On Saturday night, Shaun Burgoyne will become just the fifth player in VFL/AFL history to reach 400 games at the highest level.
It’s an achievement that can’t be understated, by a man who let his game make the greatest of statements.
Notoriously quiet when it came to the media, ‘Silk’ gave a few deep breaths before he fronted the media on the eve of his milestone.
“It’s a bit embarrassing to be honest,” Burgoyne admitted with a smile.
“It’s not my strong suit doing all the media stuff, especially when it’s focused on an individual and we’re in a team sport.
“It’s something that I’ve tried to embrace this week. My family’s embraced it, my kids are loving the attention – they think this is normal – but hopefully the game comes around pretty quick and I’m looking forward to the game against Port.”
How he got here? If you ask him, there’s a multitude of reasons, but it comes down to having the right people in your corner, and a healthy dose of luck.
“There’s a number of reasons why.
“I think I’ve been able to surround myself with good people, good medical staff who give me the best advice possible with my body.
“Obviously having knee surgeries and ankle surgeries, and a coach who believed in me. ‘Clarko’ believed in me, he got me in when I was on crutches, I wasn’t supposed to go around too long and he’s backed me in every year since.
“The trust and faith I have in him, he’s put that in me as well so we have a really good relationship.”
Alastair Clarkson was just one of two coaches he’s had in his 17-year AFL career that stretches from Port Adelaide to Hawthorn.
Together, they revitalised Silk’s career after a number of injuries, and together, they won four flags. Asked if he would have made it to 400 games without him, Burgoyne was quick to answer.
“Nah I wouldn’t have. I wouldn’t have played 400 – I’m not sure if I would’ve played too much longer to be honest, which is the reason why we wanted to come to Melbourne, and try something new, and see if we could live in Melbourne.
“I’d only ever come to Melbourne for footy trips where we’d fly in on the day, play, and pretty much fly out. I wouldn’t have lasted too much longer I don’t think.
“That’s everything – the management, the coaching staff, the players.
“All combined, and a bit of luck goes in there as well I’ve had a lot of injuries, but I’ve been able to play through a lot of injuries and get the surgeries done postseason.
“There’s everything in there combined, so it’s not one thing, but it’s just something that you can’t really predict how it’s going to go but you just roll with whatever comes your way.”
With the milestone, Burgoyne also becomes the first Indigenous player to reach 400 games.
He overtook Sydney great Adam Goodes for most games played as for an Indigenous player earlier in the season.
The compounding effects of this achievement will be felt for generations, with Burgoyne hoping he inspires the next generation of Indigenous Australians as he was inspired by his heroes.
“It’s something that hasn’t hit me just yet.
“I know when I was a kid coming up I had Indigenous idols I looked up to – Michael Long and Gavin Wanganeen, obviously Cathy Freeman at the Olympics.
“I looked up to those people for inspiration. I wanted to get to the top level like those guys.
“Hopefully what they did for me, I can hopefully do that for young boys and girls to have goals and try to reach them.”
With Burgoyne nearing his 39th birthday, he’s waved off questions about him continuing on in 2022.
“I don’t think next year’s a possibility to be honest.
“I’ll just get through this game, and we’ll see what the rest of the year looks like.
“I’m contracted until the end of the year and I’m fit and ready to play, but we’ll see if that happens after this week’s game and going forward.
“I have a really good role at the moment trying to help develop the young backmen, help them set up and try and fast-track their development to make us a better team.”
Lining up with teenagers such as Denver Grainger-Barrass has been one of the highlights of Burgoyne’s year as he aids their development in the backline. But it comes at a cost.
“I’m heavily watched every day, what outfit I’m wearing, whether it’s tracksuit pants or jeans, they critique me,” Burgoyne laughed.
“Every single day – whether I get a haircut, they critique me.
“It’s great, it’s one of those thing you walk into a footy club and it’s great to have that banter around.
“I think there’s about five players who weren’t even born when I was drafted. They’re’ closer to my kids ages than to me.
“I enjoy hanging out with the guys, talking everyday and it’s one of those great things.
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