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‘I’m Just So Lucky’: Hayley Leake’s Survivor Experience Is A Superfan’s Dream Come True

Earning the title of Sole Survivor for 2021, Hayley explained how she crafted her game, and what it was like to sit at the final Tribal Council of Brains V Brawn.

For many superfans, getting into the game of Survivor can be tough — trying to craft a perfect game, reach milestones and ultimately take out the top spot. For Hayley, it all began with a bit of analytical research.

Speaking to 10 play over the phone following her win on Sunday night, Hayley explained that she went back and watched older seasons of the Australian and US versions of the series to see what made certain players succeed or fail.

Thinking that players might see her in a similar way to Season 1 and All Stars’ Phoebe Timmins, Hayley wanted to understand how people viewed her game and perceived her throughout.

“Some of the American players that I really loved were actually really handy,” she added.

Season 31’s winner Jeremy Collins and Season 40’s Tony Vlachos were both notable for being “big threats, big, strong men” who managed to mitigate their threat level by the way they carried themselves on the island or not necessarily putting themselves forward for challenges.

“At the start of the game I made sure I sat out on a couple of challenges so people didn’t really see me as this person who needed to take centre stage,” Hayley explained. “I really channelled those players when I came back from Redemption Rock because I knew I had to lower my threat level and keep low if I was going to get to the end.”

On the ground, Hayley was never really seen as your typical ‘challenge beast’, despite earning herself Individual Immunity four times — including the most important of all, the final Individual Immunity Challenge.

Standing on pegs for over five hours, Hayley knew she had no choice but to outlast George and Flick if she wanted any shot at the final Tribal. “If Flick was in the final two I think she [would have] won, so I knew I had to beat her.”

Using her background in studying pain to her advantage, Hayley said she spent most of the challenge trying to reassure her body feel like it was under threat. “I was channelling safety thoughts like I am safe, my feet are strong, this is not dangerous... that helped me a lot.”

When it came to her decision to take George to the final two, she admitted it wasn’t an easy decision, but it was one she made very clearly.

“At the end of a game like Survivor, the social bonds become really important. You have to play a strategic game to get to the end but those social bonds are really, really deep by the end of 48 days and… no one is better socially than Flick.”

Knowing that she would still have to fight to win over the Jury at the Final Tribal, Hayley had one of the most impressive CVs for a player and a superfan.

“I’m just so lucky,” she said. “I’m lucky I got a chance to play, and as a fan when I was in there all I was thinking was, ‘Oh my god I’ve got a Brains buff!’ And then I got to Tribe Swap and I was like, ‘Oh my god I’ve got a Brawn buff!’

“All these little goals, I would have been happy with any of them but I’ve come out with making it to merge, I’ve got all three buffs, I’ve got a Hidden Immunity Idol, I played it, I went to Redemption Rock — so I got to experience getting voted out and coming back again — and then I got to the end and won. There’s nothing left to tick off, I’ve had every experience and I’m so grateful and lucky that I got to have it.”

Watching the finale last night from home Hayley said she was frozen watching the Jury make their decision.

“You never want to see your name come up in this game until you’re at the final two and it’s such an amazing feeling, to watch it back and see your tribemates hold up your name and say lovely things about your game. I couldn’t move I was so shocked.”

And while she set out to achieve everything she wanted to do in the game and more, Hayley admitted that if the opportunity arose, she’d probably do it all again.

“I can’t imagine myself saying no… you have to give it another go! Although, what else do I want to achieve?

“Who knows… maybe I just want to go in, run amok and have fun.”