Best mates fighting for survival

Matt enjoyed strategising in the reality show. Photo Scott McAulay.

What are the chances of two best mates in college meeting up after many years and discussing everything under the sun except that they are both shortly travelling to Thailand.

Weeks later, by some quirk of fate they find themselves in the same reality show?
That’s what happened with former Somerville Intermediate and Howick College students Dave Lipanovic and Matt Hancock.

At first it didn’t register when they bumped into each other in Thailand but minutes later they couldn’t believe that they both were competing to win the title of sole survivor with $250,000 up for grabs.

We can’t possibly let the other team members know that we are mates, was the first thought that crossed their mind, though they had to come clean with the production team of Survivor.

“We had absolutely no idea till we got there,” says Dave, a clinical pharmacist whose girlfriend pushed him to apply for the world’s toughest game which was shot on an unforgiving island between Thailand and Myanmar.

“Of course there is a possibility that you would know someone in our small ole’ New Zealand but you certainly don’t expect to meet your best mate there. It could be the reason why Matt didn’t choose me for his tribe,” he says as an afterthought.

While it was hard on Dave to lose the first few challenges, the toughest part of being in Survivor NZ were the hunger pangs, says the 26-year-old. He celebrated his birthday on the island sharing a coconut with six to seven people.

About the cut-throat psychological warfare, he says, “It was tough mentally with the environment being quite vicious. It’s quite bizarre.”

Being attacked by mosquitoes was another challenge the rugby league player faced. “The mosquitoes were industrial size and at any given time I was covered with at least 20 of them,” he laughs.

And while he finds it quite weird to watch himself on the popular show being currently screened on TVNZ 2, Sunday 7pm, he says that his mum is very proud of him-and that’s what matters.

The biggest challenge for Dave was the psychological warfare. Photo / Scott McAulay

Fellow castaway, Whitford resident Matt also finds it strange to see himself on the show. “So much has happened. What you see is only a part of it. There are so many small conversations that lead up to the big conversation that you see on television.”

A big fan of Survivor, Matt applied for the reality show whilst overseas.

“I used to be an aircraft engineer with Air New Zealand and then decided to take three years off to backpack with my girlfriend all over Europe.

“I sent an application from Croatia but when I didn’t hear from them, I started looking for a job once I returned to New Zealand,” says the rocket technician.

He also walked the infamous El Camino pilgrimage whilst touring Europe on a shoestring budget.

“It was on the same day that I got a letter from Rocket Lab saying I got the job and a letter from Survivor New Zealand saying I was shortlisted,” says the 25-year-old.

“I had to call up Rocket Lab to say that I needed some time off for a TV show I was on. I
couldn’t tell them I was on Survivor New Zealand,” he says about his dream coming true.

About the biggest take-away from his experience on the show he says, “I learnt to trust my gut feeling. Also how important my family is to me. I really missed them.”

Talking about his best mate he says he could see how exhausted Dave was.

“He was tired and not being able to eat, took its toll on him and I could see it in his face.”
And whilst he felt sorry, he knew that the game is all about strategy which makes it interesting for viewers.

“However, you also realise that while this is just a game, the relationships are real and so are the emotions.”