Melanie Bertuna - the Super Saint
In the world of football – few things are higher on a recruit’s list than getting a Round One debut, especially when it is in a competition that is as highly regarded as the Victorian Football League Women’s (VFLW).
For Melanie Bertuna, she was able to cross this off of her list when she took to the field with the Southern Saints during Round One of the 2021 VFLW season – which marked the beginning of an impressive chapter in an already great footy journey.
“I felt like, all the hard work that I had put into myself as a junior and playing in the men’s league, and sometimes the missed opportunities of support I’d not been given there, had finally come full circle,” Melanie said when asked how it felt to record a Round One debut.
“… Because I had friends and family supporting me, and a coach, Dale, that fully believed and invested in me as a younger player. I was incredibly grateful and excited just to get out on the deck and play footy.”
Melanie, whose sporting background included a unique mix of basketball and karate, took to the field for the first-ever time in 2017.
However, despite only recently starting her footy journey – Melanie has always held a passion for Australia’s game.
“I always loved it (footy), but mum was always extremely iffy about me playing, pretty scary stuff in her eyes, then my dad’s best friend, all his kids played, and one day we just went and registered and yeah here we are today.”
This unique background may help explain her tough, can-do attitude towards footy, with her tendency to get the hardball being a signature of her game.
“I would say 100 per cent the physicality in the game, I love getting in there and just leaving it all out there,” she replied when asked what her favourite thing about football is.
“And out of the game, the culture and all the close relationships that I have been able to develop and keep in my life until this day, it’s something that I truly believe makes the sport so special.”
Melanie’s first year of football was spent with the Bulleen Templestowe Bull Ants, a club that she would go on to lead as Captain in 2018 – which resulted in premiership glory.
Yet even before she was winning flags, Melanie was already showing glimpses of her potential. Since in just her first year of football she represented the 2017 Yarra League Side.
2017, much like the next two years that followed, also saw Melanie play in a premiership. A moment that she has put down as one of her all-time favourites.
“… If I had to choose a footy related moment it would be winning the 2017 Grand Final with the Bull Ants,” she replied when asked what her favourite footy moment had been.
“We were the underdogs all season and we just pulled through and I think it’s the belief that put us over the line.”
However, since Melanie is someone who seems to value the experiences over success, asking her to single out a particular moment was rather challenging.
“I feel like trying to pinpoint particular moments would be so hard, however, I feel like the bond I created this year with my teammates and also the way I grew as a person has been my favourite thing of all.”
This humble attitude was further seen when, after making herself known at the local level, she was given the chance to play for the Oakleigh Chargers in the NAB League Girls competition.
She would go on to spend 3 years with the Chargers, time with which she says was “extremely interesting”.
“… It was my first experience in a professional environment, and I learnt so Incredibly much at such a young age about my game and football which I am so grateful for as most don’t get that opportunity.”
“It allowed pathways, to open up for me to extend my talent and show VFL clubs what I could do which led me to the Saints.”
Impressively, despite missing games for the NAB League competition, Melanie was still able to poll in her local league’s Best and Fairest eyer year.
Once her years of NAB League footy came to an end, she spent her last year of junior football with the Blackburn Football Club before then getting the opportunity to play for the Southern Saints.
“My time at Saints I’d describe as an amazing atmosphere and culture,” she said when asked to describe her time with the Southern Saints.
“I’ve learnt so incredibly much through all the coaching staff and not just the senior players but the younger ones as well, it’s amazing to see how far belief can go in one group.”
“I suffer from anxiety and some mental health stuff and throughout the season everyone was there for me, and my coach Dale Robinson really helped me get those things under control and also supported me through those situations.
“I have fallen in love with the club and everyone that is a part of it because there’s just so much greatness surrounding me all the time.”
Managing to battle and overcome not just a new year in a new league but also the mental side of it is extremely admirable. While we are certainly glad that Melanie has managed to work through it – a special mention also goes to the aforementioned support that she has had, especially from coach Dale Robinson.
“I’d like to thank Dale Robinson, my VFL coach, she’s taught me so much and provided such a great program for me to learn off and thrive off which has helped me so much.”
“Also, all the friendships I’ve made and kept through my footy all the senior players that I learn off they impact my footy because I look up to them and strive to be like them.”
So, what is the next chapter for this exciting and shining Saint?
Her goals are “to definitely make an AFLW list in the future and yeah just to achieve great things and keep pushing forward and developing my game”.
So far so great for Melanie. Since beginning her footballing life in 2017 she has quickly developed and risen through the ranks of footy.
If she can continue to hold such passion and determination for her footy – we are certain that she will continue to knock on the AFLW’s door, and from there, it is only a matter of time till someone answers.
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None of these photographs is owned by MWM; all images have been supplied by the player and were personally took.