Gabby O’Sullivan – Part 2: ‘I never thought I’d be anything more than just a spectator’

Fremantle's Gabby O’Sullivan, Philipa Seth and Evie Gooch celebrating the 2019 WAFLW Premiership with East Fremantle. Picture: Fremantle FC

When Gabby O’Sullivan decided to return to football, there was only one club she was ever going to play for.

She had been in the United States from 2013 to 2016 playing college basketball for the College of Coastal Georgia, but returned to Western Australia after graduating.

With all the attention women’s football was getting in the lead up the first season of AFLW and football being her first sport, O’Sullivan was convinced by her dad to play for East Fremantle in the WAWFL (now the WAFLW).

Despite her deep connection to the Sharks, with her Dad and brother both playing for the club, she never thought that she’d be joining their ranks.

“I wasn’t alive when Dad was still playing, but I grew up with Dad being one of the Colts coaches and watching the boys play, and I never thought I’d be anything more than just a spectator. It was the same when it came to watching my brother play when I was a teenager, I never thought I’d be wearing the blue and white,” O’Sullivan told The Inner Sanctum.

“But to keep that family tradition going is really cool and hopefully when I have kids one day they’ll choose East Fremantle as well, not that they’ll have much choice because that’s where they’ll be going!”

O’Sullivan and the Sharks have enjoyed great success, winning the 2018 and 2019 Premierships.

It led to a memorable exchange with her dad after the first one, as she had created history for the footy club and her family. 

“I remember with my first premiership I walked up to my dad and he was kind of smirking and he said, ‘you’ve done what I was never able to do’, and I was like, ‘what’s that’, and he said, ‘win a premiership’. I didn’t want to go to him after my second one and say, “we’ll I’ve done it again’,” she said.

She was awarded the Lou Knitter Medal in 2019 for being the best player on the ground, though she said the premiership cup means more.

“On a personal level it’s cool, but winning a premiership as a team is even better. Whilst it’s nice to have that individual recognition, that’s not really what footy’s about,” she said.

O’Sullivan made such an impression in her first year at East Fremantle back in 2016, that she was picked up by the Dockers for the inaugural AFLW season.

It’s hard to imagine her playing for another AFLW side, as she is such a beloved member of Fremantle’s team and in the leadership group.

But under different circumstances, it could have happened.

“One of our coaches Nikki Harwood (at East Fremantle) was going to be an assistant coach over at Collingwood. She called me one day and said, ‘how far do you want to take your footy’, and I said, ‘as far as I can take it, what are you talking about’,” she said.

“She goes, ‘well I don’t know if you’ve heard but in the AFLW there’s going to be a rookie position and you qualify for it, if you’re interested and say yes I’ll put your name forward to Collingwood’.

“It got pretty close, I had to call Wayne (Siekman) the coach of Collingwood and say I was going to take up Freo’s offer. I was tossing up whether I wanted to go away or stay home.

“At the end of the day staying home was the best option, because I have my whole family support here, I’d just spent three years away and I wanted to start my university degree. So it was more convenient to stay over here.”

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