Everyone has their own footy origin story, but for iconic Australian surfer Sally Fitzgibbons, hers is a bit different than the rest of us.

Fitzgibbons joined Zach Tuohy and Tom Stewart on the latest episode of the Tuohy and Stewie podcast, where she explained how a girl growing up in rugby league heartland on the southern coast of New South Wales became such a passionate Cats fan. 

Back in the early 2000s, a then teenaged Fitzgibbons was beginning her pro surfing journey, one that would regularly take her to Bells Beach, home of the Rip Curl pro, and just 30km from Geelong. 

It was on those trips that her love for the Cats was born. 

“It was my first few pilgrimages down to Bells Beach, and so you'd turn on the TV and you notice the codes' change and so the footy saturation becomes AFL," she said.

“You're like, this code seems awesome, why have I not been introduced to this? 

"Then Geelong being the closest to Bells…”


But it was the influence of a pair of Cats captains, iconic in their own right, that sealed the deal for eventual world number 1’s conversion to AFL football. 

“I found out that a few of the boys surfed and then I met Cameron Ling, and the rest is history,” she laughed. 

But if that wasn’t enough, it was the connection made with Joel Selwood at a training session in 2017 that confirmed the Cats were her club of choice, if there was any doubt left. 

“We just had some really interesting similarities,” she said. 

“Because you know how Joel is always got his head taped up, or he's bleeding and he's full Monty Python, 'it's just a scratch'?

“At the time I had some of my biggest injuries in surfing and one of the ones in Fiji was pretty classic, I'd busted my eardrum and I was in a bad way and I just thought, 'just tape it up and keep surfing' and so I had the big head-wrap one eye thing and then there was a picture of him at the same time and I thought, I’m just like Joel!'.”


More than just a surfer, Fitzgibbons played soccer and touch football growing up, was a champion middle distance runner in high school and won Gold in athletics in both the 800m and 1500m events at the Australian Youth Olympics. 

It begs the question, what about AFLW?

“If AFLW was around I think, it would have towed me in for sure, because I was an avid soccer player, I loved the game in the sense of the structure and thinking and that sort of and that sort of chess match, and I did love a run around,” Fitzgibbons said. 

“I think being able to run, kick and I think the last thing for me was learning some tackle technique because I had three older brothers so I think it would have been a rough diamond, but you could smooth that out. 

“It's such a wonderful game and culture and if you turned back the clock, then for sure.”

Still only 32, the toll on her body that surfing has taken means it’ll be unlikely that we’ll see her at GMHBA Stadium as anything more than a spectator.  

“But maybe if there was some kind of youth serum and I still had some legs on me in terms or running, or the capacity I used to, then post surfing would have been neat too.”