AFL warrior Josh Bruce has done a lot in his playing career.
Turned out for three clubs, slotted more than 200 goals, close to registering 150 games and last year, during his first in Western Bulldogs’ colours, played a final.
Except play an AFL game back at Manuka Oval.
Eight opportunities have been missed – six games with Greater Western Sydney and two at St Kilda – for a Canberra homecoming.
That changes on Friday night (March 23) against GWS Giants for the former Eastlake junior, playing in front of family and friends.
One of them that will be missing is former St Kilda teammate Jack Steele, busy preparing for his own battle two nights later against Port Adelaide.
The Saints skipper was the man Bruce rang at the end of last season after the key forward battled for form, resulting in only 17 goals from 14 games despite a season-best haul of six goals early in 2020 against North Melbourne.
“At the end of last year, I had some really honest conversations with myself and people I trusted as I was pretty disappointed in the season I had last year,” Bruce told AFL.com.au.
“It was kind of a perfect storm of a lot of things that weren’t going well for me (in 2020), in my personal life and a lot of other things.”
The advice was the first step to turning around his form that included a career-best of 10 goals after again crossing paths with the hapless Kangaroos.
Soon after the phone call, the pair caught up again, but in their hometown, where they also were both originally drafted to the Giants.
Bruce would shed six kilograms over summer after running every single session with the 2020 All-Australian midfielder that finished equal third in the Brownlow Medal count.
When it was time to head back to Melbourne, the 28-year-old hired a personal trainer three times a week to “knuckle down on the extra fitness”.
The ex-Canberra Grammar student expects to be in top shape for the special occasion that has been on hold since 2012, the year after the Giants also started calling Manuka home.
“There’s no real secret in this game,” Bruce said.
“It all comes down to hard work.”