Main content

Well played, Gilbo

Veteran Sam Gilbert leaves the game as a loyal son of St Kilda who left everything on the field. Watch highlights of Sam Gilbert's 208-game career at the Saints.

Unwavering loyalty to the red, white and black.

That’s what was asked of a fresh-faced, sandy-haired kid from Queensland 13 years ago, and that’s exactly what Sam Gilbert delivered.

Affectionately known as ‘Gilbo’, the now 32-year-old was a warrior on the field.

He threw himself at the contest, at his opponent and behind his teammates in 208 games for the Saints.

But unlike most 200-gamers who grew up with a Sherrin in their hands, Gilbert wasn’t supposed to play a single game.

READ: The boy from Terranora

He was born in the rugby league heartland and into St George Illawara royalty.

Gilbert’s great-grandfather, Herb Gilbert Snr, was the inaugural captain-coach of St George and is widely regarded as one of the greatest centres ever to play the game, while Sam’s grandfather, Jack Gilbert, was a premiership-winning player at the same club.

He wasn’t a perfect footballer. At times, his unorthodox kicking style and perceived lack of grace with ball in hand frustrated fans, but his rugby league upbringing manifested itself in two traits in particular: his tackle and his step.

At his peak, Gilbert possessed one of the deadliest side-steps in the league, as years of line-breaking and dummy-selling in his junior rugby days paid dividends on the oval field.

Similarly, he boasted a brutal, unshakable tackle, laying an astounding 654 across his career.

And it was these two traits that allowed Gilbert’s aggressive shut-down defence to thrive in 2007, under new coach Ross Lyon.

Gilbert was unusually quick for a player of his height, and his speed and agility allowed him to play further up the ground, spending more time as a rebound defender.

After playing a critical role for the Saints across half-back in both 2009 and 2010, Gilbert was rewarded with an All-Australian nomination in 2009 and a third-place finish in the Trevor Barker Award in 2010.

WATCH: Thanks Gilbo

He was perhaps at his best in the 2010 drawn Grand Final, when he helped turn the game in the third quarter as a lead-up forward.

The last bastion of that storied era, Gilbert was the oldest player on St Kilda’s list this season and the only grand final representative still at the club.

Gilbert was instrumental in the Saints' drawn Grand Final in 2010

This longevity was not without its difficulties, though.

Gilbert endured a slump in form after his career-best 2010 season before being marred by persistent injury between 2013 and 2015, during what could have arguably been his best years of football.

A hyper-extended leg, a relentless foot injury and a broken hand slowed his career, but the rugby league convert was determined to repay the faith shown in him by the club.

In more recent years, Gilbert was the ultimate team player, entrusted with nearly every possible role on the footy field throughout his career, playing as a defender, midfielder, forward, second ruck and wingman.

READ: Saints farewell Gilbert

And this versatility wasn’t restricted to the footy field, either, with Gilbert arguably the best-dressed Saint on numerous Mad Mondays.

Famous for completely committing himself to his costumes, Gilbert began the 2018 season still sporting peroxide blonde locks; a hangover from his portrayal of ‘Legolas’ at the 2017 post-season wake.

But one of Gilbert’s biggest strengths is in his character – laidback, authentic and genuine – and it’s this strength that will hold him in good stead for what’s to come.

He was a huge supporter of the club’s annual Pride Game, where he lent his voice to promote inclusion and denounce homophobia.

St Kilda staff and any supporter who crossed his path spoke of his warmth, easy-going nature and the respect he had for everyone.

Gilbert and wife Georgie welcomed their first-born son, Oscar Fitzroy Gilbert, into the world in early August, and the Saint’s newfound fatherhood acts as the perfect segue way into life after footy.

But ultimately, he will be remembered as a man who never gave in.

The games record-holder for the No. 19 guernsey at St Kilda, the boy from Queensland, the Pride Ambassador, the apprentice chippy, and the much-loved teammate indisputably got the best out of himself.

More than that, his loyalty never waned. Thanks, Sammy.