Peter Burgoyne: Rediscovering the passion for footy

Shaun and Peter Burgoyne after the 2004 AFL Grand Final. Picture: portadelaidefc.com.au

Peter Burgoyne’s story has now come full circle.

From his father Peter Snr playing for Port Adelaide in the 1970s, to playing in the inaugural Port Adelaide AFL side, to helping them win their first AFL premiership with younger brother Shaun and now, with his sons Trent and Jase, one currently on Port Adelaide’s list, one all but on it.

Now, Peter says he’s got the passion for footy back, through his boys.

The Inner Sanctum spoke to Burgoyne about his career, his boys, and a childhood dream that for him was just another day at the office.

Part 1: From humble beginnings to premiership glory.

An Indigenous Australian, Burgoyne grew up in between South Australia and the Northern Territory, where his mother and father hold ancestry as Indigenous Australians, members of the Kokatha, Warai and Mirning tribes, respectively.

“I grew up in between South Australia and the Northern Territory from when I was born until I was about 10,” Burgoyne said.

“We settled in Port Lincoln from when I was ten until I was 13, when I moved back to Darwin to do my schooling.

“I then returned to Adelaide to pursue footy when I was about 16/17.

At the time, Port Lincoln was zoned to Port Adelaide, meaning everyone played there, unless cleared.

Burgoyne could have nominated for the draft in 1995, but instead chose to remain in Adelaide and with Port Adelaide set to join the AFL, got prepared for the move to the national league.

“The way I saw it, the draft age was going up from 17 to 18, so if I stayed in South Australia and played another year of league footy, then I would be prepared to play AFL against men.”

However, Peter admits that early on he wasn’t interested in joining the AFL, content with staying in the SANFL at the Port Magpies.

It was close family friend Michael Long’s drafting to Essendon that piqued his interest.

“I followed his career, because we played for the same club in Darwin, St Marys, and my father played with Michael’s father as well, so that’s when I started watching the VFL and the interest grew from there,” he said.

Once Burgoyne officially joined in 1997, Port Adelaide surprised the competition by falling just short of qualifying for the finals in their first season.

Peter, however, was not surprised that they were so competitive early on, when he explains how concessions granted to Gold Coast and GWS were not present in Port Adelaide’s case.

“We were only able to draft 4 uncontracted players,” he said.

“We were given no favours.

“But a lot of players we drafted from the SANFL were like men and they were playing a lot of league footy in the SANFL, which wasn’t too far removed from the AFL.

“Being from Port Adelaide, we’ve always had the mentality of being chased, being hunted, so by getting no favours from the AFL, it showed they respected us.”

While reminiscing about playing in Port’s first final in 1999, Burgoyne is quick to give one of the all-time greats in Wayne Carey, some plaudits.

Carey starred in that final for North Melbourne, kicking six goals and taking 11 marks in a best on ground performance.

“He was a freak, he was a centre half forward who could do things like he was 5’10,” he said.

However, one thing Burgoyne has over Carey, the kicking of a goal after the siren for victory against Carlton a year later in 2000.

When recounting the story, however, there is not a hint of arrogance about the occasion as he recounts how he lived everyone’s childhood fantasy – to kick a goal after the siren.

“(Port Adelaide coach) ‘Choco’ (Williams) always said to be in front of your man as a forward, and the ball just fell in my lap – I actually almost dropped it as well,” he said.

“If people tell you they are not nervous in that moment, they’re not telling you the truth.

“The ball did not come off my foot the best, but it still went straight.”

20 years later, Burgoyne has no real interest in tooting his own horn over the moment.

“It was a dream come true, but when you’ve done it, you’ve got reporters, you’ve got TV crew, and they were just making a big fuss but I just sort of brushed it off, I didn’t want too much to do with it,” he said.

“I just wanted to play footy.

“It happened and I moved on.”

Port would go on to one of the most dominant periods of the 21st century so far, finishing minor premiers three years in succession (2002, 03, 04) and finishing third in 2001.

Yet, Burgoyne didn’t buy into the frenzy surrounding Port’s finals struggles before the 2004 triumph, though he does believe the club should have taken greater advantage of the window and have more than the one premiership over that period.

“I think it was just our time,” he said.

“I pretty much say this all the time, but Brisbane got three, and I personally believe that we should have got another one, because of how good our side was.

“And if you look at our side for the premiership, our captain was injured (Matthew Primus) our best on-baller (Josh Francou) was injured, so it’s like, we haven’t got a chance.

“You had players come in, like Brendon Lade and Dean Brogan, who filled those spots…and we did it without those players (Primus and Francou) who were elite players.”

Finals are a different beast, as Burgoyne explained when discussing Port Adelaide’s finals false starts in 01, 02, 03.

“When you play finals, nothing’s guaranteed.”

“You can have the best side, but in finals, you also need a bit of luck.”

“Having said that, we did win the one premiership. And I’ll take that every day of the week.”

That premiership was won alongside younger brother Shaun, who was drafted to Port Adelaide in 2000 at pick 12.

Burgoyne revealed that it came down to coach Mark Williams whether Shaun was selected with pick 12.

“Choco had always said with the first pick in that draft, that with the first pick he was going to take Shaun,” he said.

“But Allan Stewart wanted to pick Kane Cornes.

“A few years later Choco’s telling me this and he said, ‘I’m the coach, and I have the last say, and I want Shaun.’

“And pick 20 rolled around and Kane Cornes is available, so they ended up getting the two players that they both wanted.

“Playing with Shaun was good because we had this connection off the field as well.”

So how did Port Adelaide eventually break the duck and get the finals monkey off the back?

Well, first they had to get back on top of the Brisbane side that was leading the 2004 decider at half-time, and as Burgoyne recalls, he had some choice words for his position on the ground during the second quarter.

“I think I spent most of the quarter on the half-forward flank, but if you go back and see me talking to the late Phil Walsh at half-time.

“We were having an argument and I was like ‘why do you have me standing here? Brisbane are coming back into this game, we need more run on the ball, and you’re leaving me on the half-forward flank.’

“So we were going back and forward, back and forward, and after half-time he pulled me aside, and said ‘you’ve told me what you’ve told me, now you go out there and you back it up, you prove me wrong…and off we went.’

Burgoyne was among the best on ground in that grand final, with 25 possessions, six marks, seven clearances and eight inside 50’s.

The big question is ‘where did this side get it right, whereas previous years had not come to fruition?’

That answer came when asking the question, who was the most underrated of that side?

“The reason I think we won and why we hadn’t won in the past, was because, everyone played their role,” Burgoyne said.

“For us to win, I reckon, everyone had to buy into what we were trying to achieve and if they didn’t then we wouldn’t have won.

“I can’t look at one player and say, ‘well you didn’t do your role, because everyone played their role.’

With the premiership now secured, one chapter of this story is now complete.

But there is still more to go.

Read part 2 of our in depth chat with Peter Burgoyne here

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