Sharn Coombes came in second in tonight’s Australian Survivor finale, losing out to Olympic champion Shane Gould.
The criminal barrister was unable to persuade the jury to vote her way, and was ultimately crowned runner-up with four votes to Shane’s five.
We caught up with Sharn, 41, to ask her all about the finale and her experience on Australian Survivor.
TV WEEK: After winning immunity in the final challenge, you chose to take Shane with you to the final tribal council. Why did you choose Shane over Brian?
Sharn: The main reason for choosing Shane was that I basically have had a friendship with Shane since the start of the game, we’ve always been loyal to each other and we’ve always had each other’s backs and we’ve always been truthful to one another. Throughout the whole game I never lied to her at all. I respected her game, I respected the way she got to the end as well and I just felt that she was a worthy competitor. To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best, and I wanted to go up against Shane.
It’s hard to think of it like this, but do you think if you had picked Brian you would have won?
Going in to the final tribal I thought that I could beat both Brian and Shane. The reason for that belief was I felt that I had a really strong game, with strong game-play and a great social game, I thought I did everything I needed to do to deliver that great story to everyone at the end. So I felt confident against both of them. The reason I didn’t choose Brian was because I simply didn’t respect his game-play and the way that he… yes, in terms of his game-play he was physically strong and strategic, but in terms of his social game he didn’t play well because he didn’t keep me on side. So that’s something you’ve got to consider, and it’s something I certainly considered when I was playing, to keep your social game strong.
Did you feel you had to defend your game-play to some of the Champions because they had different ideas about playing with ‘honour’?
I did. Obviously I thought I played a game with honour and integrity, and that was kind of the theme of what I was saying to the jury at the end. But Mat [Rogers] was kind of fixated on this one aspect, the fact that I didn’t tell him there were potential votes on him that night where I played my idol. I just thought, for him to fire those questions at me, at that stage, in light of everything I’ve done in the game, given our relationship and the fact that he had an idol in his pocket at the time – he didn’t tell me that – and that Benji put me on the spot, I just thought it was a bit rich basically for him to give his vote to Shane on that basis. I thought there was a bit of unfairness there, especially considering he had his own idol and I had been put on the spot that night.
Especially considering you had always played with Mat and stuck by him, even when he was blindsiding other people in your alliance…
Yeah and we were great mates the whole time! So, to be honest, I didn’t expect that question from a great mate. I would have thought something like that, I thought he would have valued that I was trying to save him that night. If I was on the jury, and the roles were reversed, I would have thought ‘wow Mat you went out of your way to save me,’ but he seemed to take a different approach.
As a criminal barrister you’re used to making a case and presenting an argument to a jury, but was it tougher than you expected to answer all of their questions and deliver your final statement?
Yeah, I think in terms of my final pitch I was always going to be comfortable with delivering that. I did find it difficult with this jury though, because obviously everything I do in normal life is with an objective jury, a jury who are told to remove their emotions and to remove their prejudices. Whereas, the Survivor jury don’t because they are voting with their hearts and their emotions. So there is definitely a distinct difference there. So I think for me, I felt confident in pitching but answering those questions, the one from Mat particularly, where I thought ‘wow that’s unexpected.’ And I don’t know if it was completely justified.
And did that throw you a little bit?
Yeah, I think I was being more defensive in the moment, when I should have been on the attack. At that time I was just taken aback, and after 50 days of sleeping on a beach and you’re homesick, and starving, all those things, you’re not in the best frame of mind to formulate your argument in that split second. So even though I am very used to doing those things, it certainly caught me by surprise.
Yeah it’s definitely different when there’s emotion, and you’ve got tiredness, and hunger and all of those things playing on your mind…
Absolutely! And mind you, we’ve been at it for weeks with all the challenges, it’s a tough game. That’s why I wanted to go out there and play it, because it pushes you to your absolute limit.
Are there any regrets over things you wish you had said, or is there anything wish you had done looking back at it?
In terms of Mat and those questions he asked me, I don’t think, looking at the situation now, that I could have said anything that would have changed his mind. I think he had his mind made up before we event went in to that tribal, like he was just so annoyed. So even if I had said ‘you should have played your idol’ and turned it back on him, that would have got the same response. I don’t think I could have won him over to be honest. And in answering that question, I don’t think so. I played the game the best I could and I don’t regret any of the moves I made because it got me to the final two. I think that’s it, I’m proud of my game and I don’t think I would change anything. I don’t regret anything.
And I think you played an excellent game! You really survived so many things, which is the whole point of the game! You survived the tribe-swap, the merge, your head was on the chopping block so many times and you managed to get through…
Even when I look back I think how did I do it? I’m amazed! I managed to survive, and that’s what I thought, like I’ve got an awesome story now to tell the jury. I know if I was a juror I would have honoured and respected that game-play.
Obviously you’ve lost out to a friend, Shane, were you happy for it to be her?
Can I just say that I am so pleased for Shane. I am genuinely so happy it was Shane who took out the title. If it couldn’t be me, then I am happy it’s her. I wouldn’t want it any other way. She is a very deserving winner and I am really happy that it was the two of use there in that final tribal council.
It’s great when there are two people at the end who really deserve to be there…
Yeah, and that’s what I wanted! I didn’t want it to be the hero and the villain, I wanted it to be two heroes up there. So I’m so glad it played out that way and I just love Shane.
Leaving the game after 50 days is massive! How did you feel when you returned to normal life? And what did you think seeing your appearance for the first time in so much time…
In terms of appearance I was certainly shocked at my weight loss, I don’t think I’ve ever seen myself that thin ever. I was also amazed at the muscles underneath there! That was kind of cool. But in terms of how I felt, I remember coming out of that experience just very focussed and clear about life, and what is important. I felt it was a very cleansing experience to be honest. It gave me a real mental break from work, and as much as I missed my family it was incredible to have that time. I loved it out there.
What was it like to reunite with your family after all that time?
It was the best thing ever! Seeing my family again and reuniting with them was amazing. We had a week together there just to hang out and be together, and it was the absolute best thing ever. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see my family in my life. You just feel the love! You don’t see each other for a while and you just express that love so much more.
It must have been incredible! And do the kids love watching you on the show?
I’m so proud of my kids because they have watched me and they are so proud of me up there, but even in how they are handling my defeat now I suppose. I was scared for them because they’ve seen me go through all of this to get to that point, but they’re so proud of me and they said ‘mum you’re a winner in our eyes anyway’ and I love that! I love that they’re those kinds of kids. I couldn’t be happier really.