Former AFL player Shaun Hampson was a force to be reckoned with on this season of Australian Survivor. He was even affectionately nicknamed “The Horse” by his fellow tribemates due to his impressive challenge dominance. However, his physical prowess only made him that much bigger of a target come the merge, and with the Contenders down in numbers, he found himself becoming the first member of the jury.
Inside Survivor’s Austin Smith caught up with Shaun a couple of weeks ago (the email got lost in the shuffle, hence the late post!) to chat about his time on the island, his rivalry with David, that fake idol, and what he’s looking for in a winner.
1) Shaun, thanks for taking a minute to chat with us about your game! First of all, you mentioned this season that you’d seen nearly every episode of the show—how long have you been following Survivor, and why did you decide to give it a go yourself this season? How did it compare to your expectations?
Yes, I’ve been a fan of the show since I was 12 years old when the first season came out. It became a bit of a ritual. Mum and I would watch every season together until I moved down to Melbourne for football, but my love for the show has carried on and I recently re-watched almost every season before going out there. The game more than met my expectations. It was so much harder and so much more rewarding than I ever could have imagined.
2) Your last day in the game was an unconventional one, with the evening Immunity challenge and very little time before Tribal. Do you feel like these external factors influenced your elimination? Would you have been able to change the outcome with more time between the challenge and the vote?
Yes, I think I would’ve had a much better chance getting people on board to vote for Luke if I had a few hours back at camp instead of 30 minutes around bonfires. Speaking to Janine post-game, she let me know that when we left the bonfires, the plan was Luke, but she had a last-minute change of mind as she thought everything was too rushed. If there is one positive to take out of it, I’m happy that I went home in a dramatic and unique circumstance!
3) You proposed a savvy plan to target a social threat in Luke, can you elaborate on why you chose to target him? Was it just the six players we saw who were in on your plan, or was there more we didn’t see?
Yeah, I think it was a really logical idea to try and get rid of Luke; he IS a huge social and strategic threat, and [I] thought it was my only chance of walking out of Tribal with my flame still lit. Luke and Dave were by far the most dangerous, crafty players in the game. I couldn’t put Dave’s name out as he won Immunity, so Luke was the next best thing. Pretty much everybody was on board, except for Luke and Dave, right up until Janine turned the tide at Tribal.
4) In your final words, you mentioned that you thought Janine swayed the vote back onto you at Tribal Council, abandoning your plan to vote out Luke. In hindsight, do you still feel like that’s how it played out, and do you think you could have done anything differently to keep your plan on the tracks?
Yeah, I’m convinced that is how it played out. [Janine] really did single-handedly turn the tide at Tribal. I think the only thing I could’ve done more was put more time in with Janine in the days leading up to that Tribal as I had a good relationship with her, but I just didn’t nurture it enough.
5) Going back to the merge vote, you were reluctant to give up Contender numbers and urged Daisy to use her Idol on Andy to take out David. Why didn’t this plan come to fruition?
I really thought it was important that we didn’t give up a numbers advantage. I feel it’s so important at merge to have the majority. It just gives you so many more options and puts you on the offence as opposed to the defence. Unfortunately, Daisy and Andy’s relationship was understandably quite strained at this point, and if it was anybody else, I feel like she would’ve played the idol for them.
6) Your partnership with Daisy was rock solid all the way through the game, even though she ultimately wrote your name down at your last Tribal. What drew you to working so closely with her in the game? At the swap, were you surprised that she’d flipped to work with Luke and David against the old Contenders?
Daisy seemed very straight to me. She’s from a very remote farm, and I’ve known a few guys who have grown up in similar circumstances to her, and they are always very trustworthy and hard working. She definitely did the right thing for herself by putting my name down at Tribal as it became clear that we didn’t have the numbers to do Luke.
[At the swap] I was so shocked when I saw that Sam had gone and soon realised that Daisy and John must’ve struck a deal with Luke and Dave. Daisy and Sam never had the best relationship, and there was talk early on of them gunning for each other, so I can understand why Daisy wanted to get rid of her. But I strongly believe it should’ve been at least one of the two Champion boys to go first.
7) On the other hand, your rivalry with David lasted almost as long! Once you discovered the Idol was a fake, did you consider trying to move past it and work together, or were your purely out to take him down? And did you really wait several days to unwrap the Idol to check it was real?
Yes, unfortunately, it was quite a while between swapping the idol and me having a look at it. It felt like the real thing wrapped up so [I] didn’t want to risk being seen checking it out. I did consider working with Dave when I got stolen to the Champions. I had a chat with him on the beach and brought up the idol swap, my hope was that he would come clean about the whole thing, but he never did, and that’s when I decided he couldn’t be trusted.
8) You were the only player to get to experience both sides of the tribe swap due to your kidnapping at the twist Tribal Council. Firstly, how did you feel about being stolen over to the New Champions? How would you compare the dynamics between the two tribes?
I was ecstatic at the time. I was building good relationships with the old Champions but regardless knew it was only a matter of time until I was voted out. It was definitely more relaxed and fun on Champions beach and on Contenders it was a bit more serious and businesslike. The old Champions did not want to talk strategy with us old Contenders at all.
9) Your reputation as “The Horse” and a physical threat grew throughout the game—do you think there was anything you could have done to avoid or mitigate that target?
No, I don’t think so. I suppose the only thing I could’ve done was hold back in challenges a bit, but I wasn’t out there to hold back. I wanted to play a big and bold game and have a good resume when I was sitting in the final two. Unfortunately, I do believe the game is a little flawed in that rarely does somebody who stands out in challenges make it to the end.
10) Finally, as the first member of the Jury, how did you feel about the players remaining in the game at the point of your departure? What were you hoping to see play out next, and what qualities were you hoping you’d get to vote for in a winner?
I think it is an exceptionally strong merge tribe, full of some extremely good players. I want to see big, bold moves made. If you are on the bottom of your alliance, do something about it, change the game in your favour. I want whoever is left at the end to have earned the title of Sole Survivor by outwitting and outplaying, not by just outlasting, as we often see.