Tuck’s ‘bloody hard’ life in dad’s shadow
If bloodlines meant anything in footy, Shane Tuck was born for greatness.
His father, Michael, was the AFL's greatest ever winner, playing in a record 302 victories and seven premierships.
His mother, Fay, was an Ablett. Enough said.
As Michael's first born son, Shane was never going to escape the spotlight.
His first game in Hawthorn's colours (he wore his dad's no. 17) came in front of 35,000 fans. He was 10 years old.
As the Hawks unfurled the 1991 premiership flag at Waverley Park young Shane lined up in the ruck in the Little League. His dad had played the last of his then-record 426 games a few months earlier and it was the first time Hawthorn had kicked off a season without a Tuck in its line-up since 1971.
But in the wiry youngster a replacement looked close at hand - even if his mother was already trying to temper expectation.
"We will let him do what he likes," Fay told the Herald Sun. "He's quite a shy boy like Michael and we don't see any point in pushing him into anything too early."
But he loved footy, playing alongside cousin Ryan Ablett (son of Hawks player Geoff) at Beaconsfield in Melbourne's outer southeastern suburbs and then the Dandenong Stingrays.
The Hawks gave him a game in their reserves in his draft year and there was talk of a father-son draft selection.
But like his dad he was a late developer and with the Hawks unfamiliarly languishing near the bottom of the AFL ladder they couldn't afford to be doing favours for former greats. Shane and Ryan were put on the rookie list.
"There is a lot of pressure, often very unfair, on these kids because their father's played league football," then Hawks football manager John Hook said.
"We try to keep it as low profile for them as we can because it's bloody hard on them, all the expectations and all of that.''
Tuck's attempt to forge his own path at Hawthorn was hampered from the start.
Two months in he was diagnosed with a career-threatening heart problem. He'd been experiencing breathing problems and dizziness for two years but put it down to anxiety.
But tests revealed his heart rate was hitting 270 beats per minute during strenuous exercise.
Surgery successfully corrected the problem but it wasn't Tuck's only visit to the medical staff during his two-year stint with the Hawks and after failing to make an impact the long blonde ponytail wearing 20-year-old was cut.
It was a brutal blow and Tuck admitted following in his father's footsteps had got the better of him.
"I struggled with it," he told the Herald Sun in 2009. "As a kid you don't really think straight sometimes. I let things like that affect me too much.
"When I had my time away from Hawthorn I became proud to be his son rather than let it become a burden."
To release the pressure Tuck stepped all the way back to the Mornington Peninsula Nepean Football League in 2002 where he played for Carrum Downs. They won just one game and were belted by 15 goals most weeks.
But with his days spent laying bricks and working as a courier and his nights having a beer with mates after training, life was simple. And Tuck rediscovered his love for the game.
After one season he accepted an offer by Adelaide Crows premiership hero Shaun Rehn to join him in the SANFL with West Adelaide.
It took just 12 months for his life to completely change. He starred for a Bloods team that made it to the grand final, met his future wife Katherine and was drafted by Richmond.
Suddenly the AFL career that had seemed lost was back on.
He played reserves for most of the 2004 season but became a regular the following year and finished third in the Tigers' best and fairest in 2005.
Unlike his father he wasn't fortunate enough to find a club in a winning generation and it wasn't until his final game that he played in a final, which Richmond lost to Carlton in 2013.
But he became a favourite with the Tiger faithful for his fearless approach to the contest, willingness to play injured and friendly nature to any supporter that approached him for a chat around the club.
He was one of the bridges from Richmond's dark period to its emergence as a powerhouse in recent years and while he didn't break any records, his tally of 173 senior games puts him in the top 10 per cent of all AFL players.
He later found premiership success too with the Goodwood Saints in South Australia's amateur ranks.
Back to back division one premierships in 2014 and 2015, including a best and fairest and best-on-ground in a grand final, were a rewarding finish to a career of a footy warrior.
Tuck caught the boxing bug in his post-AFL days, showing heart to keep fighting after suffering a devastating knockout in his first bout on an Anthony Mundine undercard in Melbourne.
But he hung up the gloves in 2017 and had escaped the limelight that followed him most of his life when reports emerged on Monday he had been found dead at age 38.
He is survived by wife Kat and children Will and Ava.
Rest easy now champion.
Originally published as Tuck's 'bloody hard' life in dad's shadow