BEFORE every big game he plays, Western Australia defender and NAB AFL Draft hopeful Rhett Bazzo takes a moment to himself and thinks about the advice his late father, Steve, would have given him.  

Sometimes he'll use the moment to tape his wrist and write the initials 'SB' as a reminder about the man who taught him so much before losing his battle with cancer in 2015 when Rhett was aged 11. 

Now 18, the young defender dedicates his major football achievements to his father. They have included All-Australian selection at under-16 level, inclusion in the 2021 NAB AFL Academy, and a WAFL colts premiership this year with Swan Districts, where his dad was a life member.

They could also soon include selection in this year's NAB AFL Draft, with the 195cm defender shaping as a likely second-round pick after a strong second half of the season.

Rhett Bazzo speaks with a Geelong recruiter during the 2021 NAB AFL Western Australian Draft Combine on October 17, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

"Trying to make him proud is my number one goal," Bazzo told

"I've always got pictures of him in my room that I'll look at in the morning when I wake up and that just reminds me of him.

"Then at important times, before big games, I'll try and have a moment to myself and think about it and I'll say what he would say.  

 "I get myself pretty fired up before a game, so he's big for that. I just think about how he inspires me and go out there and try and play some good footy.  

"He's the one who taught me how to play."

Bazzo's earliest footy memories with his father and best mate are kicking the ball in the front yard, and Steve then became his first coach.  

Rhett Bazzo in action during a NAB AFL Academy training session on April 22, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

He didn't have a full appreciation as a youngster of his dad's WAFL career, which included 158 of his 230 senior games with Swan Districts, finishing his career at Peel Thunder in 2000 after a short stint with West Perth.

But he has since been able to learn more about the WA football champion through decades-long servants at Swans, like property manager Alan Hickling, and head trainer Paul McCarthy.  

"I was still just a kid walking around the club, so I didn't know too much about his career," he said.  

"But the older I got the more information I was told by a lot of the people at Swan Districts. There's a few people still there today who were there when he was there.

"It's really good to talk to the old crew there who tell me stories about him, which is amazing."

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Rhett says his mum, Kylie, and sister, Cameron, have done a power of work supporting his football ambitions and the trio are a tight family who do everything they can together.  

All of their hard work paid off halfway through this season when Bazzo, boarding and playing at Guildford Grammar and also representing both Swan Districts and Western Australia, found his groove.

Having played forward and struggled for confidence early in the year, the laidback and personable youngster moved into defence and had a standout under-19s game against South Australia, taking 10 marks and finishing with 18 disposals.  

"That was the turning point for my year, that first championship game," Bazzo said.  

"It was massive for me in terms of my confidence. I probably hadn't played a really good, consistent game of footy until that point of the year.  

"I was really stoked with that performance and it helped my year pan out from there. My confidence was high and I felt like I was playing a lot better than the start of the year, which was great."

WA's Rhett Bazzo (No.36) celebrates with teammates after Western Australia's victory over South Australia in 2021 NAB AFL U19 Championships at Lathlain Park. Picture: Supplied. Picture: Supplied

AFL clubs look at Bazzo now as a defender with significant upside, with his coaches this year grateful for his willingness to always play whatever role the team needs.

A smooth mover who can roll off his opponent to intercept mark, he can sometimes look laconic but has developed a reputation as an authoritative big-game player who can also lock down on an opponent.

Melbourne premiership star Jake Lever, Greater Western Sydney defender Sam Taylor and West Coast's Tom Barrass are three players Bazzo has tried to model his game on, while Hawthorn defender Denver Grainger-Barras has helped him develop.

A leader in the WA squad this year, he has returned to Mandurah, an hour south of Perth, since graduating from school and will now wait for his AFL chance with an excited mum and sister.  

"They like the ride as well, which is good, and they're just rapt for me whatever happens," Bazzo said.  

"It was really tough as a young fella, but my mum has done a really good job with me and my sister and I wouldn't be where I am without them."