YOU could say Shaun Burgoyne knows a thing or two about finals footy.
Playing at the business end of the season has been a feature of Burgoyne’s career.
Delivering in September has earned him the reputation as a big game and big moment specialist – a player who stands up when the pressure is at its greatest.
The 32-year-old, a veteran of 292 AFL matches and 14 seasons of top-flight football, will step out for his 29th final when the Hawks take on Adelaide Crows this week.
He joins illustrious company – sitting alongside AFL greats Leigh Matthews, Bruce Doull and Wayne Schimmelbusch – as players to feature in 29 finals.
Only Michael Tuck (39 finals) and Gordon Coventry (31) have played in more.
It’s something the modest Hawk hasn’t thought too much about – but he can’t wait to run out onto the MCG on Friday night.
“To be mentioned alongside those guys’ names, it’s pretty embarrassing,” Burgoyne told hawthornfc.com.au this week.
“They’re some of the all-time greats of the game.
“Playing finals is a privilege. Some players go through their careers and never get the chance to play finals, so I’ve been very lucky to be at the right clubs at the times.
“The fans want to see their team playing finals and more importantly you want to win finals and premierships. That’s why you play a team sport, and I’ve been lucky enough to be in the right spot at the right time and hopefully the journey continues.”
Burgoyne knows it’s an achievement he’ll be able to look back on proudly at the end of his career, a career that has already included three premierships, two with Hawthorn (2013-14) and one with Port Adelaide (2004).
In fact, the skilful utility who goes by the nickname ‘Silk’, has featured in finals football in 10 of his 14 seasons to date.
Plenty has changed since his first finals series, in his debut season at Port Adelaide in 2002.
“When I first started I was in the forward pocket at Port Adelaide and probably didn’t play too well in my first one or two finals there. Once I shifted down back my personal performance started lifting,” Burgoyne said.
“You soon realise what it takes to play finals and win finals – it becomes a contested brand of footy, the intensity goes up, the contested footy goes up and it’s a real one on one battle.
“That much hasn’t changed – if anything, the level of that has gotten higher every year.”
Seventeen of Burgoyne’s 28 finals to date have resulted in wins, and he’s hoping to make that 18 against the Crows on Friday.
He can remember the Hawks’ most recent final against the Crows, a thrilling five-point preliminary final in 2012.
“We just got across the line, it was a nail-biter,” Burgoyne said.
“They came out of the blocks and started really well. We were able to peg them back and towards the end of the game, they were in front, then we were in front, they were in front and then Cyril (Rioli) – him and Bud (former Hawk Lance Franklin) at the end were able to kick two goals and help us get away with a victory.
“We know it’s going to be another close game like that and it would be great to have 50,000 plus Hawthorn fans out there cheering us on Friday night.”
For Burgoyne it’s all about a team-first mentality.
He knows the Hawks need to improve on last week’s effort against West Coast Eagles, and he knows they can.
He’s expecting big things from the team on the field on Friday night – and a big addition to the Burgoyne family off the field very soon.
Burgoyne and his wife Amy are expecting their fourth child, to join sons Ky and Percy, and daughter Leni, and he’s forecasting a busy summer.
“My family’s pretty excited about it and my kids are pretty excited. We’re picking out names and colours and clothes and all those things – so away from footy it’s been very exciting,” he said.
“It’s pretty full on, but as a parent you probably wouldn’t want it any other way.
“Going home from footy is really good… the kids don’t really care that you play footy, they just treat you like a Dad.”
“Baby number four is going to add a bit extra to the group, so I’m going to have a big off-season changing nappies.”