There were plenty of positives on either side of the equation as the Breusts pondered the decision just months after signing a new two-year deal at Hawthorn.
They had enough support north of the border to make it work, and the lifestyle was attractive. Breust’s senior teammates wanted him to stay but would not have begrudged him embracing a challenge similar to the one former colleagues had taken up with other clubs.
In the end it came down to the Breusts, and their decision – after giving the idea as much consideration as was possible in the time available – was to stay.
“It was less than 48 hours to go so [it was] a pretty hectic period. Trying to make significant life decisions in that amount of time is always hard,” Breust said.
“There were a few ticks [for the Giants] but there were other sides to the argument that were pulling heavier than what the positives were.”
The next time Breust bumped into Mitchell, the coach gave him a big grin and preparations for 2022 began.
“For him to get on the front foot and be open and honest with me … as hard as the 40 hours were over the next couple of days, it was still made easier because we were able to be honest. If I had any issues I could call him straight away and that was a massive positive looking back on it,” Breust said.
“At the end of the day I was happy to stay here and put some work into these young guys. We have some exciting young guys here. Whether I am part of the next success, who knows, but if I leave and then there is a little bit of success afterwards then that is what I will be most proud of.”
After even a quick look at Breust’s CV it’s obvious why the Giants wanted him. Apart from the three flags, he has kicked at least 30 goals as a small forward in 10 of his past 11 seasons, twice being named All-Australian, and finishing as the Hawks’ leading goalkicker three times – including in 2021. Having played rugby league growing up, he can tackle and fend off like someone holding a Steeden, rather than a Sherrin.
It’s why his presence at Hawthorn will be invaluable for players such as Dylan Moore and Josh Morris, with Mitchell recognising that and putting Breust to good use.
Last Monday Breust took the meeting before training, with the small forward appreciating the opportunities the coaches are creating for the senior players to have their input. The controversial transition from Alastair Clarkson to Mitchell as senior coach has also invigorated him as he moves into his 14th season with the club.
“I could finish Clarko’s sentences nearly in the last couple of years, whereas now … there are meetings where I will sit there and my little wheels are spinning knowing, or not knowing but just wondering, what is he thinking, what does he want in this situation, what is he going to expect from the group?” Breust said of Mitchell.
“Going into your 14th year, you need something that is going to be a little trigger for you to be able to get back that competitive edge.”
Having recovered from his late-season knee injury, the quick-footed, efficient and popular Hawk is enlivened by the uncertainty of what lies ahead for him on and off the field as he continues his brilliant career in his usual understated manner – away from the limelight, away from controversy, and ready to do what the team needs.
He knows from his Temora upbringing, and his time at the Hawks, that good seasons come and go, but the need for hard work stays the same. And he sees plenty to work with at Waverley.
“I am most excited about our younger brigade,” he said. “The first-year crop has been very impressive.″
Breust endorsed the decision to make Ben McEvoy Hawks skipper again in 2022, which the club announced on Thursday, saying the senior players wanted someone to emerge as his natural successor.
“I could not recommend ‘Big Boy’ [McEvoy] more. The way he carried himself last year [showed] he has got all the attributes to be a really good captain,” Breust said.
“He is so courageous, puts his body on the line, and if he sees something he says something. I, personally, think he did an outstanding job last year under difficult conditions.
“If someone jumps through this year, or next year, or the coming years and grabs it by the scruff of the neck, that is awesome, that is what we want.”
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