Dancing with the Stars winner Samantha Hayes says she "never" expected to win the reality TV competition, which she describes as a "hugely positive experience".
"I had no prior dance experience, I didn't even know what a Paso Doble was, or really any of the different dance styles," says Hayes. "I was just hoping I wasn't going to be the first person voted out. (I) definitely didn't think we were going to win it."
Hayes said she had reservations before entering the show – as well as friends discouraging her from the decision – but a nudge from an old friend helped her take the leap.
"Lots of my friends told me not to do it. Even my mum said don't do it," she says. "I get migraines… and they can last for three days at a time, so I was worried that this would create a perfect storm where I'd be tired, not getting enough sleep, working at all hours of the day, and putting a lot of stress on top of my normal, busy life.
"But a few people said 'it'll be fun, why don't you do it?' And I actually rang Jay-Jay Feeney and had a chat to her about it, and she said it was just the most incredible experience, and after a bit of deliberation I decided to give it a go."
During last night's finale, two of the judges rated Chris Harris' dance a perfect 10 – and Hayes says she's gutted that he and his dance partner didn't win.
"I would have been so happy if Chris and Vanessa had won… (they) had two perfect scores, so that is just phenomenal," she says. "So in a way I'm really sad for them that they didn't, but I had a chat to Chris afterwards and he said that he was just so happy with that result and couldn't have asked for anything more and that made me feel really good.
"We're really close with everyone out there because everyone's going through this crazy experience together, it's a rollercoaster, and I just wanted everyone out there yesterday, the four remaining couples, to really nail both dances, and enjoy it. And whatever the result was, I was really at peace with that. The fact that we won it is just the icing on the cake, that's so amazing."
Reflecting on the experience, Hayes says she's grateful for the support she's had throughout the show, and that she's "super keen" to keep dancing.
"It's been such a hugely positive experience, and the one thing that really surprised me is how much I loved dancing – it's been really hard, but it's just been so much fun," she says.
"And the response that we've had from people has just been phenomenal. Messages through social media, and emails, and people coming up to us on the street and in cafes and supporting us in our dancing, but also supporting our charity, Riding for the Disabled. That has been just so great."