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Ultra professional Pullman retires having given career his all

Monday, November 13, 2017 - 4:42 PM by Chris Pike
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LEADERSHIP came naturally to Josh Pullman from the moment he captained Swan Districts to a colts premiership to the past two years as a key defender with South Fremantle, and coaching is something he will pursue one day but not immediately as he announces his WAFL retirement.

Pullman has announced his retirement from the WAFL having told his South Fremantle teammates at the WJ Hughes Medal night to ensure he could tell the group together for their one last official gathering for 2017.

Whether playing as a key forward or the last two years down back, Pullman has been the ultimate professional doing the utmost to get the best out of himself and his teammates along the way both on and off the field.

He retires having played 89 WAFL matches and kicking 77 goals made up of 23 and 29 at Swan Districts, and 66 and 48 with South Fremantle in a between a three-year stint in Queensland playing in the NEAFL for Redland. He played 60 games for 175 goals there and was club leading goalkicker for three straight seasons.

On top of that, Pullman was colts premiership captain at Swan Districts in 2007, played in the league grand final at Swans in 2008 and his overhead marking, professionalism and leadership have always made him a popular teammate and respected opponent.

But following a 2017 season that saw him struggle at times to get his body right to play, he just felt the time was right so say goodbye to his football career that while at senior level lasted 149 matches, began much earlier at development squad and colts level.

With an itch to travel and to do things throughout the year that football doesn’t allow, Pullman bit the bullet and made the decision to retire.

He remains supremely comfortable with that call as he embarks on a journey of self-discovery over the next weeks throughout Europe.

"It was a really tough decision and the playing group is in a special place at the moment looking at something that could be really exciting over the next couple of years so the toughest thing for me was being able to get the balance right between what I could contribute if I continued on with the team," Pullman said.

"I was fortunate that I could make a clear decision before we all official wrapped for 2017 and I was able to speak to the boys as a group at our fairest and best night. 

"Being able to say thanks to the club for a really great four years that I'm proud to have been part of, and to say thanks to people who have had a big hand in my journey was great. That was positive and I'm really looking forward to watching the team play next to see if they can continue on the path and see if they can achieve what I think they deserve which is the ultimate success."

As for why the 28-year-old is choose to retire now, it's just that combination of not longer having the faith in his body to play regular WAFL football and the itch to experience other things in life that were largely behind the ball.

"The first main reason was that I have had more trouble getting my body up to play at a level that I'm happy with and where I can contribute how I would like," he said.

"That injury side of thing is something that everyone has to contend with at the end of their career but when it's starting to affect my ability to contribute that was a big factor. Also opportunities at the Australian Institute of Fitness have been tough to pass up over the years due to the demands of football. The timing now felt right to turn a new page and focus on a career I enjoy. 

"The other thing is that I do have an itch to travel and footy does box you out of the times of the year that you can travel. I'm really glad I got the support of the club to retire and I was up front and honest about my reasons. I'm glad I could leave the club on good terms."

Given Pullman was an early developer and a star at a young age, he has been going full at a football career for almost 15 years now even though his league career began with his debut in 2008.

That's a long time to base your life around football and he's looking forward to see what life's like with a bit more free time.

"There are a lot of guys who have been going at it like me since development squads when they were 14 years old and I honestly have no idea what to expect life without footy to be like. I know what kind of things I would like to take on and I know what I'd like to fill the space with," Pullman said.

"I definitely think it's time for a breather and a freshener up, and to try some new things. With that I will still be watching South Freo's development really closely and I'm still really invested in their journey. I will just be watching from afar now instead of being in the thick of it."

Looking back on his time at Swan Districts, it's where Pullman always envisioned playing when growing up and attending Guildford Grammar.

To go on and captain the colts premiership and kick five goals to win the Mel Whinnen Medal was quite an effort considering the team included Alex Rance, Tony Notte, Jeff Garlett, Chris Yarran, David Ellard, Todd Banfield, Neville Jetta and Lewis Jetta. 

Just 23 games in three years to start his senior career wasn’t quite what he hoped, but he'll have good memories of his Swan Districts career.

"Swans is such a great club with such a rich history that when I was coming through the ranks they had a real focus on developing the young local players. Greg Harding spent a lot of time with me developing me as a person and player, and I'm very grateful for that," he said.

"I learned a lot from Brian Dawson and his incredible football brain and systems brain. I also had some great leaders showing the way there in Adam Lange and Josh Roberts. 

"That success at colts level was almost the perfect storm of incredible talent and an incredible year for Swan Districts, and those individuals who went on to get drafted like Alex Rance who won a premiership this year obviously. That was amazing to watch. I look back on my time at Swans really fondly and for me that set me up for what was almost a 10-year senior football career."

A big reason Pullman played just 23 games was the presence of Ash Hansen and Tim Geappen in Swan Districts' forward-line during those seasons. But that pair actually helped him immensely.

 

"Ash Hansen might have cost me some games at Swans but I probably couldn’t have picked a better bloke to hold me out of the side," Pullman said.

"Him and Tim Geappen really helped me develop as a forward at training. They were open and transparent about helping me learn the tricks of the trade, and I took a lot out of my time with both of those guys."

It was a lifestyle change more than anything took Pullman to Queensland for the next three years after he missed Swans' 2010 premiership.

He wouldn’t have changed anything about the three years living in Brisbane and indeed the three seasons playing at Redland where he become one of the top key forwards in the NEAFL.

"I had just finished uni and it felt like a good time to move somewhere else and see something different. It was actually Tim Geappen who knew someone at Redlands and they were on the hunt for a big, heavy forward so it was a good opportunity," he said.

"The NEAFL is a younger competition and it's growing all the time, and I really enjoyed my time playing in it. Redlands is just a fantastic club. I had an awesome three years there after only planning on staying for two. 

"The only reason I did decide to come home when I did was because if I didn’t bite the bullet then, I might have stayed forever and all my family was back here. It was a great three years and I enjoyed the footy, along with the lifestyle. I visited Redlands again this year and it was like I had never left, so I will always remember that time of my life fondly."

By the end of 2013, Pullman felt he had to make the call to come back to WA or there was a chance he might never return. Once that call was made, it was all about where to continue his WAFL career and it was South Fremantle that soon made a strong case for it to be there.

He immediately knew he had made the right decision by joining the Bulldogs and four years later, feels like a South Fremantle person as he heads into retirement.

"Coming back home, I wanted to do my research and make sure I chose a club that was going to be a good fit for me with where I was at in my career, and for what I could offer them individually," Pullman said.

"I also have some family who have played for South Fremantle back in the day and it is zoned to an area I used to live, so I knew some guys from my younger days including Adam Guglielmana. 

"I spoke to the club and they were super welcoming and inviting, and I quickly developed great relationships there including with leaders like Ryan Cook and Ashton Hams who made sure I settled in. The Premier Family Club is their motto but they actually live that and that's pretty special. It just felt like a good fit and four years later I'm really grateful I came to the club."

Having spent his entire career as a power forward, Pullman feels now upon reflection that his move to defence for the start of 2016 reinvigorated his career and more importantly, was the best thing for South Fremantle with Mason Shaw and Ben Saunders the main forward targets.

"I never thought I'd finish my career as a defender, but two years ago it did turn out to be good timing both in terms of me personally and for the team," he said.

"When I first came to the club we had a good thing going with me up forward with Ben Saunders and some of the small forwards, but when Mason Shaw came back and the team was taking shape, the penny dropped for me and obviously Todd that we had a really tall forward-line but short back-line.

"I'm really glad that Todd was open to me to have a crack down there and was patient enough for me to learn the ropes. It was almost a reset button at that point of my career and it was a challenge I really enjoyed."

Pullman's immediate focus is on his six-week trip throughout Europe that he's taking on alone. It's something he is excited about and he's glad his employer the Australian Institute of Fitness granted the time off to do it.

While coaching is something he feels he could pursue at some point and he would be a natural at it, 2018 might be too soon for it.

"I'd like to have some time off and 2018 I've got earmarked as a year where I can try some different things, focus on other projects and my career. But coaching does interest me and it's something I would like to look at further on down the track," Pullman said.

"The common theme throughout my career is that I've really enjoyed that when I've established my spot turning around and helping the next guy up whether it's in my position or a young player in general. 

"Your career is broken up into three parts with the first part where you earn your spot on a regular basis. The second part is when individually you are seeing what you are capable of and what most people associate with being in your prime. 

"Then the last part of that is holding on to that as long as you can and you realise how important team success is. That happened to me and the last couple of years I've realised how great it is to develop the young guys around you. Coaching fits into that really well so it's something I could see myself doing in the medium to long-term, but not in my short-term future."