Josh Bruce had every right to be preparing for a grand final this weekend but instead of kicking up a stink, the injured Bulldog is knuckling down.
While his teammates are working hard to prepare for the AFL grand final this weekend, injured Bulldogs forward Josh Bruce is digging deep in another way.
Bruce, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury in round 21, was left behind in Melbourne as his teammates travelled to four different states as part of the AFL finals series.
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The 29-year-old has spent the time away from the playing group working with other members of the Western Bulldogs team, and on Monday, he pitched in to help organise and pack fans’ online merchandise orders.
Bulldogs CEO Ameet Bains took to Twitter to applaud Bruce’s efforts.
“True character manifests in many ways,” Bains tweeted.
“Rather than wallow in self-pity at being the only current Western Bulldogs player not in Perth, Josh Bruce has instead been helping our staff fulfil the mountain of online merchandise orders we’ve gratefully received.”
Bruce had been enjoying a stellar season prior to his injury and looked certain to add to his one finals appearance come September. He’d appeared in every game of the Bulldogs’ 2021 campaign up to round 21 and was sitting equal-second in the Coleman Medal race when the cruellest of injuries struck him down.
His recovery period will likely stretch into next season.
“We’re devastated for him and will do everything we can to support him through this period,” Bulldogs head of sports medicine Chris Bell said at the time.
Despite sitting inside the AFL’s top four for the majority of the year, the Bulldogs finished in fifth place on the ladder, courtesy of an inauspicious form slump during the final weeks of the regular season.
That slump now seems a distant memory, though. As they did in 2016, the Bulldogs have ambushed their top-four rivals this finals series and snuck into the decider without the aid of the coveted double chance.
Through it all, Bruce has been on the Dogs’ minds — the side facetimed him from the rooms after the preliminary final demolition of Port Adelaide earlier this month.
Late last week, Bruce renewed calls for the AFL to take reassess its criteria for awarding premiership medals.
As it stands, only players from the winning team who take the field on grand final day are awarded medals. Given he was the Bulldogs’ leading goalscorer this year and played a large part in the side’s run to the finals, Bruce suggested he might have done enough to earn a medal, should the Bulldogs win the flag.
“Perhaps we should go to the NFL or the NBA model and everyone gets a ring, everyone gets a medal. That’d be good,” he said on 7 News.
“There’s going to be some unlucky players, that happens every single year.”
For the Bulldogs, Laitham Vandermeer, Jason Johannisen and Zaine Cordy could all find themselves as one of those “unlucky” few, while James Jordon, Joel Smith and Jayden Hunt are all a chance to miss out for Melbourne.
Like Bruce, Demons veteran Nathan Jones is currently in Melbourne, having left Perth for the birth of his twins.