This story was first written for and published by NRL.com.
Rugby league has been compared to many things over the years. We can now add hit TV show Survivor to that list thanks to Mat Rogers.
With his crack at the $500,000 first prize over, Rogers reckons Wendell Sailor should be the next big-name former NRL player to take on the challenge.
It’s been just over a week since the former Sharks, Titans, Queensland and Test player was eliminated from the current series of Survivor All Stars. Those who count both the show and our sport in their list of interests were left devastated.
On top of the elimination itself, Rogers himself wasn’t too thrilled with the “boring” way it transpired. He was disappointed that there wasn’t more drama.
“I love it [eliminations] in the game,” said Rogers.
“To get voted out the way I did was so boring. At least with other players like Daisy, she was voted out in one of the best moves Survivor has ever seen because of a move orchestrated by David and myself.
“I just got voted out 6-1. It was non-eventful and a real let down.”
Given his illustrious sporting career, it came as no surprise that in Survivor, Rogers’ physicality was a real strength. That helped him in immunity and reward challenges.
But it wasn’t just the physical nature of the game that his footy exploits set him up for.
“I think the way sport helped me, especially having played representative football, is that in that situation, just like in Survivor, you get thrown in with a group of strangers and you have to make friends pretty quick,” says Rogers.
“If Survivor is about one thing, it’s about relationships. You build these really strong friendships with the people that have your back, just like footy.”
There’s more than just physical challenges on the show.
There’s sleeping outside on a deserted beach on the ground in the cold. Let’s not forget the lack of toiletries.
Despite these challenges, Rogers wants to see the game taken up a notch in the future.
“Mentally, you have to deal with a bit out there but none of it really bothered me,” says Rogers.
“I don’t want to diminish how hard it is out there, but I didn’t actually find it hard.”
“I think they could make it harder and make you have to survive even more so that people suffer more and their decisions are less coherent. Maybe they could do that by giving us a little bit less food.”
The fact Rogers wants less food is interesting considering I’ve been assured the food rations are as sparse as they are portrayed.
What helped Rogers survive the mental and physical conditions were some of his friends on the island like Jacqui Patterson, Tarzan Herlaar and in particular, former AFLW player Moana Hope.
The two developed a strong friendship on the show, forged in their first season together, where Rogers looked after Hope when she was unwell.
It ended with Hope leaving the show and giving Rogers one of the most powerful things you can have in the game, an idol.
This friendship continued back in the real world. Rogers thinks that may have worked to the duo’s disadvantage in the current season.
“The unfortunate thing is, Mo got married just before the show and there were pictures of me at the wedding,” recalls Rogers.
“I was the only one from Survivor at the wedding and I think there may have been a couple of other Survivor stalkers that saw the photos and thought that we would be dangerous.”
Rogers doesn’t have any predictions about who will eventually win but wants to see some “All Stars” moves given that it is an “All Stars” series.
“David has been playing the game from the start, Mo has been playing the game before merge. There’s not really anyone else playing the game,” he said.
Fortunately for those of us watching at home, merge [where the two tribes are brought into one group] is just around the corner.
As for which current or former NRL player Rogers would like to see on the show next?
“Survivor is a really tricky game. You have to be a nice guy but a bit ruthless as well. I would love to see Wendell Sailor go in next,” said Rogers.
“In terms of teammates, he is probably the best I have ever had. He was always able to make people laugh and bring people together and is a lot of fun to be around.”
“I think he would have a sneaky streak that I would love to see come out.”