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Australian Survivor’s Hayley Leake on playing a winning game

“I didn’t think I would stand out enough to be picked.”
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Australian Survivor: Brains V Brawn is winding down on our screens, leaving us with just a final six battling it out for sole survivor.

WATCH BELOW: Australian Survivor Brains V Brawn – Meet Hayley

One of those final six is none other than Hayley Leake, arguably this season’s favourite to win, who has trumped the show through all twists and turns and come out as one of the most memorable players on the Australian version of the show.

But what has made her so damn good at the game?

“I did a lot of preparation before I came in,” Hayley explains to WHO.

“I’ve been a fan of the show for 20 years,” she laughs. “I re-watched a lot of old seasons, and I made these spreadsheets, and on them I put down why people were voted off at different times and what their mistakes were, so I could try to learn from their mistakes.”

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Hayley, a fan of the show for years, came very prepared. (Credit: Ten)

Hayley’s affinity for research comes from her life’s work – she’s a physiotherapist, and a current PhD candidate in the area of pain research.

“I’ve been studying pain for a long time … I ended up applying a lot of that theory when I was doing endurance challenges to help me feel less pain, I think,” she says thoughtfully.

“I would ask myself: ‘How dangerous is this to me, really?’ I knew the challenges wouldn’t cause any serious injury, maybe a blister or sore muscles, so know that made the challenges less threatening.

“I think that change in mindset helped me feel less pain … I think it was the best thing for me, the most enjoyable takeaway.”

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Hayley’s background in pain research helped her in endurance challenges. (Credit: Ten)

Although a superfan of the show, with arguably one of the most helpful career backgrounds of any castaway, Brains V Brawn was the first time Hayley auditioned for the show.

“I think I just thought I would never get picked,” she laughs.

“I just thought ‘I’m a normal girl, there’s nothing special about me’. I didn’t think I would stand out enough to be picked.

“I just decided ‘you’ll never know unless you try,’ and I had fun making the audition video anyway … I was completely shocked when I kept making it further and further through the auditions, and then got picked – I couldn’t believe it!”

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Hayley looking towards the win. (Credit: Seven)

Now, not only is she on the show and part of the Survivor story, she has made a name for herself among Survivor royalty with the likes of David Genat, Locky Gilbert, Nick Iadanza and Brooke Jowett all complimenting her game.

“That’s probably been the most exciting part of the airing process for me,” she laughs.

“To have my idols, the people who have played Survivor before contact me and say positive things about my game – it’s unbelievable to think that they know who I am.”

When analysing previous seasons to decide which Survivor champion she most wanted to emulate, Hayley eventually landed on Phoebe Timmins, from season one and last year’s All Stars series.

“She’s really strategic and very clever, and very social, and I thought the best kind of tips from her game could cater to mine, so I was definitely looking at a lot of her game.

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Phoebe Timmins’ was Hayley’s biggest inspiration. (Credit: Ten)

However, Hayley was left in limbo for some time, as Survivor fell victim to COVID-19 filming delays.

“I thought I was still in the running, but COVID had stopped everything, so for a year I was in anticipation over whether I was definitely picked, and if the show was going to go ahead, and that was really tough,” she explains.

“You’re preparing for something that may not happen, and it’s such a big dream, and in some ways it was really hard, but in other ways it was great … in 2020 we had a lot of lockdowns, and there wasn’t much to look forward to. This gave me something to look forward to.”

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Hayley is watching Survivor from lockdown in Bondi. (Credit: Instagram)

As for this lockdown, Hayley is cooped up in Bondi, working on finishing her PhD.

Although there might be less to look forward to outside of Survivor three nights a week, she offers up some physiotherapy advice for all of those around Australia who are stuck at home.

“It’s so important in lockdown that we’re still moving our bodies, not just for our bodies, but for our minds, and if you’re in a place where you can still go outside every day, that’s so important,” she says earnestly.

She advises that you’re better off moving regularly, rather than completing a half-hour walk and ticking it off your list.

“I’ve set an alarm on my phone, and it goes off every hour, and I force myself to stand up and just spend a minute doing something.

“I think that’s just a really helpful thing for your body.”

You can catch Hayley on Survivor on Channel 10 every Sunday-Tuesday at 7.30pm.

WATCH BELOW: Dani confronts Hayley after a shock blindside on Survivor.

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