There have been many well-credentialed former AFL players in the Canberra competition over the years, and if Josh Bruce makes a full recovery from a knee reconstruction, he will be right up there.
Thirty-one-year-old Josh is driven by a desire to play with his older brother Aaron at the Eastlake Football Club.
A former Eastlake junior, he is returning to the club having achieved plenty on the big stage, but he’s never played with Aaron in Eastlake colours.
Both Bruce brothers have contributed plenty to the game; Aaron has played 283 senior games for the Demons, and Josh retired from the AFL last season after 13 years, 163 games and 234 goals across three clubs in the AFL – GWS, St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs.
His AFL career came to an end after suffering a second serious knee injury in just over two years. This one occurred in Round 20 last season against GWS.
Josh, currently undergoing rehabilitation, has signed with Eastlake as an assistant playing coach and there’s hope he will return to the field in June next year.
Eastlake general manager of football Shaun Young said Josh will play a key role on and off the field next season.
“It’s exciting to have a player of his calibre with vast experience in the AFL coming into the Club.”
If it wasn’t for the second ACL injury, there’s a strong possibility that he would still be playing in the AFL next season.
In 2021, Josh was on fire. He kicked 10 goals for the Western Bulldogs against North Melbourne on Good Friday and his career was on the rise.
By Round 21, he had moved to second on the Coleman Medal tally for the leading goal kicker in the AFL before suffering his first ACL injury.
He only played five senior games in 2022 before suffering his second ACL in July this year.
As he returns home to Canberra with his own family, including a five-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy, he is determined to make an impact with the Demons.
“It would be a great way to finish my career to play with my brother. It’s something we’d both love to do. He’s been trying to coerce me back for a few years.”
The timing is perfect, with Aaron going around again and Josh returning from the AFL.
Shaun Young believes it could be a Cinderella story.
“Aaron is on 283 games. If he plays every game next season, his 300th would be on grand final day.”
Eastlake, it would appear, is determined to be in a position to win the flag with the signing of Jeremy Rowe and Angus Baker as co-coaches, with Baker also playing.
There will be a few coaches on the field when Josh makes his senior debut next season as he assumes the role of forwards coach.
While the expectation will be high in the Eastlake camp next season as Josh prepares to return from injury, it will probably pale compared to the anticipation within the Bruce family.