Bushie smooths out edges ahead of 100

As Robert Copeland laughs over the phone, it’s hard to believe his reputation as one of the NEAFL’s hard men.

A drill drowns out the sound of his voice early on as talks about a hectic work week, but he’s happy to chat, speaking with matter-of-factness about work and football ahead of his 100th game for Aspley.

He’s an old school footballer, with a deep, broad voice and a rugged look; it’s not hard to see how his “Bushie” moniker has stuck.

Working in the family business moving houses, others might find the load too hard, but it’s just another thing that Copeland takes in his stride.

“It’s not getting easier as I get older, but with my work I do a lot of heavy lifting and it helps me to recover after games,” he said.

“I can do stuff in the days after games, rather than doing and nothing and letting my body kind of seize up.”

Copeland was once such a polarising figure in the NEAFL competition, with equal amounts of respect and trepidation from opponents, keen to stamp his physicality on the game.

The last two seasons widen his perspective and move his focus to developing Aspley’s younger players.

It’s a role he talks about with affection, particularly in respect to the backline of which he is the general.

“It’s really good seeing the blokes like Josh Wagner, Reece Toye and even guys like Michael Hutchinson and the way they’ve developed as players over the last few years,” he said.

“I just tell them every week you play your role, do your job and it’ll help the team a hell of a lot.”

Copeland has passed on his own love for the game to his sons, Brock and Tex, a mission that seems to be proving relatively successful, taking Brock’s Under-nines team under his wing.

He says he’s a pretty easy going coach, glad to be a part of a new footy journey.

“It’s just about getting them out there and having a kick and creating a good little culture,” he says.

“We’ve kept our group together from last year and all the parents get involved as well.

“Tex carries a footy around 24/7 and they love footy and coming to footy.”

Aspley coach, John Blair said he has seen Copeland grow incredibly since joining the Hornets in 2013.

“His leadership has improved immensely,” Blair says.

“I know he’s enjoying his footy a lot more than he was 18 months ago.”

In his sixth season at Aspley, he will become the first player to reach the 100 game milestone for the Hornets on Saturday, but Copeland still has the same passion for the game as he did on day one.

“I have competitiveness in my blood,” he said.

“I love playing competitive sport and getting out there and playing.”

There will come a time when Copeland has to make the choice to sopt playing, but he’s not in any rush to decide his future now.

“It depends on my body, I’m not getting any younger,” he says.

“Obviously I want to keep playing, but there are things I’ll have to weigh up and you want to be able to step aside and let other players come through.

Copeland has captained Aspley in all of his 99 Hornets game, but is only now starting to gain the respect he deserves, Blair said.

“I’d like to think he’s changed in the last two years,” he said.

“Up until then he was considered by people as a bit hot-headed a bit and a bit loose with his self-discipline.

“He’s tightened that up and is a better person and a better leader and getting the respect that he should get.”

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