by Matt Fotia
It’s been a wild 18 months or so for young Wandin starlet Patrick Bruzzese. The roller-coaster we call life has taken him through the ups of on-field success and downs of off-field troubles. Last Friday was the biggest of highs for the dashing wingman, as his beloved Dogs won their eighth senior flag.
Bruzzese, a Wandin junior since 2010, was a part of the Eastern Ranges TAC Cup squad for the 2017 season. He made his debut in late March of 2017, kicking two goals against the Calder Cannons. His last game in the TAC Cup saw him collect nine disposals, kick one goal and lay eight tackles against the Sandringham Dragons.
Bruzzese’s 2017 kept on getting better. He made his debut for the Wandin senior side against Gembrook Cockatoo on the 15th of July and was named in Wandin’s best on that occasion.
He went on to represent the Wandin senior side on six more occasions throughout the 2017 season and was named in their best a further four times.
Heading into the off-season ready to build on his massive 2017, Bruzzese was hit by a common foe for young athletes, injury.
Bruzzese’s right AC joint was torn completely and this affected his pre-season massively.
After multiple tough conversations with Eastern Ranges, the two decided to part ways once it was deciphered that Bruzzese needed surgery on his troublesome right shoulder.
Wandin senior coach Nick Rutley was straight on the phone, telling Bruzzese his spot in the Wandin side would still be there, despite an interrupted pre-season.
“I spoke to Ruts(post shoulder surgery) and he said he’d put me straight into the ones even though I wouldn’t be allowed back on the track until late March,”
“It was fair to say I was a bit rusty in the first practice match, but I managed to find form by about round three.”
The 18 year old most certainly had found form. He was selected for the AFL Yarra Ranges senior interleague team who took on the SEFNL.
The Yarra Ranges went down by 36 points, but Bruzzese was named the Yarra Ranges best, ahead of household names such as Olinda Ferny Creek’s Marcus Hottes and Woori Yallock’s Robbie Allen.
“Interleague was a great experience playing with so many great players from our competition, and trying to gel together to match a very high calibre footy team,”
“It was pretty surreal.”
The representative accolades kept coming for the skilful ball user. He was selected in the Victorian Country Under 19 side, to be coached by ex Saint Kilda Full Back and Richmond Coach Danny Frawley.
Bruzzese and his country teammates went down to the VAFA in the clash out at MARS stadium in Ballarat, but the experience was invaluable.
Whilst his on-field performances were going from strength to strength, Bruzzese was having numerous off-field struggles. Like any 18 year old things can often get too much, but football always kept him steady.
“I’ve had a rough year, but footy has kept me sane and kept me going,”
“You go to footy training and the boys just get around and you don’t think about anything else.”
Bruzzese is extremely lucky to have some experienced and well rounded figures there to help him along his journey. Not only is his coach involved in professional footballing circles, but players such as Robbie Ross have achieved so much in local circles.
“As soon as I came into the senior group Robbie put me under his wing and has acted like a big brother for me,”
“The Byrnes boys (Harrison and Jackson) have also helped me a lot, it’s(playing at Wandin) just like playing with a bunch of your brothers.”
Bruzzese has now won a senior premiership with his pseudo brothers. The teenager came off late in the first quarter with a corked shoulder, but grew into the game and was one of Wandin’s better players, named second best for the Dogs behind his ‘big brother’ Ross, who was awarded the medal for best on ground.
Whilst 2018 has been an indifferent year for the Wandin local, it has given him a belief that he can push on with his promising football career. There are strong rumours that Coburg Head Coach Leigh Adams wants to bring him to the VFL side for 2019.
As hard as it will be for him to seperate himself from the club he loves, he would do anything to play at the highest level.
“I love Wandin, the club is very close to me, they’ve moved a lot of stuff around to help me be successful and I owe a lot to them,”
“I would do anything to play at the highest level, but I’ve just got to take it one day at a time and keep enjoying it.”