top of page

Gabby Gives It All

Republished from Outright 55 - by Margot Butcher

Canterbury Magicians wicket-taker Gabby Sullivan doesn’t need to look far to understand the power of mentoring. Cricket’s given her access to key mentors in

life, work and sport — and at 25, she’s already paying that positivity forward as a professional mentor herself.

Ever since leaving school, Sullivan knew she wanted to be in social work - hailing from a big family and instinctively driven to help other people. “I always felt it was something I would really enjoy. But it’s a big realm, and initially I wasn’t quite sure where I’d fit in. I thought about policing for a bit, then chose a degree in social work at University of Canterbury. Later, I cross-credited into a Bachelor of Human Services.”

Human Services focuses on issues such as child protection, health, violence, and rehabilitation. Not for the faint-hearted, and all about making positive impacts in the community - using professional skills to help people create their own healthy life.

UC says it’s one of the fastest-growing employment fields in the world.

A chunk of Sullivan’s undergraduate years coincided with Covid lockdowns and, as a dedicated cricketer keen to maximise her training hours as well, flexible, online courses proved a boon. She sped through to graduation, and, was fortunate to get a job straight off the bat after Uni with Emerge Aotearoa.

“They run a youth, mental health and wellbeing programme called Tiakina, based in Christchurch,” Sullivan explains. “That provides a structured daytime programme for 14- to 19-year-olds who have complex mental health needs, to help them get back into school or study or work.

“That was a very rewarding job. The only problem for me was it was 0.4 shift

work — quite hard to fit around cricket, and being the best I can possibly

be in cricket, trying to make the White Ferns, has always been a nonnegotiable,

right from the beginning.”

‘Sully’ started playing as just a six-year-old poppet in Sumner, mad keen to

follow in the footsteps of her three older brothers. “They all played, Dad

coached, Mum helped out and coached as well, and I was the tomboy who

just really, really wanted to join in.”

It was only her twin sister who didn’t inherit the cricket gene. “We’re very much opposite in our interests and for a long time she was happy not to know anything about cricket. But when I started to play for the Magicians [in 2015/16], she made an awesome effort and now she’s the Magicians’ biggest supporter. If one of my friends comes to a game for the first time, and they don’t know too much about what’s happening, she’s the one

who’ll say, ‘Hey, come sit with me, I’ll explain it all in an easy way to follow!’”

A few years ago, Sullivan scored an NZC Development contract that spurred her to keep working hard towards sending them down for the White Ferns. As a strong pace right-armer with almost 130 Domestic wickets, she couldn’t have had a better mentor in her own team. Lea Tahuhu is not only her Canterbury Magicians teammate, but from the same St Albans club in Christchurch.

“I always looked up to Lea. Who wouldn’t? She’s one of the best in the world. It meant a lot to me when I got my first call-up to the Mags and she was the first to give me a handshake. Now, she’s one of my best mates, and it’s pretty cool to look up to someone like that. I learn so much off Lea because she has so much to give. She’s like a buffet of

information and answers for me.”

Spare time, the little of it that exists, is important to Sullivan, too — and with her siblings starting to have families, she loves nothing better than getting around family.

One of Sullivan’s key work-ons has been getting physically stronger, hard yakka over the off season bringing rewards this season. “I feel like a lot more power is coming through, especially in my T20 game. It’s been a massive focus for all the Mags, actually, but the hardest part is sustaining that through the heat of the playing season. Just trying to fit in those quality gym sessions. Fingers crossed I’m doing the right things because I absolutely love playing for the red and black and I absolutely want to put myself

on the radar for the next level as well.”

It says plenty about Sullivan’s work ethic that she thought switching from juggling part-time shifts to a full-time job might be the best way to achieve that. Now she works regular week hours for a brilliant Canterbury-based charitable organisation that started 40 years ago in Rangiora, Comcol NZ. They also provide free youth life coaching and mentoring to young people needing assistance and structure to get back on track, as an

accredited MSD service provider.

Sullivan and her colleagues each get allocated up to 20 clients aged between 16 and 20 who are either on a Youth Payment or Young Parent benefit, which is usually linked to a family breakdown.

“We work in a small team, so we’re buddied up and if I’m away, my colleague will take my phone so if there’s something that needs to be addressed promptly, they’ll address it. We work with clients to help get them back into school if they’re not already, work towards NCEA levels - or, it could be getting their licence, or helping them to budget to buy their own groceries or manage their anxiety in the everyday community.

“It’s hugely rewarding work but working in mental health, it can be hard to switch your focus to cricket — especially if something big’s going on for one of your clients, and you’ve built that rapport with them. But I’m learning how to do that now. I need to know when and how to switch my brain from work to training and cricket and back. I need to leave work at work. And I’m getting accustomed to that.”

Sullivan says she’s been incredibly grateful to have been able to draw on her PDM’s, initially Lesley Elvidge and now Jo Murray, when she’s been the one looking for advice.

“Just having someone experienced with your back is massive. When I applied for

this role, Jo immediately connected me to someone to help me nail my CV and

prep me for the job interview — and I got the job straight away. It’s a godsend.”

Who knows, maybe one day it will be Sullivan giving back to young cricketers, as a player mentor? For now though, the sights are set on gaining the fern.

“I’ve been really encouraged by the development opportunities I’ve had [playing against Pakistan this season and Bangladesh last summer for the NZ XI], and playing in the North v South series. I definitely want to give it my best shot and tick off that lifelong goal.”



bottom of page