Writing for aflplayers.com.au, Bryce Gibbs reflects on a 14-year career which included being drafted at pick one, tagging some of the game’s best players, winning Carlton’s best and fairest, a huge Elimination Final at the MCG, and even a cameo appearance in TV show Neighbours.
It’s been a big couple of weeks.
I’m still a bit emotional, to be honest.
It’s been a strange one this week, not going into the club. It’s all slowly sinking in.
My footy journey started with my old man, Ross, who played 253 games for Glenelg in the SANFL.
I grew up following in his footsteps, walking around footy change rooms and watching him play.
Then when I was 16, I was lucky enough to get an opportunity to start my own career with Glenelg.
We were down the bottom of the ladder and I’d been playing some good footy in the reserves, so they gave me a go which was an unbelievable experience at that age.
The challenges were competing with the big bodies. I was this little scrawny 16-year-old with not much muscle on me, so competing against those guys was tough.
The following year I came third in the best and fairest, which I didn’t expect.
A lot of the year I was thrown some challenges playing some roles for the team, and playing in the backline on some ex-AFL players.
I remember playing on Damien Cupido one-out in the 50 out at Noarlunga, so I had some tough battles like that.
That season, one of our onballers, Adam Fisher, got injured.
It opened up a spot for me to run around in the midfield, and that’s where I started to get a few kicks.
Looking back on that experience, it really helped me prepare to come straight into the AFL system.
I was then drafted to Carlton, and I was lucky enough to play every game in my first year.
I don’t think I could’ve done that without having a few SANFL games under my belt playing against bigger bodies.
It was an exciting time.
I was a bit sad to leave South Australia, Mum, Dad, and my sisters, but to play in the AFL was a childhood dream.
I was happy to play footy anywhere, Queensland, Perth, it wouldn’t have mattered.
I was really lucky as well, I got drafted with my best mate Mark Austin who I went to school with, and moving to a much bigger city, it certainly helped to go through that experience together.
Being named in Carlton’s leadership group before I debuted, that was a little bit crazy.
Denis Pagan was coach at the time and Carlton had a couple of lean years, so I think it was just a sign to the members that these kids were going to be coming through.
But I didn’t see myself as a leader in my first pre-season.
Marc Murphy and I sat together in the meetings and just listened; I didn’t say too many words at all.
Going at pick number one and some of the things that came with that, Marc had been through that the year before.
Early days, I learnt off him a lot and shared a locker next to him.
As the years rolled on, our friendship and bond got stronger, and he’s become one of my best mates.
He was in my wedding party and he’s had a big influence, not only in my footy career but on me as a person as well.
Early on my career, Adam Goodes was my toughest opponent, with daylight second.
I tagged him for a few years when I was playing those roles.
I got him a few times, he got me a few times.
When he was at his best he could run, jump, mark the ball, he was so strong.
Looking back it was a great experience to play on some of the guns of the competition, and he was the toughest opponent I tagged.
Being flexible to play different positions, that was a strength of mine as well.
I was able to have some games where I shut some guys out, but was able to still get my own ball and kick a couple of goals.
The following year, I was filming a scene for Neighbours with Nick Stevens and Margot Robbie.
I’m not sure it how came about; it was through my management.
We filmed our scene for six hours, and the scene went for about 20 seconds, so it was a long day at the office.
Over the next few years we found some success on the field, and that 2013 Elimination Final against Richmond was one of the best games I played in.
People forget the week before, which still gets me a bit as well.
We needed to beat Port Adelaide to play finals in the first place, and we ended up winning by a point.
We ended up coming back and beating Richmond after being about 30 points down in the third quarter.
I’ve never heard the MCG that loud before, it was unbelievable with ‘Juddy’ (Chris Judd) turning it on.
So those two weeks I look back on as two of the best games I’ve ever played in.
In 2014, I had one of my most consistent seasons, and it was an honour to be awarded the John Nicholls Medal and follow in the footsteps of some of Carlton’s great players.
In the twilight of my career, I got to a stage where I wanted to finish back here in South Australia.
Having a young family, it was a good opportunity to get home and have the kids grow up around family and friends.
I’ve certainly enjoyed being back here.
Now I’m studying business, so I’m keen to continue with that.
I was an intern at Adidas when I came back to Adelaide which was great, and I spent two years learning the ropes.
I’ve enjoyed the coaching side working with these young Adelaide kids and watching them develop in the last couple of years, too.
I’ll probably just take some time to let it all sink in and reflect on the last 14 years.