Natalie Barr has permanently replaced Sam Armytage on Channel Seven breakfast show Sunrise alongside co-host David “Kochie” Koch.

She was welcomed with open arms by the panel at 5.30 am on Monday.

The veteran newsreader thanked viewers for their well-wishes, but her happiness quickly turned into sheer shock after Kochie made a comment.

Natalie, who will be celebrating 20 years with Sunrise in 2023, used to regularly fill in for Sam during her tenure, and former co-host Melissa Doyle before that.

But despite her experience, Kochie joked that she still wasn’t fit for the job.

He said with a cheeky smirk: “After 18 years as part of the family… and we were never convinced she could do this after 18 years.”

Natalie looked shocked and instinctively hit her co-host, then said: “Excuse me! Okay, the first five minutes [and] I’m already punching you. This is going to be fun.”

Kochie cleared the air and stated that he was only joking, saying that his colleague’s experience has made her more than qualified.

“It’s fabulous news,” he said. “Handy tip: nothing has changed since Friday, or most of last year, so you should be okay.”

Natalie was confirmed as Sam’s permanent replacement over the weekend.

The veteran broadcaster said in a statement on Sunday she was looking forward to stepping into Sam’s shoes.

“Sunrise has been my work family for 18 years and while I’ve absolutely loved my role as newsreader, I’ve now been given the chance to move half a metre along the desk closer to Kochie and give something new a try,” she said.

“I like to think of it as same same, but different. I can’t wait!”

Kochie also praised Natalie for her dedication to Sunrise, saying: “Nat has been there every step of the way as we’ve evolved Sunrise over the past 18 years.

“Our viewers know Nat is way more than just a newsreader. For years she has always stepped up as a co-host, filling in for Sam and I, and spent much of last year leading our coverage of the Covid pandemic.

“We all love her wicked sense of humour and no-nonsense approach to life. Nat and I have always had a very close relationship. I’ve seen her sons grow into fine young men, walked The Kokoda Track with her husband, Drew, and her mum Julie is so gorgeous.”

He added: “Nat is a wonderful person, with a wonderful family, and I can’t wait to sit alongside her as we continue to evolve Sunrise.”