Australia prepares to send Sheldon Riley to Eurovision

Headshot of Pierra Willix
Pierra WillixThe West Australian
Sheldon Riley with Eurovision Australia hosts Joel Creasey and Myf Warhurst.
Camera IconSheldon Riley with Eurovision Australia hosts Joel Creasey and Myf Warhurst. Credit: Supplied by SBS

We’ve come oh so close once before, but could this be the year Australia finally takes out the Eurovision Song Contest?

It’s not an improbability, but our entrant Sheldon Riley is clearly going to have the challenge cut out from him when he steps up to the stage in Turin next week.

While West Aussies will have to forgive him for knocking out local band Voyager in the Australia Decides competition earlier this year, his powerful ballad Not the Same might be just what voters across the European continent are looking for.

The song details Riley’s experiences of being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome as a child and growing up gay in a deeply religious family.

“This is a story I never thought I’d ever feel I’d be able to tell,” the former The X Factor and The Voice contestant has previously said.

“The song is really a gift back to anyone who might be in my position .. .regardless of gender, sexuality, race, financial position, trauma, colour, age, shape or size. You’re Not the Same but you’re not alone.”

Riley will perform in the second semi-final, to be aired locally on Friday morning.

When it was first announced back in 2015 that Australia would be competing in Eurovision, many understandably scratched their heads about our inclusion due to our obvious geographical distance from Europe.

But as long-time fans have come to learn over the decades, expect the unexpected when it comes to the contest.

For those yet to tune in to a broadcast, does the band ABBA ring a bell? Maybe Celine Dion sounds familiar?

Since being established in 1956 as a way to promote co-operation between countries in the continent following the Second World War, many stars have made their way onto the Eurovision stage, which has equally become known for its many weird and wonderful acts.

Last year’s broadcast also drew in an eye-watering 183 million viewers.

This time around there will be a notable absence, with Russia banned from competition after its invasion of Ukraine.

Not ones to miss out, the Americans have also decided to host their own iteration (can we claim they were jealous the red carpet wasn’t rolled out like it was for us?), the somewhat uninspired titled American Song Contest.

Featuring entries from all 50 States and five US Territories, it will be hosted by Snoop Dogg and Kelly Clarkson, with all episodes available to stream on SBS on Demand next Sunday.

But back to the original and the best, and all eyes will be on Europe as the competition kicks off.

Forget about sports, as Australian co-host Myf Warhurst (who leads coverage alongside comedian Joel Creasey) puts it, this is “the Olympics for people who love music”.

As she told Today earlier this year, Australia has well and truly “come to play”.

“We go hard and have sent great quality acts every year. I don’t think Europe would ever let us win, but then I also think if we give it time, maybe we could,” she said. “Who knows with Eurovision, anything can happen.”

The 66th Eurovision Song Contest will be broadcast live on SBS and SBS On Demand from May 11 to 15, with primetime broadcasts on Friday 13 and Saturday 14 May at 8.30pm, and Sunday 15 May at 7.30pm. For more information, go to sbs.com.au/eurovision

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