Brett Zorzi: Zorza the Great

http://www.redlegsmuseum.com.au/ON_FIELD/PLAYERS/ZORZI__Brett.aspx

Brett Zorzi played over 100 games for Norwood in the SANFL competition and Northern Bullants in the VFL. He was more than qualified to analyze and compare the two. Brett found the VFL to be full of young guys trying to be picked up by an AFL club – it was a quick but an individual competition whereas the SANFL was older and more physical with more passion from the fans and clubs and overall a far higher standard.

I admit those of us involved club-wise and within the SANFL gain some satisfaction from Brett’s thoughts, but back to the beginning. Brett played for the Northern Knights for two years, winning a flag in 1996. Unfortunately Brett was seriously injured which caused him to miss Teal Cup selection for Victoria in his second year of eligibility which hurt his chances of being drafted considerably. Brett played for Northern Bullants including him being a top-up player for Carlton’s Reserves (playing one game in Justin Madden’s jumper which went past his knees) and Melbourne Reserves ironically sitting on the pine with a player returning from a broken sternum (yes, the Norwood faithful have guessed Nathan Bassett) and then for Melbourne Reserves in eight games in ’99.

Zorza also played practice games for Collingwood and trained with Essendon. As with everything, Brett had a fair dinkum crack (yet again clubs looking for the perfect athlete not the bloody footballer). Brett had considerable personal success with Northern Bullants winning the Best and Fairest in 2000, 2001 and 2004 and making the VFL team of the year in 2004. He also played in the victorious Victorian VFL side as a pacy wingman.

Brett didn’t enjoy a lot of team success overall at Northern Bullants and looking for a fresh challenge. He decided to come SA and to the Parade in 2005 through his friendship with Andrew Hill, with Garry McIntosh playing a part and being recruited by David Wark and the late Ian Stasinowsky. Brett played mainly full back in the beginning and battled manfully, being under sized and the ball unfortunately spending way too much time in the opposition forward line in these times the legs generally struggled.

Dale Lewis and Trevor Hill were his first two coaches at Norwood with easily the biggest highlight being an elimination final win in 2008 against Port Adelaide when Tex Walker kicked seven and James Gallagher dominated in the midfield. Brett showed his meticulous preparation keeping a spreadsheet of goals kicked on him and planning how to stand each full forward. During this dark era Central District’s Daniel Havelberg kicked 14 goals against Norwood in a game. Mind you, the Redlegs side in general put up as much fight as the English tail and made it virtually impossible for a full back. Zorza adds: “hey Rulebook, he only kicked eight on me.

In 2009, current Redlegs Coach then in the caretaker role Jarrod Cotton moved Brett in to the midfield resulting in his first Best and Fairest at the club. In 2010, Nathan Bassett was welcomed to the club as coach and introduced an AFL game style re. the press. Especially this took a while for everyone to adapt and we lost our first four games but then away the legs went. We obliterated Glenelg in the qualifying final and then, in the preliminary final against the Eagles, Zorza kicked a clutch goal from 55 metres out followed by the delightful sight of Nick Duigan sneaking down from the back pocket to kick the goal to put us in front and hang on.

In the Grand Final against Centrals we didn’t have much luck with Simon Phillips being belted and Tim Weatherald hitting the post in the last couple of minutes (Weathers, I reckon Katie and Lucy are old enough now to be taught the meaning of ‘bloody useless goal post’ which I had them saying Grand Final night). Brett had a fantastic year, being pipped at the post by Nick Lower re. the Best and Fairest and tieing with Nick in the Advertiser Player of the Year.

In 2011 ankle surgery in February stalled Brett’s year and in the end a disappointing third place. In 2012 there was a steely determination and ruthlessness to end the 15 year drought, which dutifully occurred with a comfortable win against West Adelaide in the Grand Final. Brett had a great year as acting captain (Kieran McGuiness having done his ACL early in the season) winning the Best and Fairest and delivering well and truly when it counted.

(a must watch; Gags very funny and Zorza’s voice – pure gold)

 

Zorza embraces club stalwart Craig ‘Fester’ Paech after the 2012 Grand Final

 

In 2013 Brett hurt his knee and missed five games. Later in the season he hurt his knee again – in the rooms he thought his career was over. The physio checked it out and suggested to strap his knee. Brett returned to the ground and, hey presto, the knee seemed to actually be better than before it was injured in the first place. Fast forward to Grand Final day and, geez, did Zorza come to play! He lead by voice and example with his one per centers a highlight. One I remember vividly: when North Adelaide were coming in the third quarter, Brett single handedly forcing a ball-up against three Rooster opponents. Winning the Jack Oatey Medal at the age of 34 in his last SANFL game – an incredible achievement!

A job well done – Zorzi literally hangs up the boots along with his 2013 premiership and Jack Oatey medals

 

Brett has the same passion in his profession re teaching and is extremely highly regarded around the traps and there may well have been competition behind the scenes in the Modbury area for his services while in SA. Since leaving Norwood, he has played with Bryce Campbell’s side Corowa-Rutherglen (Ovens and Murray Football League), Euroa (Goulburn Valley FL), and Montmorency (Northern Football League, Melbourne) enjoying his time at each club and positively influencing each club.

Brett’s own words:

For me, and I can talk on behalf of many of the players that James Gallagher was instrumental in making sure players were prepared, players knew the history of the club, players bought into the culture, players gave everything to the club. He was the glue to our club for so many years. Being one of his right hand men, you got to see how much time and effort put in to the club.

He was the most influential player without him knowing. He was so worried about others that on two separate occasions he took his warm-up jacket off at the start of the game not realising his jumper was in the change room. (making sure everyone else was ready except himself).

 

Influential People on Brett’s Career:

Mark Williams (not port) – coaching me for  six years in the VFL and continually putting my name up to AFL clubs

Freddy (Nathan Bassett) – amazed how he turned the club around so quickly

Gags (James Gallagher) – most influential player on/off the field

Best Player – Muffa & Borlace (Kieran McGuinness and Scott Borlace)

Toughest – Bryce Campbell and Nick Lower

Best Young talent – Joel Patfull & James Aish

 

Summing up, Brett has been a fantastic addition to the Norwood FC (up there with John Wynne, Ross Dillon and Kieran McGuiness as most influential interstate recruits in our proud history, in my opinion). Brett bought in re. the club’s history and the club in general. His ability and willingness to mix with anyone and everyone made him a much loved and revered person at the Parade. Brett on seeing photos from last seasons Past Players and Officials lunch messaged me and said ‘I am in for next season’s’. The pact is I have to message him immediately when the date is set I will not forget. Personally, I can’t thank you enough for simply being Brett Zorzi.

Unfortunately when Brett and Kirsty moved back to Melbourne they separated soon after. Many of his teammates especially Muffa, Gags and Rocket were there for him – a testament to the character of people and special bonds shared from his days at the Parade. These will continue – he is looking forward to going to the footy with his new partner Tif and his lovely daughters Eme and Neave to watch Aishy, Orazio and Trent Dumont dominate.

I would LOVE YOU to share the article and feel free to comment below! Thank you

 

Want more Norwood? Rulebook has already written tributes to Garry McIntosh, Michael Aish, John Wynne, Michael Taylor, Neville Roberts, and Kieran McGuinness. Happy reading!

Comments

  1. Zorba!! In my eyes equal to the legend that is Macca. Also helped out running water in a couple of reserves finals. All round Club man. Honoured he chose our Club and honoured to call him a mate. Thanks for using the pic Rulebook, it’s my personal favourite footy pic!!

  2. Rick Neagle says:

    What a great club man. The respect he gave to the Norwood FC, adopting our brand and culture selflessly., is why he is talked about in the same sentence as Wynne et al. And more importantly, a mate with true core values. Always a pleasure to catch up with him, when travelling back ‘home’ to Adelaide. Love you work Zors!

  3. Enjoyable read and coverage of a long and distinguished, if somewhat unsung career

  4. A star on and off the field. Always knew what you were going to get from Z, clutch player in the big moments and the definition of a wet weather specialist. Carried the boys in the 2013 Gf, along with Trent Dumont. A privilege to play in the backend of his time at the club and he, along with Gags and muff, drove the standards and culture during a wonderful era at the NFC.

    One of those players I’ll reflect back on once I’m done and feel honoured to have played alongside.

    Jb

  5. Tapani Hietanen says:

    My sons all time favourite player, and was lucky enough to attend the school where he taught. Such a great guy. Always had time for us xx

  6. Dwayne Fuller says:

    An absolute champion footballer a terrific guy off the ground always had time to stop and have a chat no doubt one of the best footballers Norwood has recruited Zorz could have easily thought of pulling the pin in the early days when the club was really struggling but he stuck around and eventually got the success he really did deserve 10/10 thanks for everything you did and achieved at NFC it was great as a supporter to watch him play definitely a favourite era of mine when Zorz was there and I’ve been there since 1975.

  7. Manny Koufalakis says:

    Summed up my thoughts exactly Fester.

  8. Jill Tathra says:

    I`ve always thought we managed out players really well until we had to get rid of the under 17 grade. Our players could start with a club and have so many of the same people around them from such an early age right through to league. This surely must have helped them immensely. Also I guess thats why we had so many drafter over the years. Wish we still had the 4 grades.

    As for being better than the now AFL well of course we are are, we have the best league outside of the AFL.

    Hope you had a lovely Christmas and that 2018 brings an Eagle GF win in the SANFL !!!!

  9. Michael Rehn says:

    I moved to Melbourne in 2002 so missed all of Brett’s career with us. One memory does remain with me though, during the third quarter of the 2013 Grand Final when North looked a bit threatening, a contested ball in the midfield looked to be heading North’s way, but the strong and courageous hands,of Zorba in amongst the flying boots and bodies made sure that ball went nowhere. Real champions do the one percenters that win big games !!!

  10. Luke Reynolds says:

    Another fantastic Norwood profile Rulebook. Very interesting to read Brett’s thoughts on the differences between the VFL and SANFL, as well the culture of schooling players at Norwood on the club’s history and traditions.

  11. Chris Kendall says:

    One of the greatest pleasures in my broadcasting career was announcing Zorba as tve 2013 Jack Oatey Medalist on ABC that day. An absolute gentleman and one of the best I have seen in over 40 years seeing and following Norwood. Was thrown some massive tasks in defence, and many forget his fantastic record on Brant Chambers when the latter was at his peak.
    Sits comfortably in the modern day greats of our club and still somehow underrated outside the club. A grwat read, Rulebook.

  12. Great read – love your passion Book.

  13. Make no mistake, whilst the footy landscape has been changing for a few decades now, Zorb was everything you wanted from a lad representing your club, both on and of field. One of the best blokes I’ve had the privilege of knowing, Zorb always got his hands dirty in a no fuss manner and could have a fair dimkum’ crack wherever he was positioned. Can’t speak highly enough of this champion! Will never forget (sorry Lewie) the pre-game in 2013 when Lewis Johnston went to shake Zorbs hand and Zorb just shoved him in the chest. Brett ALWAYS came to play and that right there is always why he’ll be remembered and respected by the Legs faithful. Congrats on a great career mate, and thanks for making it with us!!

  14. Brett sounds like a true stalwart of the game in his roles throughout his footy career, sounds like his last game to win the grand final was testament and Andy example of all the heart and souls he put in on the field. Thanks for the read Rulebook

  15. Tim Weatherald says:

    Goal post padding cost me… Cheers rulebook for the reminder.. Zorba is a real Norwood legend and was a pleasure playing a few years with him.

  16. Great story, well written Rulebook. Brett was a great player to watch. Wish he could’ve played longer with the mighty leggies.

  17. Martin Rumsby says:

    Zorba is one of my all-time favourite Redlegs for all the reasons you’ve described in this article, Rulebook. Champion footballer and a great bloke. He was also highly respected for his work as a nurturing and caring early years primary teacher. He gave an excellent keynote address to a Modbury High SRC Congress about the importance of leadership. A great article about a great man – thanks Malcolm.

  18. Good read Malcolm. Great to get some insight into BZ.

  19. Great read, what an absolute legend

  20. Loved this article about Brett, what a legend. Brett was without doubt one of the best players not drafted to the AFL. A great club contributor, player and mentor to all the clubs he was associated with. Loved watching him play at both the Bullants and Norwood.

  21. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Thanks Fester couldn’t agree more,Neags yes Brett belongs in such esteemed company as 28.thanks PL.
    JB very well put I like the reflection angle also.Tapani your sons a good judge.Manny spot on.Jill I am with you I preferred the 17s and 19s days but I get why it was changed to fall in line with drafting age.Michael yes his 1 per centers were vital in our win.Thanks Luke I totally agree and Zorza is v qualified to judge the respective competitons.thanks,Chris yes it would have been a huge pleasure for you to present the Jack Oatey medal and totally agree he has a v good record on some v gun opposition key forwards.thanks TC.
    JK as JB said he really came to play 2013 gf day and yes Zorza quality in every possible way.thanks,Ben.
    Weathers I reckon I taught,Katie and Lucy some naughty words re the bloody goalpost gf night thank you.thanks,Sonia.Martin it my understanding that,Zorza is as highly respected in the teaching profession as in footy thank you for your insight.thanks,RW,Campbell and Ros appreciated folks

  22. Great profile, Rulebook

  23. Kieran McGuinness says:

    Great work Malcolm. Great to see a write up on the great man.
    An amazing player. There wasn’t really anything he couldn’t do on field. There would be at least one thing a week Zorz would do where my direct opponent would say under his breath ‘bloody Zorzi.’ As defenders we were pretty happy he was on our team. A freak of a player and one of the best people ur likely to meet. If anyone gets the chance to have a beer with him topics of discussion should include 80s Rock music and Glen Maxwells position in our best 11.

  24. John Topperwien says:

    Once again a great read Malcolm, that video of the boys at the chimney nearly brought tears to my eyes. having followed the club for nearly 70 years, Brett has to rate very highly as a player and someone that was team orientated, and bought into the culture of the club

  25. Mark Thompson says:

    A great read, again, Malcolm, keep up all these articles where everyone can learn something new! Possibly even the person discussed might learn something about themselves!!!

  26. Simon Phillips says:

    Definitely one of the best I’ve played with. Rarely got beaten at full back and a formidable force in the midfield. A great footballer and an even better fella! Loved the boys and the club. Finished with what he deserved.

  27. Bill Drodge says:

    Another great read Malcolm.

    As a coach you’d love to have two Zorbas in the team…..one for defence and the other in the midfield!

  28. Dave Brown says:

    Without a doubt my favourite post-Macca Redleg, Rulebook. Gutsy, hardworking, tough – all the things you want in a footballer. But it was his vision, particularly by hand that would catch you by surprise. If I remember correctly his slick disposal created a couple of goals in 2013. Ryan Ferguson’s words after the 2012 grand final were sufficient to make clear the esteem in which he was held in the competition (from memory something along the lines of ‘if there’s one person in the competition I can handle losing a premiership to, it’s Brett Zorzi’)

  29. Michael Aish says:

    Wonderful servant for the legs. Tough and honest exactly what you want. Outstanding leader and bloke.

  30. Scott Borlace says:

    Great read Malcolm. Zorba’s is so humble and unassuming, it’s only when you read this that you realise his achievements were as good as anyone. Already been said but is as good a bloke as he was a player, and he was an outstanding player. Agree re his comments about Gags too.

  31. Love the human interest yarns- Kossy Port man

  32. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Thanks Litza.KMac thank you and I look forward to that conversation with Zorza.John glad you enjoyed.
    Mark I hope so and greatly appreciated.Flipper v well put.Bill two Zorzas would be v v handy indeed.
    Dave Zorza v highly regarded with in the game spot on.Aishy and Scotty B well put a loved and v highly respected person,Zorza thanks Kossy thanks folks

  33. Great article Malcolm, and I couldn’t agree more with all the comments in your article and above. Plainly, he is a gun. Early on I think he was a victim of his own brilliance, as we had to keep playing him at full back because he was so good there. I remember him keeping Clive Waterhouse to 2 possessions one night at the Parade and his record on Brant Chambers is second to none. But once we finally got him in the midfield, we really got to see all the incredible qualities he has, and the influence that he can have on a game. I’ve been lucky enough to play with a lot of players, and Zorz sits amongst the best dozen ‘pure footballers’ I’ve played with at any level. Courageous, competitive, demanding, unselfish, clean….. almost faultless on field. These characteristics were only matched by his character off-field. He loves his team-mates, our supporters and our club. My 3 favourite Zorzi memories are 1) nailing one of the Gowans boys straight up the middle holding the ball in a big game at Norwood oval when they tried to step him. It was right in front of coopers Hill and Zed went back and kicked the goal from the ensuing free kick 2) His goal in the last quarter vs the Eagles in the prelim 2010. He sensed the moment and delivered….. he always did 3) His rendition of Billy Joel’s ‘we didn’t start the fire’ on footy trip 2010, and every rendition since.

  34. Greg Moulton says:

    Brilliantly worded article, captured the great man Zorz to a tee. I loved the fact he went about his Buisness quietly and massively effectively, no matter what his role was. A combination of tough and humble, rare combination of qualities. A terrific team man in every sense of the word !! Loved the read, good job Malcolm.

  35. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    KMac I am with you re Maxwell yes a amusing conversation with,Zorza.Gags as succinct as always and the perfect wording for mine is pure footballer I remember your first two highlights fondly and very keen to see the third.Moults yes business quietly and effectively very well put and yes tough and v v v humble thanks folks

  36. Michael Coligan says:

    Nice profile of a great Norwood man Malcolm. I was taken by a question posed
    in July 2010 to Brett by a journalist from The Advertiser prior to his 100th
    game for the club. He was asked … ‘What is it about your club which has
    kept you there’? He replied … ‘it is a great oval to play on, a great
    club, with a proud history. When you walk through the door you see the great
    names and flags. It makes you feel important to be at the club’ …

  37. Barry Solomon says:

    Recently I commented to someone that I believed zorz was as important to Norwood as any other of the outstanding greats mainly cause of the period he,d played in and the troubles experienced during those times.. wasnt just his dourness and resilience as a player and the quality leadership he provided it was that quality as a human that’s quite often hard to explain. He was a full metal clubman often during dark periods just standing his ground and providing strength and surety to those around him. I was wrapped to see him stand as a premiership player finally and be rewarded for his efforts which many only saw on the field. Love that bloke forever.

  38. Barry Solomon says:

    As an aside to that, want to publicly thank both zorz and brycie campbell for saving myself and gav Goodfellow from what could have been a brutal assault during an amateur league grand final at Norwood oval in mid 2000,s they looked after us and never shirked for a minute. Bless you both ???

  39. Enjoyable read about a great player

  40. Great article, loved his courage and skills on the footy field, cheers to Zorza

  41. Geoff Wilson says:

    Another great read on another Norwood Legend, well done Malcolm. I have had the pleasure of meeting Brett on a few occasions and a more humble nicer person you would not meet.
    I too remember those massive jobs he used to get at full back and was continually amazed as to how well he handled those full forwards. Remembering they weren’t great Norwood sides back then and our defence was quite often under intense pressure.
    It was when Brett got into the midfield in those great Norwood sides that we sore another side of this great player. His ability to win the ball in any circumstances was exceptional and his use, decision making and delivery, also elite. That shouldn’t have surprised us after what he had done as a full back.
    Also loved Brett’s thoughts on Norwood and the SANFL, makes us all feel very proud. Well done to David Wark on recruiting Brett, I can remember him telling me about Brett and David you were spot on, well done Warky.
    Congratulations on a great career Brett.

  42. I enjoyed the read Rulebook. Well written.

  43. Interesting profile on a admirable person both on-and-off the field. I was fascinated how Brett came to embrace the Norwood Football Club, remarkable. Well researched and well-written, Rulebook.

  44. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Michael a great strength of Zorza was that he really bought in to the club and truelly valued and wanted to learn about the history of the NFC a truly admirable trait.Bazz the perfect wording there is quality’s as a human and Bazz a fair few unsung heroes that day most with connections to the NFC and with out there intervention and cool heads a truly dangerous situation may we’ll have exploded thank goodness it didn’t.Thanks Raj and JA.Geoff humble is Brett Zorzi to a t he was brilliant at full back in a dark era and so influential in the midfield in a golden era and couldn’t agree more re feeling proud re Brett’s thoughts on the SANFl and NFC and David Wark thank you big time.Thanks Raf and Paul remarkable is the apt description thanks folks

  45. Geoff Wilson says:

    Malcolm I’m always very interested in Luke Reynolds thoughts, I would like to meet him one day. He is very measured and knowledgeable, on all things football and cricket and probably many other things as well, very similar to ourselves. The Norwood Crows of us two and the Collingwood of Luke would make for an interesting lunch I would think?.

  46. Geoffrey Wilson says:

    Sorry dont forget the cricket.

  47. Cameron Glenn says:

    Another great article on a great Norwood person.

  48. Luke Reynolds says:

    Geoff, one day I’ll get to Adelaide for that lunch!!

  49. Agreed Dwayne. Particularly when you consider he spent much of those dark years playing at fullback. A thankless task with the regularity and ease of the opposition’s forward entries. Was terrific to see him get to direct play from further up the field during the successful times, just reward for fantastic loyalty and dedication.

  50. Brett Zorzi says:

    Thanks for the write up Rulebook.
    It was an absolute pleasure playing for Norwood and I loved the 9yrs I was there. Back in Melb now but my passion for this club will never diminish. Played with and met so many wonderful people and I’m so grateful to share the ultimate success with everyone. Norwood is a very special place.
    Thank you everyone for your kind comments.
    Keep up the good work Rulebook.

  51. Brett Zorzi today at the age of 39 ran the Melbourne marathon finishing in 3 min 47 seconds as always a mixture of class and determination well done,Zorza

  52. Just finished reading your wonderful tribute to Brett Zorzi – as Richie Benaud would have said “marvelous”.I always felt Zorb was wasted in the back lines.When in the midfield he was truly inspirational – one of my favourite players (in the Macca no compromise style). Great to see so many of his team mates reading your tribute and endorsing your comments RB. As per usual, love your work Malcolm.

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