AFTER a couple of head knocks in 2017, Travis Bussell was unsure about returning to football at the start of last season.
He had a discussion with Robinvale Euston coach Andrew Richardson about taking the year off.
“I wasn’t too interested at that stage, because of those head knocks,” Bussell said.
“Richo was really good with that, he understood where I was coming from.
“He just said, ‘look, if you’re not 100 per cent in it, it’s best not to be in it at all’, so we were on a similar page there and decided to have a bit of a break.”
As last year progressed and the Eagles were hit by injuries, Bussell decided to ease back into things by playing reserves and was ultimately called up for four senior games.
This year, however, Bussell is all in.
The 24-year-old made a flying start to the season with clean use of the ball out of defence in Saturday’s 62-point win over Red Cliffs at John James Oval.
Bussell, like his Eagles teammates, committed to Richardson’s intense training plan over the summer and was feeling the rewards of that hard work.
“Whether it was running or in the gym, us boys really stepped it up this year ... in terms of what we were doing away from the club prior to pre-season,” he said.
“So we hit the track this year, in my opinion, fitter than we’ve ever been.”
The Eagles’ back six was a highlight of the weekend’s win. Bussell said despite relative inexperience, being able to turn to leaders Jakob Gareffa and Justin Neyland helped the defensive unit immensely.
“We’re just playing for one another and we’re willing to back each other 110 per cent, so if we can continue to do that, I don’t see any reason why we can’t be the best defensive six in the league for the whole year,” he said.
Richardson said Bussell was “like a new recruit” this season and the defender had one of the standout pre-seasons at the club.
The Eagles this week will again be out to defend their home turf against a well-regarded opponent when Ouyen United visit in a Good Friday special.
Bussell said the Kangas, coming off a round 1 loss to Irymple, couldn’t be taken lightly regardless of the situation.
But there was a positive mood around the club after last week’s performance, along with a strong desire to continue to make John James Oval a fortress.
As the round 1 Holcroft Lawyers Footballer of the Week, Bussell receives $125 from Holcroft Lawyers, 143 Langtree Avenue, Mildura.
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