Ever since his move to Hawthorn, Shaun Burgoyne has established himself as one of the most reliable players in the team. The silky veteran has played 102 consecutive games, and a total of 182 games in brown and gold. In that time, he has won 3 premierships, and played a key role in every finals campaign without fail. It is only fair that the question on every Hawthorn fan's mind is, will he play on?
What Burgoyne brings to the side
Simply put – he brings class. While he is not a huge accumulator, his leadership in clutch moments has been crucial in Hawthorn’s wins. This is exactly why he was a welcome addition to the side after Crawford retired. He also has provided years of mentoring and leadership to Hawthorn’s indigenous players, and has a big role in the success enjoyed by the younger brigade.
And then there is Burgoyne the player, who thrives under pressure. One game that will remain etched in my memory is the preliminary final against Geelong in 2013. In a hotly contested game which went down to the wire, Burgoyne was a huge influence, with 24 possessions and 3 goals. Every time Geelong looked to be gaining ascendancy, Burgoyne was there thwarting their efforts.
In the third quarter, Geelong looked to have run away with the game with a 20-point lead. They say each goal is worth two in a final. Burgoyne’s goal which sealed the game for Hawthorn in the 23rd minute of the final quarter was worth ten.
Burgoyne’s career at Hawthorn is made up of several such moments, and to compile them in detail would take quite a monumental effort. I consider 2016 to be the year that the competition had finally caught up to Hawthorn. Burgoyne was still there in the thick of it, providing some great moments for the highlight reel.
Should Burgoyne play on?
To me, this one is a no-brainer for Hawthorn. With the retirement of Luke Hodge and with some of the premiership stars starting to fade, Burgoyne will be the one constant that spurs the younger players on.
He has been in sublime touch himself, averaging almost 21 touches a game, and having kicked 13 goals in a year where scoring hasn’t been particularly easy for the Hawks. Compared to some of the major ball winners, these may not seem like huge numbers, but what he adds to the team is grit, doggedness and skill.
Burgoyne averages almost 10 contested possessions a game, and four tackles. His pressure has often directly resulted in a Hawthorn score, or has negated the opposition’s attempt to score. He is at the top end of the table for a number of key statistics at Hawthorn, in a year where they have been poor at contested football.
This young Hawks side has found its way back in 2017, and the key pieces are falling into place. However, the game plan is still being refined, and they will still need another year of solid leadership. I cannot think of a better man to provide that than a player who loves nothing more than to stand up and be counted when his team needs it most.
As Burgoyne himself said last year, once you retire, you stay retired. It is only fitting that when the guard is finally changed, and the baton is handed over, it is done by Shaun Burgoyne.
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