You couldn’t wipe the smile off Berwick superstar Travis Tuck’s face in the aftermath of a clinical grand final victory on Saturday.
The 31-year-old Berwick junior came to the club this season with a great deal of expectation – after 20 AFL games with Hawthorn, a successful stint with West Adelaide in the SANFL, and possessing a remarkable football pedigree as the son of AFL legend Michael Tuck and nephew of Gary Ablett senior – there was a certain anticipation whenever the midfield bull took to the field.
And on the big stage – where champions always rise to a level that can’t be matched – Tuck delivered. He crashed the packs, and was an indestructible force in a day of arctic conditions.
Putting on an absolute masterclass in the wet conditions, Tuck lit up Edwin Flack Reserve with his brilliance in the midfield, surging out of packs with incredible composure on numerous occasions and pushing forward to kick a goal.
Speaking to the Gazette after picking up the AFL Victoria best afield medal, Tuck praised the culture of the mighty Wickers after claiming a third premiership in four years.
“They’ve (the club) done a lot for me personally, and I’ve just enjoyed being here so much this year,” he said.
“It’s a great place down at Berwick, especially for the younger blokes coming through as well.
“Footy clubs, mate, they’re special joints, and it’s great to see the smiles on the faces on everyone involved.
“It’s a special feeling, that’s for sure.”
While Tuck admits he’s humbled to have been adjudged the best on ground in the 51-point victory, earning his place as a Berwick premiership player with his mates is the one thing that matters – to him, the two hours of brilliant Wickers football is a testament to the hard work of all the players, coaches, support staff, committee and fans.
“It was a big week – I was a bit nervy the night before, it wasn’t easy to sleep and all that sort of stuff, but there’s 22 blokes that take the field on the day, and I just managed to get on the end of a few things which helped,” he said.
“The family was here to support me, and like I said, it was just such a big day for our football club – it’s the second time in the history of the club that we’ve gone back to back, so there was a hell of a lot on the line for us as a playing group and as a club, and the boys brought it today, it was so good to be part of.
“It feels really awesome, mate – it’s a really special feeling for the boys, and I probably feel some relief to be honest, I wanted this really bad all year for the club.”
While Tuck wasn’t around for the 2017 glory – where the club went through the entire season undefeated – he said that the belief of the group meant they were always going to overcome a slow start and build into the year.
“I come from Adelaide, and obviously the boys were undefeated last year, and premiership winners,” he said.
“It’s a long year, a really long year, and I think we were the hunted all year, Narre Warren set the benchmark early, and teams went after us.
“You just work harder, and we managed to play the good footy at the right time of the year and we managed to keep our momentum going as the year went on.
“But we knew as a playing group, as soon as finals came, we could see the light at the end of the tunnel, and all the hard work paid off in the end.”
Tuck’s best afield honour was met with a great deal of support from the passionate Berwick supporters, and he could have kicked an absolute bag to add to his completely dominant performance.
“I think I kicked 1.4, and the one I got through was right, tucked up on the boundary,” he said with a chuckle.
“It was just one of those days, windy as anything and raining, and it was a bit like that across the board.
“We missed some shots, and could have probably put them away earlier, but we got the result, so I’m so happy for the football club.”
Turn to pages 2, 3 and 4 for more on Berwick’s remarkable day, and pages 10 and 11 for all of the netball action.