Geelong’s Wylie Buzza carries one of the most unique names in the AFL, so it was fitting his debut came in a frantic situation.
After all, the 21-year-old had only 15 minutes to prepare for his first game at the top level.
Heading into the Cats’ Round 15 clash with the Giants, Buzza was listed as an emergency and traveled to Spotless Stadium with the team.
What followed was a combination of dreams and nerves as the reality of the situation was thrust upon the youngster.
“Before the game, Dan Menzel came back in from the last team warm-up and said ‘congratulations mate, you’re in because I’m out’,” Buzza told Aflplayers.com.au.
“Chris Scott wasn’t far behind him and said ‘anywhere, anytime, play your role, we have great confidence in you’.
“It all happened pretty quickly. Initially there was a bit of shock, but a lot of excitement.”
The next two hours were enthralling, with the Giants and and the Cats contesting one of the games of the season.
Eventually, Tom Hawkins’ post-siren behind would draw the match after 120 minutes of high pressure football between two teams who may find themselves squaring off again at the pointy end of the season.
While it was exciting to compete at the top level, Buzza admitted that he initially struggled to pick up the pace of the game.
“It was definitely a shock to the system, it was a quicker game,” the former junior rugby league player said.
“I spoke to some of the senior players and they said towards the back end of the game, when it did get tight, it built into a finals-like intensity and I was definitely feeling the effects of that.
“It wasn’t the easiest game to come in for but I felt like I held my own and it has given me great confidence.”
Saturday night was a special one for the Geelong Football Club, with three youngsters making their debut for the Cats.
Zac Guthrie and Sam Simpson joined Buzza as first-gamers, and although the match didn’t end the way they had hoped, it’s a moment Buzza won’t forget any time soon.
“I’m really close with Sam Simpson and Zac Guthrie so it was pretty special we got to share that moment,” Buzza explained.
“I’m sure, as most clubs do, we have an academy program so a lot of us first-to-third year players do a lot of things together.
“In recent years, we’ve got a lot of numbers from the draft so there’s a few younger fellas running around. We are almost a team within a team.
“We see a lot of each other and always want to push each other to get better and we’re all striving to get that chance at AFL level together.”
While Buzza is set to remember the game for the rest of his life, there is one moment which stands out above all others, his first goal.
It came midway through the second quarter, from outside 50, and with the team leading by the smallest of margins.
“That was an unbelievable experience and quite hard to explain,” Buzza added.
“Andrew Mackie is one of the better blokes at our footy club, he is just so supportive of everyone. I’ve got a good bond with him and for him to hit me up on the lead and be right behind me when I kicked the goal was a special moment.”
But while it was a night full of joy for Buzza, there was just one thing missing from the occasion.
Most debuts are planned in advance and provide the opportunity for an individual’s support network to be in attendance, but that wasn’t the case for the Queensland native.
“Unfortunately, the only negative of the night was I didn’t get to have my girlfriend or any of the family there. By the time I found out, I couldn’t even let them know.
“Some found out by the club giving them a call and some found out by just watching the game.”
Luckily for Buzza and his family, Geelong are on the road once again this week. A trip to the Gabba to take on the Brisbane Lions presents a chance for the former Mt Gravatt teenager to strut his stuff in front of his biggest supporters.
“My family doesn’t live too far from Brisbane so they will be able to make the game. It’s just a matter of whether I get another chance or not,” he said.
“A lot of those people have put in a lot of hard yards for me to make this happen so it would be nice for them to be able to come and watch me.”
Saturday night’s clash will mark a return to the state where it all started – a place where a difficult journey began.
“I was probably a bit behind the eight ball when I first started and I’m still working my way to try and catch up,” Buzza recalls.
“A lot of credit has to go to the academies, the Brisbane Lions Academy and the state academies, they have been a lot of help for me.
“If I was somewhere else I probably wouldn’t have got the chance that I did because they give more chances to us being raw and not as good footballers, they backed us in with other areas.”
Having now taken to an AFL field for the first time in an official capacity, Buzza isn’t ready to relinquish a spot in the team.
He’s looking to the future and is focusing on producing a consistent output, knowing full well that’s how he’ll become successful.
“I’ve got a few goals really and one of those is to be playing consistent football.
“That would be one of the hardest things to do, consistently play well.”