NSW/ACT Player of the Week: Luke Breust

By Alison Zell

Temora’s Luke Breust notched up his 50th game milestone this year, and the Hawks star has quickly established himself as one of the best Riverina products in the game.

“It’s a tiny little town but a good area to grow up in, a fair but of talent has come out of the Riverina so I got to play against some good talent from Wagga and Albury growing up,” he said.

Like many Riverina kids, Breust played the two dominant footy codes growing up, before deciding that AFL was for him.

“I played Rugby League on a Saturday and Aussie Rules on a Sunday and it probably wasn’t until Under-15s or 16s that I started getting opportunities in AFL and decided that would probably where I would get the most opportunities and have any chance of making it to the top level,” he said.

“From there I started making NSW development squads and then played a little bit with the Sydney Swans reserves before getting to my draft age and being picked up by Hawthorn.”

Before being drafted at the age of 18, Bresut played with many current stars of the game as a member of the NSW/ACT Rams side that took out the Division 2 title at the NAB AFL Under-18 National Championships in 2008.

“Craig Bird was my captain and I played with Taylor Walker, Dean Terlich and guys like that,” he said.

“My top-age year I only played a few games before I broke my leg but played with Mitch Clisby and others who all went on to lists but unfortunately aren’t still there now.”

Breust played with the Swans reserves as a top-up in their 2008 Premiership win but hadn’t spoken to any AFL clubs in the lead up to the National Draft.

“I hadn’t really had any contact with Hawthorn leading up to the draft or even the rookie draft but then it was probably a week before the rookie draft and I got a phone call and they wanted me to come down and train for a week,” Breust said.

“So I came to Melbourne and trained for a week. I went home on the Friday and I had until the Tuesday to wait until the rookie draft so it was a bit of a nervous wait but luckily I went pick 47.”

Walking into the Hawthorn Football Club after their Premiership win in 2008, Breust was overawed by the environment he had landed in.

“It was initially probably a pretty big shock,” he said.

“You walk into the club and guys like Sam Mitchell, Luke Hodge, Lance Franklin and that are walking around and obviously pretty intimidating but they’re a great bunch of guys and they welcomed me pretty well and you soon get settled in.”

When Breust arrived at the club, he was one of two New South Welshman at Hawthorn. Now the Hawks boast five players from NSW on their list, the most of any club outside the Swans and GIANTS.

“When I first got to the club Matty Suckling was there, I’d never really met him before but just having someone who could relate to where you’re from and talk about growing up and sort of know what you’re talking about,” he said.

“Isaac Smith came a little bit later, and guys like Taylor Duryea and Will Langford who are a year younger than me but I played with Taylor growing up as well.

“It’s good to have guys around the club that I know and have played footy with growing up as well.”

Though he is at home in the brown and gold now, it was a big move from the country town of Temora to one of the biggest football clubs in Victoria.

“I moved in with a host family which helped a lot settling into Melbourne,” he said.

“The transition was reasonably smooth, I had a little bit of homesickness early on but that passed and got through those first couple of year before making my debut in my third year.”

It was a tough road to the AFL for the rookie-listed player. Keenly aware that many rookies never get a shot at a senior game, Breust knew he would have to make his opportunity count.

“It used to get to around July and you’d start thinking, ‘Am I going to be here next year’ but I was lucky enough to get told pretty early that I had a second year and even in my second year I got told around August I’d be right for my third year on the rookie list,” he said.

Heading in to his third pre-season at the club, Breust was yet to make his senior debut, but it wouldn’t be long before he finally got his chance – one he hasn’t let go.

After debuting as the substitute in Round 8 of the 2011 season, he played his first five games as the sub, finishing with 16 games for the year.

Since then, he missed just one game last season and has played every game this year to become one of the Hawks’ most dangerous and damaging players.

“You come in and you are happy to get a game early on,” Bresut said.

“I was more just making the most of my opportunity and then after that you sort of realise that you do start playing a pretty valuable role for the side and you want to continue to do that each week.”

As the Hawks prepare to face the Swans on Friday night at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, Breust knows it will be a tough contest between the two top-four sides.

“We have to be on our guard,” he said.

“I think it’s probably going to be a dress rehearsal of the following week more than likely so it will be a weird feeling that we probably are going to play them again, but it just gives us a chance to see what works against them and what doesn’t and refine our game for the following week.”

Breust has now established himself as a regular member of one of the League’s top teams and one of the most talented small forwards in the game, but he hasn’t forgotten his roots in southern NSW, where he has seen the game grow exponentially in the last few years.

“I try to get home a couple of times a year, during the off-season I’m home a fair bit but during the season it makes it a bit harder,” he said.

“In Temora I’ve noticed the number of Auskick kids that they’re getting – in my first couple of years they only had 20 or 30 kids turn up and last year they had close to 70 or 80 kids running around.

“It’s definitely getting stronger and a lot of guys are playing both Rugby League and AFL on weekends and benefitting from that.”