The girl on fire

Netball sensation Gabi Simpson has a résumé to match the greatest players in history. But the Queensland Firebirds and Australian Diamonds star is only 24 years old. And her career is just getting started.

It’s been a crazy few years for Gabi Simpson. After relocating from Sydney to chase her netball dream five years ago, she won back-to-back championships for the Queensland Firebirds in 2015–16; cemented her place in the Australian Diamonds team; and earlier this year won the coveted Liz Ellis Diamond, awarded for the most outstanding performance by an Australian player.

This year she was also named Firebirds captain – taking over from the great Laura Geitz – and will compete in her first Commonwealth Games next year on the Gold Coast, all while juggling her Bachelor of Physiotherapy studies at UQ.

Simpson sat down with Contact to reflect on her whirlwind rise to the top.

Gabi Simpson in action for the Queensland Firebirds.

Gabi Simpson in action for the Queensland Firebirds.

Did you ever imagine you would achieve so much at such a young age?

Not at all. My aim was always to play for Australia and have an influential role in the team. But looking back on the past two years, it has been quite overwhelming to see what has unfolded. I have been learning to lead and a lot of my effort was put into off-court work, so to then be awarded the Liz Ellis Diamond for my performance on the court was really special. It forced me to look back on how I played over the last year or so. Leading the Firebirds has been great because it’s taken me out of my own head and I’m focusing on everything that’s unfolding from a team perspective. The amazing thing about taking over the captaincy from Laura Geitz is that I have been able to learn from her over the last four years. They are big shoes to fill and I’m still trying to fit into them, but that means I have a lot of room to grow.

Gabi Simpson in action for the Queensland Firebirds.

Gabi Simpson in action for the Queensland Firebirds.

How much hard work has led to your success on the court?

It goes all the way back to ‘Year 12 Gabi’, who was ridiculous. I would wake up early and travel to netball training at Homebush, which was about an hour west of where I lived in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. I would come back to go to school, then head back to Homebush to train again in the afternoon, before coming home to do homework until about 10pm. I would wake up the next day and do it all again. The sacrifices I made then are benefiting me now from a study and netball perspective. Also, I was in the Australian squad for three years before I was actually selected to play. A lot of the other girls in the squad who were my age were selected to play a lot earlier than me. I had to endure a lot of phone calls from coaches telling me I wasn’t good enough. That was hard at the time, but it pushed me to another level.

Gabi Simpson in action for the Queensland Firebirds.

Gabi Simpson in action for the Queensland Firebirds.

Why did you choose to study physiotherapy at UQ?

I started my degree at the University of Sydney. I was offered a contract to play netball in Queensland and UQ’s physiotherapy course has a strong reputation – especially as a practical course. I have also been very lucky to receive a UQ Sports Achievement Scholarship. It has given me great resources to help my time-management skills. The financial assistance is also extremely helpful as it means I can focus more on my studies and training. I am proud to be an ambassador for the UQ–Firebirds partnership.

Are you excited to play in front of home fans at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games?

Queensland crowds are phenomenal. There is no better feeling than stepping onto the court with 10,000 people cheering you on. To have that support at the Commonwealth Games will be so important.

Watch a video of Gabi Simpson discussing her top five most influential sportspeople.

To learn more about the UQ's partnership with the Queensland Firebirds, visit UQ News.

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