He’s watched the baby Giants grow and now, as they flourish, he’s faced with the biggest fight of his life. But Gavin Robertson is a key part of GWS finals push — just ask Phil Davis.
The GWS Giants only need to emulate the courage of one of their longest serving officials as they look to continue their surge through the finals.
Gavin Robertson showed his toughness as a Test cricketer, carving through the cruel, sapping humidity of Chennai to take four wickets and post 50 on his debut for Australia.
Now the 53-year-old is drawing on those challenges he overcame as a spinner as he forges deeper into his inspirational fight against brain cancer.
After undergoing emergency brain surgery in early May, Robertson is just starting another six months of intensive chemotherapy, yet was in the Giants sheds after their elimination final last Saturday exuding the same positive and infectious presence he has brought to the club since their inception in the AFL.
GWS captain Phil Davis describes community liaison officer Robertson as the “embodiment” of the western Sydney club.
Robertson drove to last Saturday’s final having flashbacks to the Giants’ early years stranded at the bottom of the mountain with Everest to climb, and that kind of imagery is helping drive his own brave battle.
“My attitude is just day by day, week by week and month by month. It’s weird. It’s like convincing yourself that you’re playing well when you might not be. You can worry too much about the bad,” says Robertson.
“I’m just so reminded how difficult that was driving to games back in 2012 and 2013.
“The players were like your own sons. They were 18 year olds leaving home, and it wasn’t just four or seven kids, it was 35, and they all had parents and family wondering how they’re going and worrying.
“You’d walk into games thinking, ‘what are these kids you care about going to have to go through today?’
“Now you just see them out there backing themselves. For me, going to the game makes getting up about of bed a really exciting day.
“I’m just going to stay positive and be optimistic.”
Robertson has made exceptions to his new routine of early bed times to stay up watching Australia retain the Ashes — and has been in regular contact with close friend Steve Waugh and Justin Langer in England.
He looks healthy and energetic despite his tough few months. He is grateful to surgeon Charlie Teo and hospital staff at Royal North Shore and is continuing his guest speaking work. Robertson has been overwhelmed by the support he’s received, not least of all from within the four walls at the Giants.
“I feel like saying to them just to worry about what they’ve got ahead of them. I don’t want them worrying about me, but they’ll all come and give me a hug,” he says.
“They’re about to go out and play in a huge game yet they somehow feel they’ve got to give me some confidence. I appreciate it, but I just want them to focus on them.”
But GWS skipper Davis says the playing group feeds off Robertson’s calming strength and optimism.
“He’s got so many things in his life but this is one aspect where he’s got a great deal of purpose because he feels so strongly about the Giants,” says Davis.
“For us as well, you see someone like that who you’ve been in the trenches with for so long and he’s fighting what he’s fighting and you see him be strong. It’s emotional because we’re a tight group here and he’s a big part of that.
“He’s one of our first employees. Talk about optimism and toughness, resilience and strength he embodies everything we want to be. That’s Robbo to a T.
“Through (our) tough days he always saw the light and saw what we were trying to build and the type of club we wanted to be and he pushed that really hard.
“It’s been hard to see his hardship over the last six months. Seeing him get frailer with all the chemo. His ability to be so brave. He’s a Giant for life.”