While never formally planned, the football reunion of Maverick Weller and Luke Russell was one the men in question always hoped would eventuate.
Weller and Russell's football journey has often been linked after departing the North-West Coast as teenagers as pre-draft selections for Gold Coast in 2009 and were together at the expansion club until 2013 when Weller was delisted.
While the close bond between the two former Marist Regional College students never evaporated, the ability to join forces on the field again was one that did not present itself again until last year when Weller took on the senior coaching job at Penguin in the NWFL as Russell was electing to return home once again, this time for family reasons with his partner Calli expecting their first child.
"It is exciting as throughout our careers it was always in the back of our minds a bit to come back here and play together,'' Weller, who has got Russell on board as an assistant coach, said this week,
"When I went to St Kilda it was never a case that I would never see Russ again as we are good mates and I knew our paths would cross again and now it is incredibly exciting for us to be able to lead this footy club and have a major impact on it and help shape it.
"We have shared opinions on most things and we can implement that now in what we are doing and particularly around the coach/player relationships and how to get the most out of your players and the standards and culture you need to set.
"It has been awesome so far and Luke has added so much to the group and has had a year off footy and is super keen, refreshed and ready to go."
For Russell, being teammates again, with the extra coaching responsibility, was something that was special.
"Our last game together was in 2013 and it was good to watch him go on with his [AFL] career, and to now come back and play footy together is a good feeling,'' he said.
"When he finished up at the Gold Coast we spoke about how we would find a way to play together again if our bodies allowed us, we were thinking we would be quite older [than 29] ."
From a coaching perspective, Weller said Russell was a "great asset" as "we sort of bounce off each other and are competitive" and "we really build each other up and get the most out of each other by just encouraging each other to just go at the game".
Russell, meanwhile, said he could see a lot of Weller's AFL experiences come out in his coaching, especially from his one season at Richmond under Damien Hardwick, and he himself has learnt about some of the more modern elements of the game.
Weller played 123 AFL games for Gold Coast, St Kilda and Richmond from 2011 to 2019, while Russell played 73 games for the Suns from 2011 to 2016.
Russell also had stints with Northern Blues in the VFL and Uni Blues in the VAFA, with both players winning NWFL flags with Burnie in the NWFL in recent times [Russell in 2018 and Weller in 2020].
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