It’s difficult to put into words just how much an impact Sally Riley has made on the Gold Coast Football Club over the last two years.
After five seasons and 23 AFLW matches, the 30-year-old has made the decision to call time on her playing career.
Starting her career with the Adelaide Crows, Riley played 14 games over three seasons, including the 2017 premiership at Metricon Stadium, before being delisted ahead of the 2020 season.
It didn’t take long for the SUNS to pick up the phone.
With a reputation as a strong leader, Adelaide’s loss was Gold Coast’s gain as Riley came in to the fold to help set up the club ahead of its foundation women’s season.
Riley quickly earnt the respect of staff and players alike, culminating in her elevation to the SUNS leadership group in 2020.
“It’s always challenging starting a new team having done that before and then starting three years behind everybody else,” Riley told SUNS Media.
“I guess that’s the legacy I wanted to bring, to create an environment that people want to be a part of and one where we give it our all.”
It hasn’t been a seamless ride either.
Across the two years at the SUNS Riley has had the challenges of being in and out of the starting 21, but her commitment never wavered, not even once.
She is the definition of team-first, always there to offer support in any way possible.
Whatever it took to make the team better, putting individual want aside for collective gain.
Looking back, the versatile utility says she’s left nothing in the tank and was looking forward to tackling the next stage of life.
“Personally I’ve been lucky to have the highest highs and the lowest lows.
“I reckon I can walk out of here, as much as this year was really hard, (knowing) the friendships I’ve made here both with staff and teammates, there’s some here that will last forever,” she said.
“I’ve loved my time here and I said to the girls I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else to run out for my last game.
“The Gold Coast gave me an opportunity post-Adelaide and I’ve loved every minute of it, no regrets.”
As a teacher off the field, her legacy extends beyond the four walls of the football club.
She’s admired by her students as a role model for females in sport, and will continue to inspire the next generation long after hanging up the boots for the last time.
Thank you, Sally Riley.