Bryce Gibbs walked through the Carlton Football Club doors at the end of 2006 during one of the darkest periods in the club’s history.
It was a side in the middle of a rebuild and full of younger talent complemented with a small handful of stars with experience.
It was a handful that included footballers he admired such as Anthony Koutoufides, Lance Whitnall and Brendan Fevola, but Gibbs preferred to model his career upon someone who would be considered a lesser name to the wider AFL community.
“The guy that sticks out the most for me was Heath Scotland. The way he’d go about his training and preparation was just so impressive,” Gibbs tells Aflplayers.com.au.
“And when Chris Judd walked through the door at the end of my first year, he took it to another level. The way he prepared himself was the best I’ve seen.”
Coming to the club as the first pick in the 2006 national draft, Gibbs took no time to make an impression at the elite level, playing all 22 games in his debut season.
“It’s funny, everyone is happy to praise you when you’re going well but they’re just as happy to ride you a bit harder when you’re not going so well” – Bryce Gibbs
But it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for soon-to-be 200-gamer, and he admits highly-touted youngsters receive their fair share of criticism from outside club walls when things weren’t going to plan.
“There are a lot of high expectations on you externally and when you’re not going as well as you would like or are in a bit of a form slump, you cop an extra bit of pressure but that’s all part of it, you take the good with the bad,” Gibbs says.
“It’s funny, everyone is happy to praise you when you’re going well but they’re just as happy to ride you a bit harder when you’re not going so well.
“But after a few years at the club, that number one tag slowly faded away as everyone moved on.”
Off the field, Gibbs is balancing fatherhood while dabbling in a number of different industries.
He recently celebrated son Charlie’s first birthday with partner Lauren Tscharke and plans to keep searching for a career so he can hang up the boots securely sometime in the future.
“The AFLPA and the club are massive on pushing the guys to do things outside of footy because all of a sudden six, eight and 10 years go past and your career has come and gone pretty quickly.
“Over the journey, I’ve tried my hands at a few things. I’ve tried carpentry, going back to uni and I did a few small business courses but I haven’t found what my niche is yet.
“One of my good mates Jordan Russell and I were having lunch one day and we decided to start a clothing label. A couple of weeks after that, we registered a business name and a month later we had a clothing label.
“We had no idea about fashion and what was involved but we were keen to do some business together and had a crack at that.
“But I don’t think that’s my passion going forward. I’ll probably spend the next year or two focusing on what that may be.”