Gab Rose (nee Maher) will run onto the Origin field as one of the most respected women to play representative Touch Football, not just in NSW but across the globe.
Like a fine wine, she seems to get better with age
Born into a family of 8 kids, old school backyard touch footy was a fight for survival in the Maher household. “Mum and Dad put me in a family touch team back when I was 10. It was fitness for my older siblings in the offseason from Netball and Football and I just followed along”
When you talk passion, there is no family more passionate than the Maher’s. If you are true “Touchie” you would have met either Gab, Katrina, Dom, or Mrs. Maher around the fields over the years.
At only 14 Gab was picked in the NSW Under 20s team to play at the 1990 Nationals in Tamworth. Nervous? “God yes – the whole time!” Rose stated, but from an early age, Gab caught selectors’ eyes with her natural athleticism and ball-handling skills.
When the State of Origin went to a standalone event in 1995, Gab already had 4 years of experience playing in the Women’s Open at National level. “I was 16 when I was picked to play NSW Women’s Open at the Nationals back in 1992. At such a young age I was very fortunate to be coached by one of the greatest players ever in our sport in Karen Smith. That same year my sister Katrina was Captain”
Much like her sister Katrina Toohey who was described as was one of the most mentally tough players to have ever played the game, Gab went on to captain her state and was destined for the highest honours from a very early age.
An inspirational and natural leader on and off the field through her actions, words, and aura. This slated her by teammates and oppositions alike as one of the most respected players, of her era.
“I have been very fortunate to play against and then with some amazingly talented women of our game. Legends like Gai Taylor, Jo Wong, Giselle Tirado, Kirsty, and Amanda Judd, Melissa Pitfield, Melinda McMah, and Louise Winchester and that’s only to name a few. The experiences we had together in our wins and losses helped build an amazing lifetime of friendships off the field.
The rivalry between NSW and QLD is and has always been so strong and I love being able to play with the best and I cannot wait to take the field this year as I’ve been given the opportunity to play against one of the best players, I have ever had the pleasure of playing with and against in Queensland’s Bo De La Cruz . What a challenge that will be – it doesn’t get any better than that”
As a player she was renowned as a strong powerful runner, one who had exceptional ball skills and a great long passing game, she had the uncanny ability to sniff out an intercept and run the length of the field.
Gab represented NSW from 1990 to 2002 then in 2004 she made the decision to put representative Touch on hold when her and husband David Rose (Men’s 40s Origin Team) decided to start a family.
10 years later, a phone call from the then Women’s 30s Coach would see her back playing for NSW.
“I had not played at this level for years and jumped at the opportunity and loved it. That year and that group of girls definitely re-ignited my passion for the game.”
When asked if things had changed from the first blue guernsey to now “I actually appreciate the effort put into making an NSW State team more now. When I was younger and playing through the Opens, I could focus all my attention on playing and training.
But now, as a wife, mum, and business owner, I have to prioritise my time between all these areas.
My training has changed over the past 5 years to include more prehab, recovery, and more specific fitness for touch – more to do, and less time to fit it all in. I exercise every day and love it, but I have to change my focus to touch specific” Gab said.
Her passion some 30 years later is still as alive as it was then.
So, what fuels it?
“I think the passion comes from me always wanting to be the best I can be at whatever I do.
I remember loving touch the first time I played it, and have ever since. I love the skills required, the setting up a whole set of 6, the way it requires a whole team effort for success, and the fitness, speed, agility, and mental toughness needed to read a game”
Touch Football has always been in the family and runs in the Maher blood, over the years Gab now sees her children and her sisters’ children all playing the sport, but this Origin is more important than the rest.
“I’m playing with my sister Dom, my other sister Angela is the manager, my husband David is also playing and I love that my kids get so much joy out of watching me play. I love that they get to see the highs and the lows of training, playing, and all the benefits team sport brings.
I hope them watching David and I still playing a sport we love at the top level is inspiring to them.
My mum June (and my dad Barry when he was alive) have always been my biggest supporters. No matter what I am doing, where I am playing mum was and is always there. Mum has always been an amazing role model for me and all the girls I play touch with, but these last few years mum has shown me what it means to be strong, what it means to deal with whatever comes your way, and keep on pushing forward, and finding a way to improve.
She has faced many setbacks in recent times, but her mental strength and positivity, and love of life is just inspiring. Every time I am gassed at training, have a setback, or just fatigued in a game – I think of my mum – and it makes everything seem easy.
This Origin Series is for her, she just loves watching us play Touch.
So, if you see a woman in the front row decked out in NSW gear, and a big smile on her face – that’s my mum”