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Gibbsy!

Bryce Gibbs

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Career : 2007 - 2017.
Debut : Round 1, 2007 vs Richmond, aged 18 years, 17 days
Carlton Player No. 1100
Games : 231
Goals: 137
Last Game : Round 23, 2017 vs Sydney Swans, aged 28 years, 165 days
Guernsey No. 4
Height : 188 cm (6 ft. 2 in.)
Weight : 84 kg (13 stone, 3 lbs.)
DOB : 15 March, 1989
Rising Star Nomination Round 10, 2007
2014 Best and Fairest


Before Carlton recruited Bryce Gibbs with selection 1 in the 2006 National Draft, the Blues had to fend off a concerted campaign by the Adelaide Crows. Four decades earlier, Bryce's father Ross Gibbs had enjoyed a sterling career with the Glenelg Football Club, playing alongside Stephen Kernahan before ‘Sticks’ came to Carlton, and the Crows were hell-bent on recruiting the brilliant youngster under the father-son rule. However, Ross Gibbs' tally of 191 games prior to 1991 fell nine short of the 200 required to make his son a Crow, and the Blues were thrilled to land the best teenage prospect in the country. As testament to Carlton’s confidence about his future, Bryce was given the honour of wearing the number 4 guernsey made famous by Kernahan throughout his record tenure as captain of the Blues.

A big (188 cm) strong (84 kg) midfielder with great awareness and consummate foot skills, Bryce had an outstanding junior career that began at Plympton and Brighton High School, alongside his future Blues team-mate Mark Austin. By 2006, Bryce was already an AIS/AFL Academy graduate when he captained South Australia in the 2006 Under-18 National Championships. After winning SA’s Most Valuable Player award, he was named as ruck-rover in the Under-18 All-Australian team, before captaining the Australian Youth side against Ireland. That same year he also played senior football with Glenelg in the SANFL, finishing third in their Best and Fairest award.

In early 2007, before he had even played a senior match, Bryce was appointed as one of 11 members of Carlton’s leadership group. He made his much-anticipated debut in the opening round of 2007 (becoming the 1100th player to represent Carlton) and scored a goal with his very first kick in a great win over Richmond. He was given mainly defensive roles through the rest of his debut year, when it was quickly obvious that Bryce was a player of composure; one who could distribute the ball under pressure, and find space in the heaviest traffic. After a string of consistent performances, he was rewarded with a Rising Star Nomination for his mature display in the win against the Western Bulldogs in round 10, when he gathered 17 disposals at 100% efficiency.

In round 20, he picked up 20 disposals playing on Essendon champion James Hird, and in the last match of the season against Melbourne, kicked two goals and racked up 23 touches. Following in the footsteps of Marc Murphy the year before, Gibbs’ excellent first season was recognized with the club's Best First Year Player award. He also managed a highly creditable top ten placing in the voting for Carlton's Best and Fairest player award, the John Nicholls Medal.

Gibbs’ development as a player and as a leader gained momentum during Carlton’s 2008 pre-season campaign, during which he was appointed captain of a young team for a practice match against West Coast, and soon afterward extended his contract with the Blues for a further two years. As the season proper got underway, he showcased his versatility when he was played in defensive roles against Port Adelaide star Chad Cornes, and in-form Magpie Heath Shaw. He clearly eclipsed both - restricting Cornes to 9 disposals, and Shaw to 6 - while helping himself to 13 on both occasions.

Then, in the round 19 victory over Port Adelaide, Gibbs played arguably his best game to that point in his career, with 30 disposals at 87% efficiency, 7 tackles, one goal and two Brownlow Medal votes. His marked improvement throughout the season was recognized when he finished fifth in Carlton’s Best and Fairest award, and amassed 7 Brownlow Medal votes - outstanding achievements for a teenager. And it didn't stop there. In another 23 games in 2009, he averaged 26 possessions a match, collected 15 Brownlow Medal votes, and finished third in voting for the Blues’ Best and Fairest. Furthermore, he experienced his first taste of finals football - albeit in a losing side – when the Blues were over-run in the last quarter of the 2009 Elimination Final by Brisbane at the Gabba. And all this happened before his 21st birthday!

In 2010, Bryce was regularly released into the midfield - although on a Sunday afternoon at Etihad Stadium in round 10, he was simply devastating across half-back against the West Coast Eagles when he collected a mammoth 45 disposals. Moving on to September, he played his 23rd straight game of the year when a frustratingly-inaccurate Carlton team was beaten in the last few minutes of the Elimination Final by Sydney, in one of the truly great games of the season.

Bryce notched up game number 100 in Carlton’s emphatic victory over Brisbane at Etihad Stadium in round 12, 2011. By that stage of his career, Gibbs had missed only one game in the previous five seasons, and his coach Brett Ratten was full of praise. “In reflecting on Bryce Gibbs' 100 games for Carlton, it's clear to me that he's become our ‘Mr Fixit’. Put simply, if we have a problem, we rely on Bryce to rectify it - whether it be off half-back, wing, or centre square – and his capacity to meet all those tasks for the betterment of the team is outstanding,” Ratten said.

After the Blues secured a third-straight finals berth by finishing fifth in 2011, Bryce damaged a shoulder joint during Carlton’s Elimination Final demolition of Essendon, and his absence the following week was surely a factor in the Blues’ agonisingly-close Semi Final loss to West Coast. In October, he capped off another excellent season with third place in the John Nicholls Medal - his fourth top-five finish in the previous five years.

In 2012, Carlton’s season began perfectly with consecutive huge wins over Richmond, Brisbane and Collingwood – before an extended spate of injuries to key players, and some inexplicable losses to lowly clubs sent the season of the rails and brought about the early termination of Ratten’s contract. Amid frustration and recrimination after Carlton’s tenth-place finish, a spotlight was turned on all aspects of the club, as well as every player – including Gibbs. Although his season’s numbers were once again respectable (22 games averaging 21.8 disposals per match, number one for kicks, and number 2 for disposals overall) criticism arose from commentators who felt that he hadn’t imposed himself enough on important games. A player with his skill level and experience belongs in the midfield, they said, and he should be making more of his ability.

Those claims gained wide acceptance in the aftermath of Ratten’s sacking, and the appointment of former Collingwood and West Coast Premiership coach Mick Malthouse as his successor. Prior to the Blues first official training session for 2013, Malthouse was specifically questioned about his thinking in regard to Bryce’s role in the team, and answered like this; “I know his capabilities. It just may well be that he's got to be thrown the ball and told 'right - now you've got to run with it, this is your opportunity to say ‘I want a position in the middle of the ground’.” show_image.php?id=33677

Indeed, Gibbs did spend more time in the midfield in 2013, although Carlton’s fluctuating form throughout a roller-coaster season meant that his poise and foot-skills were regularly needed in defence yet again. He started the year brilliantly, and was credited with 34 disposals against Richmond in round 1, but five weeks later strained a hamstring, and was sidelined for three matches. Returning for round 9 against Brisbane, he showed his confidence hadn’t been affected at all, racking up 20 possessions as the scrappy Blues knocked over the home side by 17 points, and climbed into the top eight. Over the following month, Bryce hit a rich vein of form to average 27 disposals per match, and reached his milestone 150th game for the Blues in a shock loss to the Western Bulldogs at Docklands in round 20. By then, Carlton had dropped to ninth on the ladder - two wins behind Port Adelaide – and the club’s chances of playing finals football seemed all but shot.

However, in late August, bubbling controversy over Essendon’s dodgy supplements program boiled over, and the Bombers were sensationally disqualified from the finals. Suddenly, Carlton was back in contention – provided they could beat Port Adelaide on their home turf in the Power’s last match at Football Park. And in a spine-tingler, the Blues did just that – hanging on to win by a point, with Gibbs (27 possessions) and Andrew Walker (25) leading by example.

An almost surreal conclusion to 2013 came the following Sunday afternoon for Carlton supporters, when the Navy Blues came from 32 points down in the second quarter to beat the heavily-favoured Richmond in front of an enormous crowd of 94,000 in an Elimination Final at the MCG. Once again, Carlton’s star was Gibbs, voted best on ground with 27 possessions and 5 tackles. After those extraordinary back to back victories, Carlton’s Semi Final loss to Sydney was something of an anti-climax. Physically and emotionally spent, the Blues went down to the reigning Premiers by an even four goals, as Bryce finished off the season with a somewhat subdued, but serviceable 22-possession game.

Over the succeeding days and weeks there was another shakeout at Princes Park, while Carlton supporters debated long and hard over the legacy of 2013. Meanwhile, Gibbs continued to enhance his standing among the elite of the game, by adding another top-five placing in the John Nicholls Medal to his resume, and featuring prominently among just about all of the team’s key performance indicators.

Buoyed by that finals campaign, Carlton looked toward 2014 with confidence – especially because one of the game’s oldest clubs was about to celebrate 150 years of competition. The team just didn’t gel throughout the first weeks of the season however, and remained winless after four rounds. Even so, Gibbs was a shining light during that time, and just got better as the season progressed. Showing a renewed aggression at the contest - without detracting from his elite all-round skills - Bryce was a beacon for the Blues throughout a year that steadily got worse, and ended with Carlton anchored near the foot of the ladder.

Playing in all of Carlton’s 22 matches for the year, Gibbs averaged 24 disposals, 4 marks, 4 inside 50s and just under 5 tackles per game – the most of any player. Against a powerhouse Geelong in round 12, he racked up 29 disposals, 6 tackles and four goals, and followed up with 29 disposals and 7 tackles in a mainly defensive role against ladder-leaders Sydney in round 17. In early September – having completed his most consistent season to date, Bryce was rewarded by being named in the preliminary squad of 40 players from which the 2014 All Australian team was selected. He didn’t make the final 22, but adequate compensation came a few days later, when he was announced winner of the 2014 John Nicholls Medal.

From the heights of that honour, Bryce and Carlton came crashing to earth in 2015, as the Blues endured one of the worst seasons in club history. After winning just once in the first eight rounds, Malthouse was sacked by the Carlton board and replaced by his senior assistant John Barker in a caretaker role. The team showed immediate improvement to win two of the next four games, but the downhill slide continued when champion midfielder Chris Judd suffered a career-ending knee injury in round 10. A week later, Gibbs was cited for unduly rough play when he slung Port Adelaide’s Robbie Gray to the Adelaide Oval turf in a tackle, and that indiscretion saw him suspended for two matches. In his return game against Richmond on a Friday night at the MCG in round 15, Bryce had racked up 21 possessions by late in proceedings, when he attempted a tackle didn’t stick – and tore his left pectoral muscle so badly that immediate surgery was required, and his season was prematurely ended.

Under their new coach Brendon Bolton, Gibbs and the Blues started 2016 in a similar vein to the previous three years with four straight losses, before an upset victory over Fremantle at Subiaco started a run of six wins in seven games. Bryce brought up his 200th career match in style against GWS in round 14, but the team fell away in the latter part of the season and eventually finished 14th. Often leading by example, Bryce had another excellent year, averaging 26 disposals, 5 tackles and almost 5 clearances per game on the way to finishing fourth behind Sam Docherty, Kade Simpson and Patrick Cripps in voting for the John Nicholls Medal.

Shortly afterwards, in one of the biggest stories of the 2016 Trade Period, Gibbs sent shockwaves through Princes Park when he requested a trade back to South Australia to join the Crows. Adelaide had been courting Bryce for years, and their big effort in making the 2016 Semi-Finals had convinced them to make a serious pitch to recruit him. The problem was that he was contracted to Carlton until 2019, and there was no way that the Blues were going to let him go – unless the offer was exceptional.

In the end, it wasn’t. Adelaide postured and demanded, but when all the chips were on the table, they weren’t prepared to meet Carlton’s terms. Adelaide powerbroker Mark Ricciuto later admitted that the Crows thought Carlton were bluffing when they refused to accept Adelaide’s offer for Gibbs, but Carlton Football Manager Andrew McKay said the Crows had simply underestimated the midfielder's worth. “We obviously value Bryce more highly than they do,” he said. “They weren't close. We were very clear with them. It wasn't a matter of us mucking them around at all.”

So Bluebaggers everywhere breathed again, and looked forward to seeing Gibbs in action again in 2017, when he embarks on his 11th season in Navy Blue.

In the Round 13, 2017 win over Gold Coast, Gibbs became the first player in VFL/AFL history to record 40+ disposals, 10+ tackles & 2+ goals in a single match.

Superboot Gibbs

On the morning of the 2016 AFL Grand Final between the Western Bulldogs and the Sydney Swans, representatives of 11 League clubs took part in a long-kicking competition on the banks of the Yarra River, upstream from Princes Bridge. Gibbs was Carlton’s entrant, and with his second attempt he launched a massive torpedo punt that travelled 72.9 metres. When no-one could better that mark, Bryce walked away with a handsome trophy and first prize of $10,000!


Milestones

50 Games: Round 7, 2009 vs Fremantle
100 Games: Round 12, 2011 vs Brisbane
150 Games: Round 20, 2013 vs Western Bulldogs
100 Goals: Round 3, 2015 vs Essendon
200 Games: Round 14, 2016 vs GWS Giants

Career Highlights

2007 - Leadership Group
2007 - Pre-Season Premiership Player
2007 - Rising Star Nomination
2007 - Best First Year Player
2007 - 9th Best and Fairest
2008 - 5th Best and Fairest
2009 - 3rd Best and Fairest
2010 - 4th Best and Fairest
2011 - 3rd Best and Fairest
2012 - 8th Best and Fairest
2013 - 5th Best and Fairest
2014 - Best and Fairest
2016 - 4th Best and Fairest

Articles: Carlton's Top Tenners | That First Pick...Players taken with Carlton's first pick in the draft | Gibbs & Judd - Related?

YouTube: Bryce Gibbs | Bryce Gibbs 3 Goals vs Richmond - Round 14, 2008 | Gibbs to Stevens & Goal

Blueseum: Summary of Gibbs' playing career | Career Breakdown | Goals with first kicks | Gibbs' Blueseum Image Gallery

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