Life was just a little different for Wylie Buzza last night as he sat down in his loungeroom and watched Geelong play West Coast in Perth on television.
It’s not something the former Gatton boy hasn’t done often since he joined the Cats via the 2015 AFL National Draft, but never before would he have had an old song from the English rock band ‘The Struts’ playing over and over again in his head.
‘Could Have Been Me’ was quite possibly on his mind as he watched the Cats beaten by the Eagles.
Why? Because for the first time in his young career the 21-year-old 198cm forward/ruckman was named as a Geelong emergency.
After a rich vein of good form in the VFL Buzza was very much in the selection mix as Cats coach Chris Scott chewed over a replacement for suspended full forward Tom Hawkins.
In the end he went with the more experienced Rhys Stanley over the untried Buzza, and was more than vindicated when Stanley kicked three goals and had 13 possessions and 19 hit-outs sharing the ruck with Queenslander Zac Smith (14 disposals, 33 hitouts).
But Buzza can be rightfully pleased that after being taken as something of a draft smoky he has won a big fan in coach Scott.
If he followed the Geelong website he would have seen a glowing endorsement of him by the man who matters most.
“We’re really, really impressed with Wylie Buzza’s application and performance at VFL level — both as a ruckman and a key forward,” Scott said recently.
“It can be really hard to break into the team when you play those positions, because obviously there’s only a couple of spots in the team.
“But he’s doing everything right at the moment and there is some possibility that a chance will open up for him at AFL level in the next month or two.”
Scott confirmed on Wednesday prior to selection that Buzza remained in the consideration.
“He (Buzza) is putting together a nice body of work at a VFL level, and we’ve certainly been talking about him over the last month or so, so if he keeps up that footy, we’re confident that an opportunity will open up”.
It didn’t quite open up this week, but his first-time inclusion as an emergency after a genuine selection debate says the club sees him as part of the future.
Out of contract at the end of the season, he will certainly be given an extension and if he continues to do as he has done in 18 months at the Cattery his time will come.
And given that he didn’t switch from rugby league to AFL until age 15 that is a significant achievement already for the likeable big man, who went at selection #69 in the same draft as Brisbane pair Eric Hipwood (14) and Ben Keays (24), and North Melbourne’s Corey Wagner (43).
The four were teammates in the Brisbane Lions Academy, and although he had originally indicated a preference to play at Brisbane or the Gold Coast Buzza couldn’t be happier at Geelong.
“I love the atmosphere here … it’s a bit like a big country town. That suits me. And the club has been absolutely fantastic,” he said.
Buzza has learned plenty in his short time at Geelong, including a lesson that pink boots at training probably aren’t appropriate for a newcomer.
The change in footwear was made at the instruction of the club podiatrist, who put him into something better suited to his feet, but it could just have easily come from the senior players at a club where you earn your stripes.
Yet still Buzza, who admitted when he was drafted that originally he’d only taken up AFL to skip a day of school, is often referred to as “a cult figure” among fans and the local media at Geelong.
The combination of his catchy name, his unique background and his trendy hair, together with an ever-affable personality, has made a local favorite.
The former Lockyer Valley Demo will be much happier, however, when his football earns similar recognition.
In the meantime he’ll go back to the VFL again this weekend under coach Shane O’Bree and try to maintain the form that has thrust him into the spotlight this week.
The Buzza emergency selection was the Queensland highlight of selection for Round 13 of the Toyota AFL premiership, which is the last of the bye rounds.
Nick Riewoldt will return for St.Kilda against North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium Friday night after two games out with a bad knee, but Tom Hickey had to be content with a spot among the emergencies again.
So, too, did North ruckman Braydon Preuss after coach Brad Scott opted to give out-of-form veteran Todd Goldstein another crack at finding his best.
The same fate possibly awaits Melbourne ruckman Jake Spencer foe the fifth time this season.
Spencer, one week back from an injury lay-off, was included in the Demons’ 25-man squad for Sunday’s clash with the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium after they opted to give first-choice ruckman Max Gawn another week to recover from hamstring surgery.
But coach Simon Goodwin’s preference has been to go without a specialist ruckman lately, and with Cam Pedersen named as first ruck Spencer is likely to play in the VFL.
Josh Wagner, too, missed selection at Melbourne despite a best afield performance in the VFL last weekend.
Sydney pair Kurt Tippett and Aliir Aliir also missed senior selection and instead will play for the Swans Reserves against Aspley on Saturday.
Liam Dawson was named as an emergency for the Lions’ Saturday afternoon clash with Port Adelaide in Adelaide after coach Chris Fagan stuck with the same side that upset Fremantle last weekend.
Rory Thompson will fill the same role for the Gold Coast ahead of their Metricon clash with Carlton Saturday night after Rodney Eade, too, went unchanged after the Suns’ shock win over Hawthorn.
By Peter Blucher.