In the latest in our WA On Wednesday series of interviews, Balcatta Etna goalkeeper Gabby Dal Busco spoke to Impetus’ Ben Gilby. In this first part of a two-part interview about her hugely successful playing career which saw her represent her country, WA, as well as Perth Glory at W-League level, Gabby also gives an insight into what it is like to have Sam Kerr as your captain (3/8/22).
Photo: Gabby Dal Busco making another great save this season for Balcatta Etna. Photo: JASP Photography.
Gabby Dal Busco is one of the best-known players in the Western Australian game. Having played for the NTC and represented the state at the National Youth Championships, she spent four years at Perth Glory in what was then the W-League. She admits though that it was a round ball from a different sport that got her into the game.
“I started playing football when I was about eight or nine years old. I had played around the backyard with my cousins every now and then growing up, but I actually got into playing football through netball. A girl I was playing netball with invited me down to a training session to try it out, and I was hooked straight away.
“I played at Floreat Athena in a mixed team for a few years, before moving to Balcatta at the age of 11 to play in the under 13’s girls’ team.
I played for Balcatta for a couple years until I was selected into the NTC program in 2010. I continued with the NTC program until 2018, and over this time, was selected to represent WA at U13, 14, and 15 levels at the Youth National Championships (in Canberra and Coffs Harbour), as well as representing WA a number of times at the NTC Challenge in Canberra at U17 and U19’s level.
“Whilst competing at these tournaments, I was lucky enough to have been identified for National camps and all-star teams in 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. Whilst I was involved in the NTC program, I played close to 200 games, and also continued to be involved in the program as a mentor, coach, and physio in the years after.
“Over my years at NTC, I had the opportunity to be involved in the Perth Glory and Young Matildas setups. My journey at Perth Glory commenced in 2011, when I was selected as a train-on player, and I received my first contract with the club in 2012, when I was signed as an injury replacement player.
“I made my debut for the club in 2014 and played with the club until 2018. Over this time, I had the opportunity to train, play and learn from some of the best players in Australia, and the world – the likes of Sam Kerr, Alanna Kennedy, Caitlin Foord, Mackenzie Arnold, Collette McCallum, Kate Gill, Lisa De Vanna, to name a few.
“My journey with the Young Matildas coincided with my time at Perth Glory, from 2013 to 2015, and included representing Australia at AFF Tournaments in Vietnam in 2014 and 2015.
“After my time at NTC came to an end, I came back to Balcatta, which felt like a natural transition for me, having played with a number of these players at NTC or within the State Team setup, as well as playing with girls I had played with at a junior level. This year will mark over five years of being back at Balcatta, and I recently made my 150th appearance for the women’s first team.”
Gabby’s spell at Perth Glory coincided with some of the greatest successes in the club’s W-League history. It was an incredible period for the shot-stopper, and one she looks back fondly on.
“It was amazing to have been able to have the opportunity to train and play with some of the best players in WA, Australia, and even the world. Being around such an elite group of players really helped me to develop not only as a player on the pitch, but as a person off the pitch.
Players like Carly Telford, Chantelle Jones, and Mackenzie Arnold stood out as key role models for me as a young goalkeeper, and brought the best out of me in training. It created such a great environment for me to challenge myself, and I think this reflected across the team over this period.
“I distinctly remember the moment Mackenzie Arnold got injured in a game against Canberra (in Canberra) in 2014 – it was the last round of fixtures before the finals series. We had had a very successful season up to this point, only having lost one game all season. Suddenly, the coach at the time, Jamie Harnwell turned to me and asked me to warm up, I was going to make my debut for the club. I was so nervous I even started running onto the field before the referee had called me on!
“I remember the support that flooded in from my teammates, distinctly Sam Kerr, Shannon May, Kate Gill, and Collette McCallum. I can still remember the pep-talk Welsh International Carys Hawkins, gave me. It was so reassuring to have that support from my teammates, and that support continued throughout the following seasons as I made my starting debut and was able to secure a consistent starting spot within the team.
“I was lucky enough to play in both the semi-final against Sydney FC and Grand Final against Melbourne City in 2016, both of which were played at home at what is now HBF Park (previously NIB Stadium) in front of the record W-League crowd at that time.
“This period also coincided with some of the best experiences of my career – playing in a W-League Grand Final with world-class players and representing my country on the international stage, as well being the recipient of the goalkeeper of the year award for the NPL and Women’s Premier League in 2014, 2015 and 2020.
“Sam Kerr was an immense role model over this time in my development as a leader on and off the pitch, and has probably influenced how I lead the team at Balcatta as their captain. In fact, one of my greatest memories was before the 2016 Grand Final – Sam (Kerr), who was the captain that season, had written personalised, inspirational notes for each player in the squad and placed them on our shirts to read before the game. I actually think I still have this note! These gestures helped to shape me as a leader within my team and do everything I can to support my teammates on and off the pitch.”
To be part of this incredible period of footballing achievements, Gabby had to face and try to overcome that perennial challenge that female players have to face – fitting football into their work-life balance.
“That was one of my biggest challenges, but I think I was able to adapt quickly and manage this relatively well. A time where my training load was high, and I was travelling regularly to the eastern states for national training camps or away games (with Perth Glory), coincided with studying six ATAR subjects as well as participating in other extracurricular activities through school. I think you learn to adapt in these situations, and get pretty good at juggling it all!
Don’t miss the second part of our exclusive interview with Gabby Dal Busco which will be published next Wednesday where the Balcatta Etna goalkeeper talks about life at Grindleford Reserve and how she sees the NPL WA Women’s competition this season.