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Dual premiership player Shaun Burgoyne once again sets his sights on September glory. By Richard Cooke.
Credit: AFL PHOTOS

Final eyes: Shaun Burgoyne, 31, AFL player

Shaun Burgoyne is a dual-premiership footballer currently playing for the Hawthorn Football Club as a utility. In a career encompassing more than 250 games – 157 for Port Adelaide – he has already played in 24 finals matches. This week he was named in the 40-man All Australian squad.

Richard Cooke You must have played more finals football than almost anyone in the AFL. 

Shaun Burgoyne Every now and again I’ll reflect on how lucky I’ve been. There have only been two years where I haven’t played finals. I’ve come to Hawthorn at the right time and that’s the reason I came here, to play finals footy. That’s why you play footy – you want to play in finals and you want to win grand finals, and I’ve been lucky enough to do that. 

RC Seeing other greats who have never had that experience, is there ever a tinge of guilt about your good fortune?

SB I’ve just been in the right place at the right time. Great players who play their whole lives and have never won a grand final, I’m pretty sure they’d still be happy with their careers. You still get to make a lot of friends and lifelong mates out of those careers. I’ve just been lucky, I suppose. 

RC Actors often say their stage fright gets worse as they get older. Does the adrenalin pump harder than it did in your first finals game?

SB As I’ve got older, I’ve got a lot better with my nerves. When I was younger, I was a lot more nervous, probably because I was a bit more inconsistent. Now, I’m a lot more consistent in my preparation and approach. You can feel the added tension because it’s really cutthroat in those final games, and it’s a whole different feeling to the regular season and it’s one you can’t really practise for,
I suppose. You’ve just got to enjoy the moment because for some people it never comes around again and you don’t know when your AFL journey is going to end. 

RC You have played in winning and losing grand finals. Are they still your best and worst experiences, or do other things stand out?

SB Without a shadow of a doubt they were the two worst losses of my career. I think anyone would say that. It doesn’t matter the margin. You know, obviously Port’s 2007 grand final loss to Geelong was a record losing margin, and [in 2012, Hawthorn’s] against Sydney was 10 points. It doesn’t get any easier. I think it just goes to show that it’s one thing to make a grand final, and it’s another thing to win it. After the 2012 season, we took away that lesson and we were able to come back, but it’s such an extraordinarily hard effort to get there. Those two grand finals… You do think about them every now and again. I’ve played in four, I’ve won two and lost two. A 50 per cent strike rate. But you think about the losses more.

RC When you are seeking advice on your game, do you still speak to your brother, Peter, about football? Or is it a topic you take a break from with your family?

SB Yeah, when we played together [at Port Adelaide], we didn’t really talk much about footy. We try to not talk footy. Obviously I’m at the club every day and we have meetings and stuff and we review the game. When I’m away from the club – at Port or now at Hawthorn – I never really speak about the game. When I’m with my family we just try to leave footy out of it because you need some balance in your life. It can’t just be footy, footy, footy. I’m one of those guys who tries to do the least footy possible when I’m away from the club, and when I’m at footy I’m 100 per cent focused. So I think I’ve learnt to get that balance right. 

RC After so many finals series, what do you want to get out of this one, apart from the premiership?

SB The end goal is still to win a premiership. That’s a long way away yet. I think we’ve had a number of challenges thrown at us this year, whether it be long-term injuries to key players or the coach [Alastair Clarkson] being sick. We’ve developed a pretty mentally and physically strong team. When things have happened this year we haven’t shied away from it, we’ve spoken about it as a team, and we’ve said let’s just move on and keep the same structure and the same processes. Sydney are going really well, Geelong are going well… I think everyone is looking forward to it.

RC The past few finals series have featured thesame teams. There are some real grudge matches on the cards. 

SB Yeah. You know, we’ve had very close games with Geelong over the past few years, and Sydney. Obviously we played in a grand final, and Sydney and Geelong have played some very close games, and we’ve played some close games with Freo. I think we’re set up for a fantastic final series, and one thing I do know is there are going to be some tight games. There are going to be some big moments.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Sep 6, 2014 as "Final eyes". Subscribe here.

Richard Cooke
is a journalist and writer for television. He is The Saturday Paper's sports editor.