Josh Bruce says while announcing his retirement from AFL has invoked feelings of both sadness and relief, he is looking forward to the next chapter of his journey.
Arriving at the Kennel in 2020, a second ACL injury – following rib damage earlier this season – ultimately led Bruce to the decision to hang up the boots.
He said despite things not panning out in his favour this year, he walks away from his playing days content with his efforts and achievements across a 13-year career.
“There’s a massive tinge of sadness that the career has come to an end, especially in the circumstances that it has,” Bruce said.
“Obviously the last two or three years haven’t really panned out how I’ve envisioned them – especially since my first knee injury in 2021. I had some injuries this year with my sternum and my ribs as well, then to come back and do another (knee) has just been heartbreaking.
“It’s been a really tough couple of weeks, but by the same token have felt a little bit of relief that I don’t need to keep pushing myself to be at the upper echelon of the AFL.
“I can give myself a chance to heal.”
Bruce was initially drafted by GWS as an ACT zone selection, etching his name into history as an inaugural Giant, before being traded to St Kilda ahead of the 2014 season.
“It’s been a pretty crazy journey. I think it’s certainly a unique one – I’ve probably got better stories than most in the last decade,” he recalled.
“On and off the field it’s been a lot of fun – I’ve played my footy in a way that has been brutal on my body and it’s fast-paced so I’m really, really proud.
“I can put my head on the pillow each night knowing that I gave absolutely everything I had, especially out on the field.
“I’m sure my coaches and teammates would feel the same way.
“While I might not have had as much on-field success in terms of flags and finals as other people, I’ve certainly forged incredible relationships. At the end of the day, that’s what footy is about – the people that are involved in the game.”
Keen to stay in the footy landscape, Bruce is weighing up what his next chapter looks like.
“I was really looking forward to potentially playing on next year and even the year after that - I was still really enjoying my footy and still feel like I’ve really got a lot to contribute to this game, but my body has just let me down this time around,” he said.
“Perhaps my future is elsewhere in the game.
“Coaching is on the agenda. It’s something I am definitely interested in – the development of young players.
“There’s potentially some stuff in the media that I could do as well – I just need to work out what’s best for Pip and the kids, and make some decisions from there.”
Bruce finishes his career with 234 goals in 163 matches, across three different clubs.