CAMERON Bruce announced himself as a serious AFL player with his two match-defining goals in the upset win over Carlton in the 2000 qualifying final.

Those two majors, coming amid the Demons' seven-goal avalanche to sink the Blues at the MCG, remain perhaps the most memorable moments of a decorated 234-game career.

Melbourne's Cameron Bruce celebrates a goal against Carlton in the 2000 qualifying final at the MCG. Picture: AFL Photos

But for many Demon diehards, his three-game patch that came five years later remains one of the club's biggest 'what-if' moments of this century.

During the first three rounds of the 2005 season, Bruce racked up eight Brownlow votes – two, three and three – as a still-smarting Melbourne set about making amends for its disappointing elimination final loss to Essendon in 2004.

However, a brutal tackle from St Kilda's Brent Guerra injured Bruce's shoulder early in round four, ruling him out for a month and halting his early-season momentum. He remained a star player, and even matched his 'eight votes in three games' stat the following year, but his impact thereafter never quite hit the heights of that 2005 early-season supernova.

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Bruce takes the AFL by storm before Guerra cruncher, 2005

Midfielder Cameron Bruce sets the standard to open Melbourne's season

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Bruce began in relatively understated fashion in the Dees' season-opener again the Bombers on a balmy Saturday night at the 'G, racking up 21 touches and seven clearances to play second fiddle to a barnstorming Brent Moloney on his Melbourne debut.

His display against the Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium the following week was on another level entirely. The 25-year-old had 24 disposals and five goals, including three in the opening quarter, as the Demons dismantled the Dogs by half-time in a high-scoring clash.

With the wind in his sails, Bruce backed up the next week with another 30 disposals and three goals against Geelong on the big stage of Friday night footy to stamp himself as perhaps the most influential player to that stage of the season.

The Dees had almost 50 fewer disposals, two fewer scoring shots and the same number of inside 50s as the Cats, but won by 50 points.  

Melbourne's Cameron Bruce launches a kick against Geelong in round three, 2005. Picture: AFL Photos

Bruce entered the next game as Brownlow Medal favourite after his hat-trick of heroics, but the Saints were determined not to suffer the same fate as the Dogs or Cats.

Enter Guerra, who lined up Bruce in the opening minute, driving him into the turf with a brutal tackle and prematurely ending his day.

Melbourne's Cameron Bruce is tackled by St Kilda's Brent Guerra in the opening minutes of round four, 2005. Picture: AFL Photos

Bruce made it back in a month and was still a valuable player but the momentum was gone. The Demons faded out again in the second half of the season, suffering a dispiriting 55-point loss to Geelong in the elimination final.

He remained a key part of Melbourne's side in that era, winning a best and fairest in 2008 under new coach Dean Bailey, and finished his career in 2012 with 10 games in two seasons at Hawthorn as the Demons sought ill-fated renewal.

Bruce never quite reaped the rewards that his on-field feats often promised but the red and blue faithful will always remember the brief, brilliant weeks when he was the best player in the competition.

When Cam Bruce went mad

Round Opponent K M H D G B Brownlow votes
1 Essendon 10 3 11 21 0 0 2
2 W.Bulldogs 16 8 8 24 5 2 3
3 Geelong 16 7 14 30 3 1 3