Rovers & junior footy figure Jo Starling to run Great Northern league’s operations as “new Harry Taylor”

Headshot of Reuben Carder
Reuben CarderGeraldton Guardian
Jo Starling.
Camera IconJo Starling. Credit: Reuben Carder/Geraldton Guardian

It was always going to be hard to replace a two-time AFL premiership player, but there could be few people better equipped for the job than Jo Starling.

The well-known and respected junior and senior footy figure replacing Harry Taylor as the Great Northern Football League operations manager has more than 20 years experience in the game, and said the most important thing people should know about her dream job was that she will always be there for the community.

“I’m available if anyone wants to have a chat,” Starling said.

“If they think I need to know something, let me know.

“I’m looking forward to working with the GNFL board and the clubs.”

Starling said she would “absolutely” have an open-door policy — aiming to continue improvements in club culture targeted by Taylor as key to retaining players and developing the sport.

Starting out in football in 1999, Starling has been a trainer ever since and worked with Rovers products Liam Ryan, Jack Martin and Judd McVee, all now in the AFL.

She has held various positions with Rovers and the Great Northern’s junior league, and played in half-time feature games in the 2000s, the very early days of local women’s footy — but says at 57 she is watching her knees now.

Made redundant from an admin position in 2021, Starling said she put in an inquiry to Taylor — who has gone back east to take up a back-office role with Geelong where he played four AFL grand finals — when she heard he was leaving.

She said nerves only kicked in when she was told it would be her task to take over where Taylor left off.

“Those are big shoes to fill,” Starling said.

“I’ve often over the years thought I would like to do this job, but the timing was never right.

“It is a dream job.”

She said she had done “every sport in Geraldton” and had a good understanding of how clubs work.

GNFL president Colin Cox said he thought the footy community would welcome Starling to her role as the “new Harry”.

“Everyone knows Jo, and everyone trusts her,” he said.

“She’s been around footy her whole life”.

Cox said one challenge the league would face immediately was COVID-19 protocols.

“All clubs are hospitality venues and serve meals and drinks from a licensed area,” he said.

He said that meant proof of vaccination rules were likely to apply, although more guidance from the footy commission would be coming before the season started.

Starling and the GNFL can be contacted at 0437 039 133 or gnfl@sportshouse.net.au.

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