Raised in a farming family at Gooroc in the Victorian Mallee, Brad Hoye encountered endless pain and frustration in his football journey until finding some kind of nirvana at Norwood.
Brad played his first game of senior football for St Arnaud at the age of 13 after encouragement from McAuley College phys-ed teacher Frank Scarce, a lifelong friend of ill-fated Crows coach Phil Walsh.
In 1982, at 14, Brad was listed by Richmond and took part in its development program. In 1984 he was sent to St Patrick’s College in Ballarat for two years. It was St Kilda’s recruiting zone. Richmond refused to clear him but finally allowed him to play some preseason games for St Kilda in 1986. He impressed coach Graeme Gellie, who told him he would be making his senior debut as soon as a clearance from Richmond was sorted out, probably in round two. But St Kilda was bankrupt and in no position to bargain. There was no clearance.
Barely 18, Brad embarked on three years at university and playing country football. At the end of the 1989 season he was thrown a lifeline out of the blue by Essendon coach Kevin Sheedy. Brad played in all 1990 preseason games as rover, half-back, half-forward and centre. Again he was set for his senior debut when the ALF ruled that his permit games with St Kilda did not qualify him for the internal preseason draft. He would have to wait for the end-of-season draft.
Sheedy suggested he play out the season in South Australia. Brad reluctantly agreed but was a late starter with West Adelaide in 1990 because of concussion issues. Diagnosed as being “clinically punch drunk”, he spent two months in a darkened room while the brain swelling subsided. “I had a couple of really good seasons,” says Greg of his time at West,” but near the end of 1991 I tore my groin off the bone and then fractured my pelvis in an on-field collision.”
Resuming at centre with the reserves in 1992, he kicked 39 goals in seven games – six goals a game in six consecutive games - but in the last, against Norwood, he fractured a shin. That ended his stint at West, where he was never comfortable. He was approached by Glen Rosser and after talking with him and Wally Miller, jumped at the chance to join Norwood. West refused a clearance “but the wonderful Wally Miller made them look absolutely ridiculous and dishonest at the appeal and then West lost $28,000 of the $30,000 clearance fee money for being deceitful”.
Brad broke down after his first three games with Norwood in 1993. It was found that he had a spinal fracture. After reconstructive surgery, he spent two years in rehab and was on the brink of returning to the senior team when his spinal cord flared up again.
Coach Neil Craig was “unbelievably supportive” and employed him to scout on opposition teams. When Craig left Norwood, Brad became a recruiter for Geelong and saw it win three premierships. “I sent many players to Glen (Rosser) to recruit for Norwood too,” he says, “so that allowed me to keep my Norwood relationship alive.”
Brad has had heart surgery, prostate cancer and more recently a serious accident which has left him semi-paralysed in the upper back, arms and legs. He is sustained by his wife - “the beautiful Cam Fithall, farm girl from up home” - his two sons and two daughters. He maintains his interest in and membership of the Norwood Football Club.
P. Robins August 2021
* We thank Brad for sharing his football story, which appears here in condensed form.