At 23, Jess Bibby was told she may never walk again. Now, at 37, she’s fulfilled her dream of playing AFL football as part of the inaugural AFL Women’s competition.
Bibby’s incredible story of courage and determination is the latest instalment in the club’s 'There’s a GIANT in all of us' series.
Following the release of Amanda Farrugia’s empowering feature, this video tells Jess Bibby’s story - from an almost-career-ending back injury to becoming the WNBL games record holder and inaugural AFLW GIANT.
One of the most promising basketballers in the country, Bibby played for the Dandenong Rangers in the WNBL before being drafted to the New York Liberty in the 2000 WNBA draft at pick 45.
At the age of 23, a gym accident caused two herniated discs in her lower spine and an internal rupture in a third which gave her three levels of severe disc problems. If doctors had fused the vertebrae together, Bibby would have been confined to a wheelchair.
After years of severe pain and with her career on hold, Bibby put everything she had into experimental spinal surgery.
Following 12 months of rehabilitation, Bibby finally returned to the basketball court with the Dandenong Rangers before going back to her home state where she represented and then captained the Canberra Capitals.
She also returned to the national team and played for the Opals during the qualifying period for the 2012 London Olympic Games.
In 2016, Bibby retired from basketball after 394 games as the all-time WNBL games record holder.
She’d done it all. But as the granddaughter of former Fitzroy President Frank Bibby, and a long-time Carlton fan, she’d never been able to follow her first love - football.
Fast forward 12 months and after being selected as a rookie for the inaugural AFL Women’s season, Bibby has gone on to play every match; with her first-ever organised game of AFL being the GIANTS’ round one encounter with Adelaide.
Bibby will return to her hometown this weekend as the GIANTS take on the Western Bulldogs at UNSW Canberra Oval on Saturday night in the final round of the AFLW season.
The GIANTS launched the 'There’s a GIANT in all of us' campaign at the beginning of the 2016 season with feature videos of Jeremy Cameron, Zac Williams and Rory Lobb. In 2017 the GIANTS will release six new videos incorporating all three of the club’s teams – AFL, AFL Women’s and GIANTS Netball.