THERE would have been few draft hopefuls more keen to play this year than Tanner Bruhn.
After breaking onto the scene two years ago, when he made his debut for the Geelong Falcons, the classy midfielder was struck by a six-month knee injury last year.
It ruined his season, saw him play only a handful of games and miss featuring for Vic Country at the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships.
But after a follow-up knee operation that would have seen him sidelined for the opening weeks of the season, the COVID-19 shutdown has allowed Bruhn to get on top of things.
"It was pretty minor but I wasn't looking likely to be ready for round one or two, so this period has helped me catch up and not miss too much at all," Bruhn told AFL.com.au.
"It's allowed me to get my body right so that when the time does come around I'll be more than ready to go. As much as it's been bad not being able to play and see all the boys, it's been not too bad for me to get myself right.
"I've been training every second day doing full sessions so I'm back at 100 per cent now."
Bruhn hopes it is the end of a run of troubles for him which started in January last year, when at a Vic Country training session he hurt his knee.
Scans showed an ongoing condition that needed surgery, with initial hopes he would miss 12 weeks. But his time on the sidelines doubled, returning late in the season.
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After some further irritation over summer, it was revealed one of the dissolvable pins placed in Bruhn's knee was still floating.
The secondary surgery was minor, but the suspension of the NAB League season days before it begun due to the coronavirus outbreak has made for some frustrations since recapturing his fitness.
"I had set myself up to hopefully start the year well and hopefully have another healthy 2020. With the clean out it was pretty annoying and disappointing at the time because I just wanted a full year," the 17-year-old said.
"Looking back on it, that initial three or four weeks I was set to miss makes it really look minor now. It really means nothing."
Bruhn, who shapes as a possible first-round pick in 2020, had set his sights on a strong season.
The poised 182cm midfielder has shown his ability to win the ball at ground level and also be a threat around goal, having booted three goals in his two Falcons appearances last year.
The driven Bruhn said it had been difficult to stop thinking about the draft implications of the COVID-19 forced pause of the season, with uncertainty around when – and if – draftees could next take the field.
"Initially, probably at the start of the year I thought about the draft quite a bit most days. It floats in and out and you start thinking about it and it's always there at the back of your mind," he said.
"When I had that period when I was injured and couldn't play, it definitely played on my mind a bit but with everything now it's just like what will happen, will happen.
"Hopefully I can get back out there as soon as we can and play some good footy."
Bruhn made an impression when he trained with Geelong as part of his NAB AFL Academy program at the end of last year.
He watched Cats superstar Patrick Dangerfield closely during sessions, with Dangerfield keeping an eye on the teenager's progress.
"He was good, he actually gave me a bit of a shout out in front of the group," Bruhn said.
"After a drill once of the coaches brought all of the boys in and he just said 'Well done to Tanner, killing it mate'. I was like 'He didn't just say my name did he?' I couldn't really believe it."