Shaun Burgoyne will play his 373rd game against North Melbourne on Friday night. Pic: Getty Images
Shaun Burgoyne will play his 373rd game against North Melbourne on Friday night. Pic: Getty Images

Stars surprise Silk in epic MCG tribute

SHAUN Burgoyne doesn't like surprises.

To those who know him well, the Hawthorn champion is a lot different to his on-field persona of the silky skilled, smooth-moving, excitement machine who thrives when the spotlight is at its brightest.

So in the lead-up to him breaking the VFL/AFL indigenous games record it was no surprise to his family or Hawthorn that he put up the shutters.

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He wanted no fuss, no celebration, no fanfare, no media, no party.

He just wanted to play his 373rd game against North Melbourne on Friday night and then disappear again as he does every week and prepare for the next one.

Burgoyne's wife, Amy, and his four kids had other ideas.

In conjunction with Hawthorn they sent an email out to current and past indigenous players who had been a part of the Shaun Burgoyne story and told them to get to the MCG on Monday night.

Shaun Burgoyne Pic: Getty Images
Shaun Burgoyne Pic: Getty Images

There was one big stipulation - they couldn't tell Shaun.

Hawthorn had managed to convince him to do a short video at the MCG with his family which they would run on the club's website.

While this was being shot in the middle of the ground, from the other side - to the back of Burgoyne - 24 past and current indigenous players started walking onto the hallowed turf.

"We got within about 10 metres and then he turned around and saw us all walking down the stairs," former Brisbane Lions champion Chris Johnson said.

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"It was a big shock for him, he had that little laugh of his going and he was blown away.

"I reckon it took him about five or 10 minutes to realise what had actually happened. He was pretty pumped and stoked about it."

It says a lot about the man that his mates came from far and wide to celebrate the extraordinary achievement.

His 2004 Port Adelaide premiership teammates Gavin Wanganeen and Byron Pickett were there while another former Port teammate, Che Cockatoo-Collins, flew down from Stradbroke Island for the event.

Others in attendance included Brisbane legend Darryl White, North Melbourne's Gilbert McAdam, Geelong premiership star Mathew Stokes and a host of current day players including Chad Wingard, Jeff Garlett, Neville Jetta, Steven May, Daniel Wells and Sam Petrevski-Seton.

Indigenous stars flocked to the MCG to pay tribute to Hawk Shaun Burgoyne. Pic: Michael Willson, AFL Photos
Indigenous stars flocked to the MCG to pay tribute to Hawk Shaun Burgoyne. Pic: Michael Willson, AFL Photos

After several photo shoots, the group went back upstairs for some drinks with the yarns about the man of the moment flowing thick and fast.

"I don't know how he didn't get an inkling because he's normally pretty good like that," Wanganeen said.

"He can sniff out a bit of a surprise, he doesn't like surprises."

Wanganeen, who played 300 games for Essendon and Port, now sits sixth on the all-time indigenous games list with Burgoyne taking over from Sydney's Adam Goodes (372). Adelaide's Andrew McLeod is a clear third on 340.

The 1993 Brownlow Medallist said the conversation about Burgoyne on the night quickly shifted to the magical 400 number given, at 36, he was still going as strong as ever.

"It looks like he'll go around next year, so 400 might be there if he can stay away from the old man soft-tissue injuries," Wanganeen said.

"You have to sit back and stop to realise the achievement, the four premierships, the durability, the professionalism.

Burgoyne with former teammates Byron Pickett and Gavin Wanganeen during a Port Adelaide recovery session.
Burgoyne with former teammates Byron Pickett and Gavin Wanganeen during a Port Adelaide recovery session.

"He came over to Hawthorn with a sore knee so to be able to manage that, it just goes to show the absolute sheer determination and professionalism he has.

"When he walks out on Friday night, he should take a little moment and pause, have it to himself, soak it up and realise, 'Yep, I've done this and I'm proud of myself'."

Wanganeen knew pretty quickly when Burgoyne arrived at Port Adelaide in 2002 that there was something special about the kid from Mallee Park.

"He was a good athletic kid, a nice size," he said. "And then he just grew and grew and here we are, he's one of the all-time greats.

"You don't get the nickname 'Silk' for no reason. Ball in hand, he is as good as any that has been in terms of the penetration of his kick, the power, the flatness, the accuracy and the impact of his possessions is as good as any."

Sydney champion Michael O'Loughlin recalls preparing to play against Burgoyne and repeatedly pressing the rewind button.

Burgoyne chats with coach Alastair Clarkson at Hawthorn training this week. Pic: Michael Klein
Burgoyne chats with coach Alastair Clarkson at Hawthorn training this week. Pic: Michael Klein

"Sometimes you had to push the rewind button on the old VHS and just have a look at that tape again because of what he did," O'Loughlin said.

"I think I wasn't the only one pushing that button either, I know Paul Roos as a coach just absolutely loved him and he actually asked me a couple of times if he would be interested in coming to Sydney.

"We have been lucky to be able to witness what he has been able to produce over the years, premierships and other accolades, it's just incredible."

O'Loughlin said the example Burgoyne and Goodes had set over a sustained period of excellence would have an impact on generations to come.

"These guys are just absolutely heroes to our communities and our kids, it doesn't matter if black, white, red or green, they just appeal as players because of the special things they do," he said.

"I think a sign of a really great player is being able to bring others into the game and make others look incredible.

"Shaun did that from his first game to the record-breaking one right now.

"I don't think we have ever seen a player who has a cooler head under pressure."

Except when it comes to surprise parties.