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A day at Hawthorn with Josh Gibson

This article was originally published in June, 2015.

Even as a 31-year-old with 10 years of AFL experience, two premierships and a club best and fairest under his belt, Josh Gibson is far from content with his AFL career.

The left-footer’s journey is one that screams dedication and determination, even after experiencing the AFL pinnacle two years in a row.

Featured during Channel Seven’s AFL coverage, Gibson said his desire to continually achieve hasn’t wavered since winning flags in 2013 and 2014.

“Once you experience success as a group, it really fuels you to reach that level again. When you go on a journey with a group of guys and go through the highs and lows, when you get to those highs it’s such an amazing feeling and I want to experience that all the time,” Gibson said.

“I’m hungry to succeed and very competitive. Sometimes it’s probably gotten me in trouble a bit at training but I like to win everything and I think that drives me on game day to go out there and do everything I can to get us across the line.

“If you think what you’ve trotted out last year is going to get you through the next, then you’ll get bypassed.”

Gibson’s journey is one of immense hard work and commitment after it began unlike most other AFL players.

He wasn’t drafted out of the TAC Cup. Instead, he spent two seasons at Port Melbourne in the VFL, before North Melbourne gave him a shot at the big time, selecting him in the rookie draft before the 2005 season.

Debuting in 2006, Gibson was a semi-regular for North in his first two seasons before establishing himself as a shutdown defender and run/with player in 2008 and finishing fifth in the club’s best and fairest count in 2009.

Gibson decided a cross to Hawthorn – which had lost key backman Trent Croad to retirement – was a better career choice at the end of the year, as the Hawks sought to re-establish themselves as premiership contenders, having had below par seasons following their 2008 triumph.

But life wasn’t easy when Gibson joined Alastair Clarkson’s men via a trade for pick 25 (Aaron Black). Early on, the club’s standards were confronting.

“I really got challenged when I came here. What Clarko had in store for me, and the way some of the guys here pushed me, definitely changed me as a player.

“I’m 31 now but there are still so many areas of my game that can get better and you always have to improve. You just can’t rest on what you’ve done in the past” – Josh Gibson

“But becoming part of the leadership group here at Hawthorn shows the players around you and the club respect the way you go about it. They’re the type of things that make you feel welcome and that you belong in the game.”

Gibson’s exceeded all expectations of himself since coming to Waverley. His 2010 season was hindered by a serious hamstring tear but he announced himself as a serious defender in 2011, finishing second in Hawthorn’s best and fairest and was unlucky to miss out on All-Australian selection as the club fell a goal short of a Grand Final berth.

Playing as an undersized key defender, the 189cm tall Gibson often lines-up on forwards much taller and heavier than himself – even with the addition of Brian Lake to the club at the start of 2013 – but says it’s a test he enjoys.

“I do love the challenge of playing on the big forwards and you want to play on the best. The game’s about kicking goals and they’re the ones who are always going to get the rewards so I really enjoy playing on those guys and trying to shut them down. Being undersized is what it is but you’ve just got to fight through it.”

It’s a fight the East Burwood product wins more often than not. A linchpin of the one of the League’s best defences, he also manages to win his fair share of the bal,l while timing his spoils to perfection.

The two-time premiership player and Peter Crimmins Medallist (Hawthorn’s best and fairest) has averaged more than 20 disposals a game in the last two seasons, including a career-high 36 touches against the Pies in Round 23 last year.

Though he’s entered the twilight of his career, Gibson has no plans on stopping anytime soon.

”I’m 31 now, but there are still so many areas of my game that can get better and you always have to improve. You just can’t rest on what you’ve done in the past.

“I’m doing every training session and don’t feel 31 – I definitely don’t act like it if you ask the blokes around this place – so hopefully there’s a few more years left in me.

“And after watching blokes like Dustin Fletcher, just a defender getting the job done until 40, who knows.”