by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago
After a stellar career with the Melbourne Demons 1998-2010, Bruce was sidelined for most of 2011 due to a shoulder injury and later a knee injury. Now a back problem, which has been plaguing him for several months, has forced him to retire, with doctors telling him he could risk further damage if he continued to play. Since joining the Hawks, he managed just 10 games. Bruce, 32, will remain with the Hawks to assist with coaching and leadership duties this season. He is already considering a career as a development coach.
Bruce made his announcement on the Monday after the completion of Round 16. At the time he thanked the Demons, including former coach Neale Daniher, for giving him his AFL chance. He also acknowledged the support from his wife Julia, their children Holly and Benjamin, his parents, brother Rick and extended family. In addressing his Hawk teammates, he urged them to grab every opportunity. Having missed the 2000 Grand Final due to injury, he told them, "When you're up amongst the top, you've got to make the most of it." He went on to thank Hawthorn for making his transition from the Demons easy, saying he felt part of the club right away.
Hawthorn’s current Head of Coaching and Development Chris Fagan, who was with the Demons when Bruce was drafted, praised Bruce's professionalism. He told of how Bruce was stuck on Melbourne's supplementary list for two years, but determination, resilience and work ethic saw him finally get his chance. Fagan said it was those qualities which allowed Bruce to become such a great player.
Hawks Coach Alastair Clarkson congratulated Bruce on his time with the Demons and Hawks, saying Bruce could be proud of his career. He also acknowledged Bruce's professionalism and how he always strove to improve. Despite not being able to play, Clarkson praised Bruce's overall contribution to Hawthorn. Melbourne chief executive Cameron Schwab said Bruce had had an outstanding AFL career, describing his story of going from the supplementary list to senior player as a remarkable one. Schwab said of Bruce "He is highly respected and regarded and everyone at the ... club would like to congratulate Cameron on his career.”
Bruce played 234 games and kicked 211 goals as a utility who could play midfield, forward, defense and as a "shut-down" player. As well as missing out on Premiership glory, he also missed out on a chance for a Brownlow Medal. In 2005, he was a raging favorite until a hard bump from then Saint Brent Guerra (now a Hawk) wrecked his shoulder and season. Bruce joked that he calls the spot on his shoulder the "Gooey" (Guerra's nickname). He said he and Guerra have become good friends and that the jokes flew fast and thick at Hawthorn over the past two years. Bruce said he was sure the story would get better over time and that he will continue to remind Guerra that he cost him a Brownlow.
However Bruce's trophy cabinet is far from bare, with a Melbourne Best and Fairest in 2008. He was also the runner up in 2002 and 2006. From 2002, he finished in the top seven every year until his departure. He was a Rising Star nominee in 2000 and played in the International Rules series in 2002 and 2004, won by Australia in 2002. He was co-captain of the Demons in 2008, when forward David Neitz was forced to retire due to a neck injury. He also served as vice-captain to James McDonald in 2009.
In reflecting on his career, Bruce said a Premiership would have been nice but that he was lucky to have the career he did. Nor does have any regrets about not being a one-club player. He believes the switch from Melbourne to the Hawks will only help him advance his coaching career as it had given him the experience of how another club does things.
Source: Leah Mirabella, Hawthorn Media Release; Ryan Larkin, Melbourne Media Release, afl.com.au, Encyclopedia of League Footballers, AFL Record Season Guide
Article last changed on Monday, July 23, 2012 - 2:16 AM EDT