly assembled show. Overall, Toadie's path has taken a route steeped in something Aussie soaps often struggle to capture - realism.

One can believe in the lad that arrived on Ramsay Street as a problem teenager, with a troublesome family in tow; the boy who grew up under the guidance of mentors like Susan Kennedy, who hit tragedy and The House of Trouser, and who finally grew up and became a staple of the community. Viewers have been with him every step of the way, and perhaps that's why he's so beloved. When a friend of mine returned from a honeymoon in Australia and was lucky enough to attend Neighbours Night, he met many stars of the series, but the two he most raved about on his return were "Toadie and Dr Karl". Toadie has become an icon to a certain generation who have followed his struggles. And after twenty years, that's something to be cherished.

The key to Toadie's success as a character these days is Ryan Moloney, the little-discussed actor who brings him to life. Perhaps the clue is right there - the actor is fairly private, and so, even after a short stint on Celebrity Big Brother, we don't have his own character to seperate from that of his alter ego. Barely anyone on the Street in Britain would even know who played him - but if you mentioned "Toadfish" it would invariably evoke garbled memories of wrestling, a long-haired teenage tearaway and weird scenes of middle aged men in boxer shorts, such is the imprint on the national consciousness. But Moloney has perfected his performances to be in tune with Toadie's on-screen maturity, and these days he is the everyman; a very versatile character that can be placed in a wide spectrum of situations. Over the last few years alone we've seen Toadie battle career changes, adoption, the re-habilitation of his wife and discovering the secret parentage of his adopted son.

The arrival of Callum on Ramsay Street was a masterstroke by the producers, as it forced Toadie to become a better man and a better character with it; it also made viewers realise how long they had followed the tribulations of this character and how far we had all come. If you could remember Toadie stealing things and bunking off school, how old did it make you feel that his son was now doing the same on screen? The only shame is that Morgan Baker sadly left the show after only a few years. How much fun would it have been to have seen Toadie presiding over his son's wedding and his OWN battles in fatherhood, truly bringing things full circle? Perhaps it's time to reveal that in her drug addled state Sonya had a second child. No? Well, stranger things have happened on Ramsay Street (that dalliance between Anne Robinson and Max Ramsay for one).

As far as the future is concerned, it's wide open for Toadfish Rebecchi. Let us not forget that he has a young child of his own - Nell, and so the difficulties of bringing her up will be centre to the characters storylines in the next decade (should he still be around, fingers crossed!). Wife Sonya, a scattershot, precarious soul excellently played by Eve Morey, is never likely to give "the Toad" an easy ride. Could she lapse back into one of her many addictions? Even going straight, she is likely to come home with a homeless vagrant or fraudulent uncle she is desperate to help. And could son Callum one day return from his mysterious school in America where he makes mobile Apps all day, coming back to Ramsay Street with a gambling debt, a new face and a mail order bride in tow? Stranger things have surely happened. One thing is for sure - viewers will always love Toadie thanks to the past he carries with him, and as long as he's willing to suffer the pitfalls of living in Erinsborough’s most dangerous but most lovable street then we'll be here with him.