Australian Survivor 2019 – Champions Assessment

Australian Survivor kicks off Season 4 with another round of Champions vs Contenders!

After the theme and gameplay earned the show its first TV Week Logie Award (Most Outstanding Reality Program), it seems only fitting that Network 10 would revisit the division of players again.

Competing for the title of Sole Survivor and $500,000 are 12 designated ‘Champions’ from various walks of life. Below are the Champions currently revealed in the lineup and my pre-game assessment on them.



Boost Juice founder, Shark Tank star, executive director of Retail Zoo, Janine Allis has certainly built her own name and image in Australia. But the CEO powerhouse is now testing herself in the ultimate social experiment of Reality TV. Janine compares the game of Survivor to running a business, in that (as the show’s slogan suggests) people have to outwit, outlast and outplay. “Failure is not an option” says Janine before explaining that ‘champions’ like herself naturally have a winning attitude because of the underlying mental prowess that it takes to win a game. Janine is sure to be a favourite in the strategy portion of the show because of her belief that there is always a way around obstacles. She seems to have the right mindset going in, but I am worried her gameplay will resemble the likes of Benji from Season 3, where she stands out as a threat because of a lack in subtlety. Only time will tell. Can this powerhouse boost her way to the top?



ET’s sporting background as a former Cronulla Sharks player puts him in a physical role from the get-go. Probably one of the most recognisable champions on the cast, ET says the Champions have an edge over the Contenders because they can rise to the occasion when necessary. ET’s character arc in pre-game press shapes up to be similar to Mat Rogers of the previous Champions vs Contenders theme. There’s no doubt ET is loyalty and strength driven as he talks about defeating the Contenders tribe as opposed to defeating everyone (other Champions included) to be the Sole Survivor. ET is definitely the right pick to play Survivor because of the physical game involved but I find it hard to believe he can excel in the social and strategic aspect towards the merge half of the game over some of the other contestants. I’d love to be proven wrong.



This former marathon swimmer has outlasted several feats of pain in her career. Now, her past suffering is going to help her in battling the physical demand of Australian Survivor. “I’ve been training for Survivor my whole life” says Susie, who aims to use her mental toughness as a primary asset in becoming the Sole Survivor. Susie talks about finally doing something for herself after the years of working hard in various aspects of her life. This might just be the ultimate test for Susie where she can rise to the top as a perceived underdog early on. Swimmers have done well in Survivor, Shane Gould took out the title last season after being a very underestimated player nearly the entire game. Maybe Susie can win not only to bring the Champions ahead 2-0, but swimmers as well. I think if Susie can lay low for a while and then pounce at the right time, there’s no reason why she can’t win the game.



One of the first to question his ‘champion’ status, Ross sees himself as a survivor because of the waves he has faced in an extensive surfing career. Ross is a self-described angel dressed up as a devil who has one goal in sight, winning. Ross forgoes being voted out when he admits that he will be disappointed with coming in second place. With a cheeky grin and widened eyes, Ross doesn’t come across as a forward thinker and more so someone who lives in the moment. This can be an important tool to his game if something goes haywire at tribal council and he needs to think on his feet for what move to make next. I do think it is clear that Ross hasn’t watched Survivor or much of it anyway, as he describes the game as, “a walk in the park”. And trust me, any former player can assure you it is most certainly anything but that. But if I’m right about his adaptability, Ross might figure out early on that staying focused on the task at hand might lead to the win.



Using her grandmother as an inspiration, Nova’s background in the Olympics and politics might be the perfect combination of a winning formula. Nova has a long list of achievements, spanning from being awarded ‘Young Australian of the Year’ in 1997 to being the first indigenous Australian woman to sit in the Australian senate in 2013. Nova hopes to add Sole Survivor to the list in 2019. Despite the lengthy and incredible description of her life’s work, Nova hasn’t given much of a strategy to unpack before the game begins. Whether this means she is entering the game without a strategy is undetermined, but a foundation is certainly required for the initial stages of the season. Although a strategy has yet to be revealed, Nova has the ability to be placed in difficult situations and overcome them. I think her social game can be most beneficial if she can manoeuvre into the right position early in the tribe.



Steven’s participation this season might be one of the most anticipated yet. Famously recognised as the skater who won gold at the 2002 Winter Olympics because opponents crashed in the final corner, Steven has first-hand proven that come-from-behind victories are achievable. He was the underdog back then, but is he the underdog now? Steven appears physically capable in challenges and with an astonishing victory behind him, he might be an early threat and target. Steven is likely going to have to form meaningful connections with others if he wants a chance to win, luckily, he seems to be an all-around, approachable Australian. Steven says that he’s prepared to do whatever it takes to be the Sole Survivor so hopefully that means he’s ready to succeed in the social game. Steven is a favourite for me, perhaps it’s the idealistic idea he can ‘pull a Bradbury’, but I still think he has a worthy shot of making it far and once again become ‘the last man standing’.



Not only is Pia a successful actress who starred in the film Looking for Alibrandi and television shows like All Saints and Wentworth, she is a Survivor superfan as well! Acting and crying on cue is a skill Pia will use to her advantage in fooling her tribe mates. Additionally, Pia’s love of the show means she knows the social awareness required to pull off incredible moves and find game-changing advantages. If it’s any reminiscent of last season’s Champion superfan, Sharn Coombes, Pia will go far and play hard right until the end. When talking about her knowledge of the game, Pia says “I could write a thesis on the [show]”. I think Pia has the best opportunity this season to form early alliances with the Champions that are unaware of how the format can play out. If she can keep up physically, I think she’s a real dark horse to win and my personal pick to take it home at the end of the season. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for her.



What’s an NRL player on Australian Survivor without an AFL counterpart? Former Brisbane Lions player, Simon Black, held a reputation for his hard work and skill within the game. He was awarded several sporting awards during his career, but none would be anything like Sole Survivor. Simon relates the strong players in Survivor to those in the AFL, and is excited to battle them when the time arises during the season. Strategy and dirty play are also qualities Simon associates between both games, and I think already he’s off to a strong start for identifying that and trying to find the balance between what he knows and what’s to come. Unsurprisingly however, like ET, his strategy is very Champions vs Contenders driven as opposed to Simon vs everyone. And Survivor is only a team game for so long. While I think Simon will latch onto the strategic game well, I don’t think there’s any chance he forms an alliance with the Contenders, which might cost him.



Abbey Holmes has set numerous accomplishments in her AFLW career. She was the first woman to kick 100 goals within a season, an astonishing statistic for the then rising star. One of Abbey’s significant qualities is her competitiveness, which can ultimately harm or help her in Australian Survivor. Unable to take losing well, at all according to Abbey, either the Champions will appreciate the fight in her for wanting to succeed at every avenue or see it as a potential weakness up against the Contenders. Additionally, this indirectly points towards Abbey targeting weaker players in her tribe if her objective is to win immunity challenges. Abbey is a severely strong physical player, possibly on the same regard as Lydia Lassila of last season. This will no doubt come in handy during the pre-merge portion of the game but equally place a major target on her back at the merge. I’d say Abbey’s a good bet to be an early-to-mid juror.



The king of the jungle is back on Australian screens and this time he’s chasing the crown! Popular among fans, Luke Toki competed on Australian Survivor in 2017 where his deceptive yet socially impressive gameplay dominated until his impending blindside at the final seven. This time Luke hopes to change some aspects of his game in fear others may expect his next move, unlike American Survivor contestant, Russell Hantz, who competed in last year’s instalment of Champions vs Contenders. Luke knows he has a target on his back, but I think he has a great opportunity to shake it off because of his exceptional social ability. His experience allows him to be aware of potential successes and mistakes within the game, but I’m not sure if he can get all the way to the top. While I would have loved to have seen Luke on an All-Stars season, being the stand alone returnee puts him at a disadvantage for the entire game, especially up against someone else at the final tribal council. But Luke is guaranteed entertainment and might just be the person to push the Champions forward in a strategically-run competition.



A triple threat inside and outside of Australian Survivor, Anastasia might just be the biggest underdog of the Champions and the one to take it all out. A champion of memory, ballet, and social skills, Anastasia says she is determined to become the Sole Survivor. In a game where brain and cognitive function slowly deteriorates, Anastasia might stand out as the most strategically aware of the social connections and bonds forming around her. She might able to pounce on an impending blindside and see details others may miss. Perfect qualities for Survivor. She is extremely competitive and promises to do whatever it takes to take on the challenge that Australian Survivor gives. Mental toughness will be Anastasia’s greatest asset but it also might be her downfall if her tribe mates catch wind of her impressive memory skills. I really like Anastasia, but I have this fear she goes down in a massive blindside and in a blaze of glory because the collective power of a large group of people outweighs the enormity of one.



There’s always a model on Survivor, and this year is no different with David Genat taking on Reality TV’s ultimate social and physical experiment. David compares fashion and Survivor to the same degree, both being a cutthroat and deceptive game where smart players propel to the top. He has a lot of drive to win and I don’t doubt that David’s career explores characteristics associated with the game but physically it won’t be a match. Strategically, David might grab a hold of how it works early and therefore align with other strategic Champions, but physically he may not be prepared for what’s to come. Like several other Champions, David is determined to not let a Contender win the game but hopefully his eye is firmly on the prize of him being the Sole Survivor. There’s nothing wrong with David, I’m glad he’s making an appearance this season. I doubt he will win however based on the calibre of players across both tribes, unfortunately.

Overall, the Champions are rightfully designated as Champions for the accomplishments they’ve made within their respective careers. I do think physically they’ll have an edge over the Contenders for the tribal stages of the game but I can see a lot more strategic gameplay developing on the Contenders tribe. I’m excited to see what this batch of Champions can bring and if they can ultimately retain the crown of Sole Survivor.

Be sure to watch the Australian Survivor premiere on Wednesday, July 24th at 7:30pm on Channel 10!


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