SHAYNE Breuer has described his football career, which included playing in two AFL grand finals, as simply very lucky.
“I got a lot of opportunities that others who were probably better footballers than me didn’t get,” he said.
“I was probably in the right place at the right time.
“I was pretty spoiled with the chances to play at all the levels including the top one.”
His football journey started with the Westside Junior Football Club in Horsham’s under-13 and under-16 competition.
He said he just wanted to do what all of his mates were doing at the weekend – so he got involved.
“I was lucky enough to play under some fantastic coaches – John Carr, Pete McFarlane, Pete Bird and a few others who really taught us the basics of the game,” he said.
“The kids in those teams had great skills because they taught the basics really well.”
He once again found himself following his mates when he ended up playing for Kalkee in the Horsham District league. There he made his senior debut at the age of 15 in 1987.
“I learned to run really fast in order to get out of the way because I got that opportunity so young,” he said.
“Darren Patterson and Greg Wickes were coaching there at that stage and I can remember my first game was at Taylors Lake.
“I got some touches which was good but then I had some injuries early on.”
He said it was not until 1989 that he played his first solid season of football. During the 1991 season he was lured across to play for Minyip in the Wimmera league on permit.
“Former Collingwood player Ronnie Wearmouth had come back to the region and was coaching Minyip,” he said.
“He’d watched a fair bit of Kalkee in the previous season and asked me if I wanted to come over halfway through 1991.
“I was very lucky to be part of such a fantastic side with the likes of John Hotker, Shane McGrath and Louie Drum – it was such good list.”
The side ended up claiming the first of three consecutive senior flags that season with Breuer a part of the side.
Wearmouth’s connection to Woodville-West Torren’s coach Neil Balme saw Breuer invited to do pre-season with the South Australian National Football League club along with Shane Thompson.
“The club came over to see me during the Christmas break,” he said.
“I had been going to university in Melbourne for a year but I hadn’t really enjoying that so I took the opportunity.”
To say his first season at the club was difficult would be an understatement.
“I broke a hand in my first game for the club,” he said.
“After a few weeks off, I broke my arm in my third game back while playing reserves. I then had eight weeks off and came back a few weeks before finals.
“I then played some reserves to work back into the seniors the game before finals and I manged to kick four goals to be picked in the best.
“The following Monday at university I broke my other arm and that wiped out my season.”
At that point he said he was tempted to give the game away.
“I did hardly any pre-season the following year at Woodville but I rocked up to one of their internal practice matches and they talked me into having a run,” he said.
“I was enjoying football again at that point so I played some pre-season games and we ended up winning that competition against Port Adelaide.
“The following week I rocked up to training and everyone was coming up to congratulate me but I didn’t know why.
“It turns out Geelong had just drafted me in the pre-season draft but I didn’t even know about it.”
The following week I rocked up to training and everyone was coming up to congratulate me but I didn’t know why. It turns out Geelong had just drafted me in the pre-season draft but I didn’t even know about it.Shayne Breuer
He stayed at Woodville for the 1993 season and was part of the club’s SANFL premiership side. The following year he was playing alongside the likes of Gary Ablett Snr, Billy Brownless and Gary Hocking.
“Malcolm Blight showed some faith in me and said he’d give me a go and persevere with me,” Breuer said.
“I was very lucky because there were other guys who got drafted at the same time who didn’t get that opportunity.”
He missed just one game in his first season and said in his first few games he was almost watching the game be played around him.
After finishing the season in fourth he was part of the Cats’ remarkable run to the grand final.
“We beat Footscray when Bill Brownless kicked a goal after the siren in the first final,” he said.
“Then it was a good win against Carlton out at Waverley Park in the second week after three guys had pulled out the night before the game.
“It then took a kick after the siren from Ablett to get us into the grand final.
“Those three or four weeks were amazing because there was so many people that would just turn up to watch training. It didn’t end well when we got spanked in the grand final.”
The side made it to the grand final again the following year when it was comfortably beaten by Carlton.
“To get there again and to play disappointingly again was really hard to take,” he said.
At Geelong it had been if you want to get better you need to get better yourself where at Port Adelaide we were all just dragging each other along.Shayne Breuer
After playing 50 games in his first two seasons Breuer was disappointed to miss the opening rounds of the 1996 season.
It was at that point he was approached by the fledgling Port Adelaide who were due to enter the competition the following season.
“I was pretty peed off at that stage because I couldn't see my way back into the side so I said yep – but then I didn’t really think about it,” he said.
At the end of the season, Port Adelaide approached him again, but he had decided he wanted to stay with the Cats after earning his place back in the side.
Talks between the clubs continued nonetheless and Breuer was traded while on holiday in Bali.
“I’d really enjoyed my time in Geelong but in the end I decided to go to Port and ultimately I think it was one of the best decisions I’d made,” he said.
“On the ground we might have only played in finals once in my three years at the club but the actual guys were amazing.
“They had been brought in from everywhere and there was a real want from the club for everyone to get better as a team.
“At Geelong it had been if you want to get better you need to get better yourself where at Port Adelaide we were all just dragging each other along.”
Breuer famously kicked the club’s first goal at AFL level but said it didn’t occur, at the time, what he had done.
“I think Collingwood had already kicked eight goals or something before that,” he said.
“More than anything it was probably relief we were on the board.
“It’s a trivial thing that gets brought up all the time and I would have loved it to have been three bounces down the wing but in reality it was a cheap one was a bit of helicopter goal.”
Breuer hung up the boots following the 1999 season having playing 54 games in three seasons.
He didn’t put them on again until he was the playing coach of Kalkee in 2006.