Reece Fuller’s enthusiasm for rugby and his determination to succeed is as clear as daylight.
The 23-year old is excited to be a part of the Melbourne Rising squad for 2019 after the talented scrum half impressed during the Melbourne Unicorns’ 2019 Dewar Shield triumph, including being judged best afield in the grand final.
While Fuller has etched his name into Victorian rugby history, his journey with the game began across the Tasman sea.
Growing up in Nelson, New Zealand, it didn’t take long for him to fall in love with the game, with rugby having a big impact on his childhood.
“In New Zealand, rugby was one of the main reasons to go to school,” Fuller said.
“It was where I got all my core friendships from, all the times training with them whether it was out on the paddock or it was in the gym, they are great memories to look back on.”
A promising junior player who made a name for himself in the Tasman Makos provincial side, it seemed the sky was the limit for the talented half back.
However 18 months ago, that enthusiasm and determination to further his rugby career looked impossible to achieve again.
As he started to move forward with his development, Fuller suffered a major injury, tearing a ligament in his ankle when he was 20-years old.
The injury caused Fuller to miss a considerable amount of rugby, and with other aspects of his life starting to be impacted because of it, a cousin of Fuller wanted him to stay at his place in Sydney as the young back finished his rehab.
It was an opportunity Fuller was looking forward to.
“I wasn’t doing much in New Zealand, I was getting involved with the wrong crowd and it wasn’t working out,” he said.
“I moved to Sydney in hope of just getting myself sorted, it was a great chance to try something new and different.”
But just as his injury seemed healed, disaster struck again for Fuller when he injured his other ankle while playing local rugby in Sydney.
It was a frustrating setback that caused the New Zealander to lose interest in the game and to rethink what he wanted to do.
“I gave up on rugby, I wasn’t motivated,” he said. “It was just tough, to have to keep finding your feet over and over again.
“I felt as if I overstayed my welcome (with his cousin). I couldn’t really help them financially at the time and I just wanted to get out of his way and try and move on with what I was doing."
Following six months of living in Sydney, two hometown friends of Fuller who lived in Melbourne had been hearing of the hard times he was going through and ultimately convinced him to start fresh again in Melbourne.
Fuller quickly saw the benefits of the move.
He found work, was recovering well and soon enough the Melbourne Unicorns’ (whose training ground was close to where he was staying) had gotten his attention.
Fuller quickly thought about returning to rugby again, and after speaking with Melbourne Head Coach Tumai Edwards, the Unicorns seemed like the perfect place to slowly start making his way back onto the rugby scene.
“Once I got a job and got back on my feet in Melbourne, I was still in two minds about whether to really give this (rugby) another go,” he said.
“It was either stay in Melbourne or go back home, but I didn’t really want to go back home because I felt that I hadn’t really achieved anything yet.
“So, I went ahead with the Unicorns.”
As he spent time with Melbourne, Fuller felt more at ease with his decision and he slowly got back to doing what he had loved for so long.
He owed most of his return to the Unicorns’ Backs Coach and former England international Will Green, who Fuller says played an integral role in his development and his confidence.
“Will was incredibly supportive of me, especially with the fact that I hadn’t played in a couple of years,” he said.
“We focused on just trying to get my instinct and my confidence back and Will really helped me trying to get through those aspects of my game.
“Even with my position, Will helped me learn about the important skills of a half back. It’s an easy position to overplay, so getting help with that was also fantastic.”
Fuller was instrumental to the Unicorn’s 2019 season as they finished top of the table and were well on track to win back-to-back Dewar Shields.
A week out from the grand final, Fuller was told that he had been selected for the 2019 Melbourne Rising squad.
For Fuller, it was then he knew that his decision to play rugby again was beginning to pay off.
“To hear that I had been given the chance to play for the Rising, I was stoked”, he said.
“I was quite proud that I gave rugby another shot and to be rewarded like this is a pretty good feeling to have.”
The news inspired him to lead his side to a fantastic grand final victory and claim best afield honours, capping off what had been an incredible few months for Fuller.
“It was fantastic to win, all the hard work through the season definitely payed off for us,” he said.
“To win that final and play a key role in the victory meant a lot to me.”
Fuller’s willingness to perform and be a part of a successful team remains strong and it is an attitude he hopes to keep implementing at the Rising.
“I think I’m just willing to do anything to win because I am motivated by winning,” he said.
“Individual accolades and scoring tries, none of that bothers me as much, but when we lose whether it’s a pre-season game or a final, I get a bit down about it.
“I want to help my teammates and try and win as much as possible.”
Rising Star - Reece Fuller, was written by La Trobe University student Nicholas Sacco