After a long 50-day, 25-episode season, Olympic medallist Shane Gould was crowned Sole Survivor of Season 5 of Australian Survivor – Champions vs. Contenders. However, Sharn Coombes, the runner-up of the season, should have won. Now Sharn did get four votes to win, to Shane’s five. So it was a very close vote – in fact the closest margin in SurvivorAUS history. However, where she failed to win the game was in correctly navigating an answer to a question posed by Brian at the final tribal council, which led Mat to vote for Shane instead. As such, Mat and his vote will be the prime point of examination in this article.
Australian Survivor is an interesting game. The Aussies, compared to the Americans, often take it so much more personally when they are back-stabbed or blindsided in the game. Once someone votes for you once, that’s it. They are done for life and can’t ever be trusted again. Loyalty and mateship are the most important things to many players and even though everybody is lying and deceiving, it seems as though most cannot get over it when it’s them being attacked. One of the few people to be able to separate those feelings from the game – Sharn – benefited massively from always keeping her options open and being willing to work with any new person on a vote-to-vote basis. For example, the lawyer was willing to work with Shonee to eliminate Monika after Shonee had written her name down several times. That willingness to work with whomever helped massively in her fight to the end. Sharn was always loyal to Mat’s alliance, as she noted in the final tribal council, much more loyal than Shane ever was. In addition, the big move that Shane can claim to have made – the Lydia elimination – was detrimental to Mat’s game and one of the absolute worst decisions he himself could have made. However, in his own mind he still thinks it was a great move, so sadly he was always going to reward Shane for that.
But Sharn preaching her loyalty to Mat and his alliance was always going to be a problem for her. In Australian Survivor, as we’ve witnessed with Lee Carseldine – the runner-up of Season 3, people will always find that one time in the game when you weren’t 100% honest or loyal. So Sharn preaching how loyal she remained in the game, was at a detriment to her final tribal council speech. Especially when it was pointed out to Mat, that had she spoken up before tribal council the night Mat went home, that she could have saved him. The fact that Sharn did not tell Mat that he had a possibility of going home, was what cost the criminal barrister $500,000 dollars. And that is absolutely stupid. For one, Sharn nearly saved Mat at that tribal council with her immunity idol and had Benji not bamboozled her, Mat would have survived. For another, even if the lawyer had spoken up and told the rugby star that he had a chance of going home, that’s not a guarantee that Mat would have actually been bold enough to play his idol. Mat was so caught up in his own ego in thinking he controlled everything that I’d argue it unlikely that he would have played his idol. So the notion of Sharn not speaking up meaning that she wasn’t faithful to the rugby star, is absolutely ludicrous. She nearly saved Mat and if anyone is to blame for Mat’s undoing it is absolutely Benji. Benji is far more at fault for Sharn losing the game than Sharn. But Mat – who is all about loyalty and never crossing him no matter what – could not make that distinction and was incredibly unfair to her.
One of Sharn’s biggest mistakes in the game was not in taking Shane to the end as many fans have mentioned. The criminal barrister had every reason to think that she could beat anyone she went up against after Benji and Mat had been voted out. Other than those two, Sharn played the best game and given that she made it so much further in the game than the two aforementioned, Sharn Coombes is arguably the best player to play Australian Survivor thus far. She controlled so much in the game and was always in charge of her own fate – something that cannot be said about Shane Gould. Sharn also won a whopping four individual immunity challenges, including the most important ones when she needed it most. She also found and played a hidden immunity idol to save herself at the final six – a move that was perfectly executed. Although Shane deserves credit for what came out of that tribal council as well, the move to try and convince Brian and Monika to put their votes on Sharn (avoiding a split vote) was absolutely brilliant AND it worked. Brian for whatever reason, flipped his vote to Sharn, and the lawyer was able to save herself AND Shane in the process of Brian’s stupidity. Shane would not have made it anywhere near the end of the game had it not been for Sharn – who saved her at both final six and final three – when she could have voted the Olympian out.
Sharn Coombes is arguably the best player to play Australian Survivor and her loss is at a detriment of an otherwise fantastic season. Although Shane Gould deserves credit for garnering 5 votes toward her, Mat was far too hard on Sharn for something that the lawyer had almost zero control over. Had Sharn saved Mat with that immunity idol rather than herself, Mat and Benji both still likely would have gone home soon afterward, but Mat would not have felt betrayed and Sharn likely would have won the game. So again, if anyone is to blame for Sharn’s loss at Survivor it is not Sharn herself, but Benji for his brilliant move and Mat for mistakenly thinking that Sharn not speaking up in one single instance was an indication that she was unfaithful to him.
Just like Australian Survivor Season 3 when Kristie Bennett won over Lee Carseldine, I’m afraid the runner-up in the game should have won and didn’t based on a fixation that one jury member in particular had over mateship and loyalty. Shane Gould is certainly not an undeserving winner of Champions vs. Contenders, however the better player every day of the week was Sharn Coombes and for that, she should have been awarded the $500,000 prize and the title of Sole Survivor. She was robbed of the title and will forever be one of the greatest to ever play. Thank you Mat Rogers for ruining an otherwise fantastic season of Australian Survivor.
For more like this check out these Survivor articles. Thanks for reading!