Kevin Bartlett became the first player to reach 400 VFL games in August, 1983.
It was an unimaginable achievement back then. He played in an era where grounds would turn to mud in the depths of winter and an ACL tear could spell the end of a short-lived career.
Cigarettes and beers were expected after games – and even at half-time – and the brilliance of modern day sports science and recovery were unknown, and un-utilised.
It would reason that if the Richmond legend could do it in the face of these adversities through incredible fitness and a touch of luck, then 400 games would become commonplace in the modern era of Aussie Rules.
However, it’s nearly 38 years later and Bartlett is welcoming just the fifth member to the illustrious 400 Club. He does so with open arms at Marvel Stadium.
Bartlett watched Shaun Burgoyne’s career from afar, but says he wasn’t surprised with ‘Silk’s’ longevity in the league.
His precision with ball in hand, trait of standing up in the big moments, and underrated physicality that he has brought to his 399 games, Bartlett said Burgoyne was one of the most well-rounded players of the modern era.
“He’s been marvellous, hasn’t he,” Bartlett said.
“To play at such a high level for such a long time, he’s been such a ‘Mr. Fix It’ player for Hawthorn playing all over the field.
“Whether he’s down back or in the midfield or up forward, he’s been absolutely fantastic.
Burgoyne surpassed legend Adam Goodes to become the Indigenous games record holder.
The Kokatha man will also become the first Indigenous player to play 400 games, which Bartlett says will inspire the next generation of Indigenous stars to become AFL players.
“To be the first Indigenous player to play 400 games, you can just imagine the number of young kids he’s going to inspire around the country.”
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‘Silk’ has been a special player to so many.
He has inspired a generation of Indigenous boys and girls, he’s become a Port Adelaide legend with his heroics in 2004, and has been an integral component of a three-peat side that many consider the greatest team of the modern era.
It’s difficult to pinpoint what makes Burgoyne a champion winner, a class act and one of the most popular players in the league on the football field.
Kevin Bartlett said he noticed his elite ball use and capacity to play through pain and injuries, which would be necessary in his journey to 400.
“He’s got great skills, and he’s got the ability to play well week in and week out, which you’ve got to do if you’re going to play a lot of games.
“Particularly to get to 400, you’ve got to hold your spot in the side!
“Obviously he’s looked after himself, he’s very athletic, he’s got good skills and obviously he’s mentally tough and is physical.”
On whether ‘Silk’ would be welcomed to the 400 Club with open arms by the four current members, ‘KB’ was quick in his response.
“Oh, absolutely. The gate’s open, come on in!”
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