HAWTHORN star Shaun Burgoyne “was a bit scared” and unsure how to react when confronted by racist taunts and having coins thrown at him early in his career.

In an article published in the round 11 edition of the AFL Record, Burgoyne matter-of-factly explains several incidents he experienced playing for Port Adelaide early in his 253-game career. He says football has come a long way in dealing with racial issues, but there is still plenty of work to be done.

“I copped it twice in my early years. It happened when we played away games in Victoria,” Burgoyne says.

“I remember standing in the goalsquare and I heard a couple of things from the (opposition) cheer-squad directed at my teammate standing next to me.

“And in another game when I came off the ground someone in the crowd said a few things.

“I was young and probably a bit scared at the time to stand up to what I heard. I stopped and looked to see if I could see the person, but he didn’t stand up. Obviously he was a coward and didn't take ownership of what he said,” Burgoyne says.

“The first time, there was money (coins) being thrown at us, which is obviously a bit dangerous. Standing in the goalsquare and seeing 20 cent and 50 cent pieces being thrown at you is strange.

“It took my mind off the game for a while. It was a different feeling. I’d experienced racism growing up as a kid but never on the footy field until then. That was pretty disappointing. But I didn't really know how to react,” he says.

Burgoyne calls recent examples of racist behaviour at AFL games “very disappointing and a negative”, but says having crowd members pointing out racist behaviour is encouraging.

“Football is such a powerful tool to help breakdown stereotypes and those racial barriers that exist,” he says.

“Although it’s very disappointing and a negative, the racial issues from last year (when Sydney Swans co-captain Adam Goodes was abused by a supporter) and the past few weeks (Goodes and Melbourne’s Neville Jetta were racially abused by fans at recent matches) highlight that a lot of work still needs to be done.

“Fans now are also taking a stand. People don’t want crap said in front of their kids. It’s great that crowds are now saying ‘enough is enough’. We’re getting better, but we’ve still got a long way to go.”

The 31-year-old Burgoyne, a two-time premiership player, last week signed a one-year contract extension with the Hawks. He works part-time for the AFL as an indigenous projects manager, spending time with young indigenous players in a mentoring role, which he says he derives “great pleasure” from.

He says he is also keen to see more indigenous coaches and umpires involved in the game.

“We’ve got roughly 10 per cent of players in the competition from an indigenous background, but for some reason that hasn't been reflected in players moving to coaching,” he says.

“Through the AFL diversity coaching and umpiring strategies, we’re hoping to get indigenous coaches and umpires in the system.

“You just need an opportunity and a platform to grow. Hopefully, we can provide opportunities through these programs.”   

Read the full Shaun Burgoyne article in the round 11 edition of the AFL Record, available at all grounds.