Senior player: 1992–2003

Guernsey number: 35

Height: 184 cm

Playing weight: 89 kg

Senior games: 170

Goals: 11

Finals: 11 (1992 qualifying final and semi-final, 1994 qualifying final and semi-final, 1997 qualifying final and preliminary final, 1998 qualifying final and preliminary final, 1999 qualifying final and semi-final, 2000 elimination final)

Night games: 9

Night goals: 2

Recruited from: St Albans

Steven Kretiuk was born at Sunshine Hospital in 1972 and was raised in St Albans. As a child, he was always involved in physical activities – athletics, or playing cricket, football, or another game he and his friends made up at school (to the disapproval of the teachers) called ‘No rules Gaelic’. It was a game using a soccer ball and goals – with no rules! Steve says it toughened him up and taught him to keep his head over the ball at an early age.

He started playing for St Albans Under-9s at eight years of age and played there through to the Under-17s, when his side went through the whole season undefeated and won the premiership. Steve’s whole family was involved at St Albans and his father Ted (‘Crusher’) was an icon at the club for many years.

The nickname ‘Flower’ was given to Steve when he was playing Under-9s at St Albans and he thinks it was because the team wore Melbourne jumpers and he had Robbie Flower’s number 2 for a couple of games.

Steve was invited to try out for Footscray Under-19s after the St Albans Under-17s grand final win. He had a good pre-season, made the squad, didn’t manage to play the first game of the season but worked his way into the Under-19 team the following week. When playing for the Footscray Under-19s, Steve had just started his carpentry apprenticeship so he was up at 5:00am every morning. Then, at the end of a long day, he would be at football training at 6:00pm.

Late in 1990, his second year with the Under-19s, Steve was asked to play in a reserves’ final and was excited to have the opportunity to play with people he had watched play in the senior team. He says this was the time when he knew that, if he worked hard and committed himself, he had an opportunity to play senior football.

After the 1991 season, in which Steve had a consistent year playing reserves, he worked hard over the pre-season and got himself in great shape for 1992. Terry Wheeler, the senior coach at that time, had an enormous influence on Steve, motivating him and all the players to the point they were ready to run through a brick wall for the team.

After a good start to the 1992 year, playing reserves and being an emergency for the seniors for a few weeks, Steve was told by Terry Wheeler that he would be playing his first senior AFL game the following weekend against Fitzroy. Steve says that his overwhelming joy and excitement on hearing those words was only surpassed by the excitement he felt driving home, in anticipation of telling his family the great news. With all their struggles and commitments over the years to allow him to do something he loved, Steve felt this was their moment too.

Being only 183 cm, Steve had played as a flanker or wingman over the course of his early career, with his endurance assisting him in these roles. But, there was a sign of things to come in his second senior game, against Geelong at Kardinia Park, when he had started on the wing but was rolled back onto Gary Ablett Snr, because the Bulldog full-back had an injury concern. ‘You’re kidding aren’t you?’ was Steve’s reaction when he received the instruction. As he ran back to pick Ablett up, Steve could hear the section of the crowd behind the goals, where the St Albans players who had come to watch him were, screaming out, ‘Flower! Flower, just touch him! Touch Gazza!’ When he walked over and put his arm across Ablett’s body, there was an almighty roar from them in the crowd behind the goals.

Steve played in an era where some of the all-time greats of the AFL were in their prime: Jason Dunstall [Hawthorn], Gary Ablett [Geelong], Wayne Carey [North Melbourne], Nathan Buckley [Collingwood], Robert Harvey [St Kilda] and Michael Voss [Brisbane], to name a few. He played against all of them at some time and relishes the memories of those battles – win or lose.

Because he was a hard man on the field, people are often surprised to find Steve is a very different person off the field. He admits he is competitive but says he hasn’t got a violent bone in his body. He just had the mindset that, every time he stepped over the white line, he did whatever the team needed him to do.

Away from football, Steve is a personal trainer. He loves helping people achieve their health and fitness goals while keeping the post-football weight off himself. His number one love, though, is coaching and he has been a coach for the last 12 years. He started at the Werribee Football Club for four years under Simon Atkins and then found himself the head coach at the Western Jets from 2008 to 2012. By that time he had completed his Level 2 and Level 3 high performance coaching accreditation. In 2013 he assisted the Brisbane Lion’s as a Melbourne-based opposition analyst before being appointed the senior coach at Hoppers Crossing (2014 to the current day).

Steve feels fortunate to have played 170 games at the Bulldogs over 15 years and is extremely proud to be a Bulldog Life Member and to have been a one-club player. Opposition clubs may have tried to entice him to leave the Dogs, but his decision to stay was never difficult. The times Steve had with the Bulldogs, to him, are priceless. He is also grateful to have played with some of the true greats in the club’s history and to have made some lifelong friends along the way.