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Swan Songs - with Max Kruse

Jim Main  July 17, 2012 2:31 PM

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In Jim Main's series, 'Swan Songs', on great players from the past, this week he talks to former Swans key position player, Max Kruse...

Max Kruse
Born: October 29, 1958
Played: 1979-85
Games: 88
Goals: 32
Number: 34

Although Max Kruse has been intensely loyal to the Swans from the time he pulled on a red and white guernsey in 1979, he grew up barracking for - shock, horror - Collingwood.

“I’m now almost ashamed to admit this,” he said. “But my Dad barracked for Carlton so I probably just wanted to get up his nose by going for the Magpies.”

Kruse grew up in the southern NSW town of Leeton, where his father - also named Max - had coached the local side before retiring as a player at the ripe old age of 49.

“Dad was a top ruckman in the VFA with Prahran and then coached Leeton from 1957 and that’s where I spent all my formative years,” Kruse said.

Leeton at that time was part of South Melbourne’s country zoning area and the young Kruse found himself tied to the Swans.

He moved to the Lake Oval in 1979 when just 19 years of age and made his senior debut in a match against Fitzroy at the Lake Oval in round 13 that year.

The youngster lined up at centre half-forward and was pitted against star Lion defender Chris Smith in a tough and demanding initiation.

From there, Kruse alternated between centre half-forward and centre half-back.

“I preferred the defensive position,” he admitted. “But playing forward gave you opportunities to put scoreboard pressure on the opposition.”

In whatever position he played, Kruse never gave less than 100 per cent commitment and was renowned for his big-hearted contributions, especially after the Swans relocated to Sydney in 1982.

He was ferociously loyal to club and teammates and this once landed him in hot water after one of the most controversial affairs in football history.

In 1983, Swan pair Silvio Foschini and Paul Morwood crossed to St Kilda without clearances and a couple of weeks later the Swans and Saints clashed at the SCG.

The media predicted that the ill-feeling between the two clubs was so volatile that the match was sure to be a bloodbath.

In reality, there was just one incident, and it involved Kruse, but only because he went to the defence of one of his Swan mates.

He explained: “Players from both sides knew there would be dire consequences if there was any trouble, but two St Kilda brothers (Daryl and Geoff Cunningham) seemed intent on giving Tony Morwood a hard time.

“I went to Tony’s assistance, only for St Kilda’s Carl Ditterich to run straight at me. The world took a different shape as I saw Ditterich bearing down on me and we got involved in a bit of a dust-up.

“I got reported and I think it might have been the only time in Carl’s career that he was on the other end of a Tribunal hearing. I was found guilty, but escaped with a reprimand.”

Although Kruse was mainly injury-free in his first years with the Swans, he pulled a thigh muscle during the 1985 season and had to return to action through the reserves. Although he was among the best players in each match, he had to wait several weeks to break into the senior side.

“My contract was up at the end of the season anyway, so I decided to concentrate on my business career,” he recalled. “I was working in car rental with Budget and, would you believe, as I was mulling things over I was offered the position of sales manager in South Australia.”

Kruse accepted this offer and spent four years combining business with playing with SANFL club Glenelg. In fact, he played in four consecutive Grand Finals, including the 1989 premiership.

He then played only a handful of suburban games before devoting himself entirely to his business career.

Kruse now is General Manager with Queensland Rail Travel and keenly follows the Swans’ fortunes with wife Amanda, son Tyson (23) and daughters Tahnee (21), Charlie (six in December) and Madison (four).

“We’re all red and white through and through,” he insisted. “And wasn’t it great to see the boys play so well in that win over West Coast? The Swan loyalist then added: “Let’s hope they can keep it up right to the end of September.”