Where are they now? Stephen Sells

by Ron Head

When Geelong West midfielder Stephen Sells was the recipient of a phone call in late 1983 from someone purporting to be Haydn Bunton, newly appointed coach of Western Australian club Subiaco and a legendary figure in football, he dismissed it as a crank call. It was only when the great man turned up on his doorstep that he realised it was for real, and the wheels were set in motion for three memorable seasons at the Lions. 

The son of club legend Ron Sells, who won a record four Norm Allen Medals as fairest and best in the Geelong Districts Football League and seven club fairest and best awards during two hundred and four games, Stephen was a six foot wingman who was to make his mark on the WAFL competition.

The recruitment of Sells was a well planned operation.

Former star player Don Carter was instrumental in obtaining a video of him in action, and made sure that it was studied by the club hierarchy. His evasive skills, goalkicking ability, marking, discipline, focus on the ball, and coolness were noted with much interest.

The result was the phone call and visit by the new coach. 

Initially finding the pace hectic and heat oppressive, Sells started slowly, making his debut against Claremont in round four of the 1984 season in a game the Tigers won easily. Playing on a wing, he soon found form, and, in a year Subiaco just missed the four, won the club's best first year player award and shared WAFL Rookie of the Year honours with West Perth's Paul Mifka and Derek Kickett.

Runners up to a strong East Fremantle combination in 1985, the move of Sells to a half forward flank the following season was an inspirational one. Leading his side's goalkicking with seventy four majors, he was third in the Bernie Naylor Medal, just six behind winner Mick Rea, of Perth. It was a great year for the Lions, who lost just four games all year, and followed their Fosters Cup win over Carlton with a demolition of East Fremantle by sixty nine points in the grand final.

At the end of 1986, football in WA was in a fractious state, with the West Coast Eagles about to enter the VFL competition, and local clubs about to undergo player losses as recruitment for the new franchise was under way. The twenty five year old Sells, mentioned among names bandied around as Eagle targets, had been approached regularly by Geelong during the 1986 season to join them in 1987. My wife, a Geelong girl, was pregnant, we weighed things up, and decided to take the offer from the Cats, bearing in mind my age and the lack of any real approach from West Coast, he told Footygoss.

Things went awry for Stephen right at the onset of the 1987 season when,selected in the Geelong side, he broke a leg a few days before the game. His recovery too late to force his way back into the side, Sells played the finals series with the reserves.  After doing a full pre season at Geelong and accompanying the side to a camp at Cairns in 1988, he decided to accept an offer from the strong Werribee side in the VFA, where he won both the Association and club fairest and best awards. 

In five years at Werribee, Sells won the goalkicking award four times.

At the age of twenty nine, suffering from persistent hamstring problems, Stephen coached Newcomb in the Ballerine League, before finishing his career where it started, St Peters, the club his Dad coached and represented with distinction.

He has since been involved with junior football for fourteen years, and coached for ten, named coach of the year in 2009 for his work with the under sixteens. 

The Sells trilogy continues with Stephen's son, Joshua.

Twenty two year old Josh Sells has played sixty senior games with Geelong West, is an onballer who can play forward or back, and is set to follow in his father's footsteps at Subiaco in 2011. Now finding himself at home in senior ranks and emerging as a club leader, Josh represented the Geelong Football League in an interleague carnival in 2008. He has a raking left foot and pace to burn, pin-point accuracy by foot and a great work ethic. (Sounds like someone else we know). 

Another boy, Luke, is with Geelong Falcons.

These days, Stephen Sells is a partner with Impact Chapman Welsh Insurance Services. He plays social golf (not enough), and some tennis, and enjoys travelling with wife, Lisa. 

Regarding South Fremantle players Benny Vigona and Warren Mosconi along with Claremont's Geoff Miles, who he later played with at Geelong, as hard players to beat, Sells rated Subiaco team mates Dwayne Lamb, Laurie Keene, Warren Dean, and Mark Zanotti as best he'd played with.

I had the best three years of my life at Subiaco, he told us. Bunton was an unbelievable coach, he got the best out of his players. I still hold dear many friendships from those days, we still keep in touch. Subiaco people were fantastic, there are nothing but good memories.

One memory Stephen Sells doesn't enjoy was his second last possession in the 1985 grand final.I still have nightmares about that, he admits. In the final hectic moments of the last quarter, down by two goals, I got around Colin Waterson for an easy shot at goal from close in, with just David Rankin between myself and the goal. I thought: Do I take him on or shoot for goal? I had a shot and it sailed through the point posts.

Right on the final siren, Sells gathered once again and kicked into the waiting arms of Phil Scott, who kicked truly, but Subiaco were five points short.

Stephen Sells made a big impression on the Subiaco Football Club and it's supporters in his three years in maroon and gold. If young Josh turns out half as good they will be in raptures.

From the Geelong West-St Peters Sports Club website:
One of St Peters greatest exports, Stephen Sells kick started his senior career early when taking part in the 1980 senior premiership at just 16 years of age. The younger Sells possessed many of his legendary father’s traits; courage, elusiveness and a fine reader of the play. He was also a consistent and big-time goalkicker. Able to grab a game by the scruff of its neck and slot majors when required. He could kick the freakish goal as well as that which was much needed. His aerial skills like those close to ground were mercurial whilst his ability to find space was second to none. He achieved on a higher stage as well, if not better than any St Peters’ player before him. Having a short stint at Geelong U/19s, Geelong West’s VFA side, a decorated career at Subiaco including a senior WAFL premiership, a year on Geelong’s VFL list and finally five years at VFA powerhouse Werribee, where he added the exclamation point on a fine individual career by winning the Field Medal for the Div 2 league Best & Fairest. Upon return to Geelong, he finished his playing days out at Geelong West-St Peters as playing coach.
One of the Saints finest.


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