• Shaun Burgoyne’s new book titled, ‘Silk’, details his incredible life and career. (Getty Images AsiaPac.)Source: Getty Images AsiaPac.
The four-time premiership winner's new book ‘Silk’ details the obstacles he had to overcome on the way to forging one of the great AFL careers.
Douglas Smith

12 Oct 2021 - 10:52 PM  UPDATED 13 Oct 2021 - 12:30 AM

As a young boy growing up in South Australia's Port Lincoln, all Shaun ‘Silk’ Burgoyne wanted to do was play football with his family.

Little did he know, he would do that and so much more.

Across two decades he carved out one of the most decorated careers in AFL history.

But the Kokatha, Mirning and Warai man says he never imagined he would get to where he is now.

“The number one goal I had as a kid was to play footy with my cousins at Mallee Park, an all-Indigenous team,” said Burgoyne. 

“I just wanted to be like my older cousins and my uncles as they were my idols.

“It’s where you get to hang out with your cousins and replicate what your uncles and big brothers are doing too.”

Eventually, he would leave home at the age of 15, making the move to the Port Adelaide Magpies in the South Australian National Football League where his father and brother also played. 

But it was his upbringing back home that would shape his journey. 

In his new tell-all book titled, ‘Silk’, which is dedicated to his wife Amy and four kids, Ky, Percy, Leni and Nixie, Burgoyne details his early experiences of racism from an early age.

“Someone might call you ‘b**ng’, which was a nasty one, or ‘A**’. It happened all the time when I was growing up." - Shaun Burgoyne, extract from Silk.

“It takes you back when you first start to experience racism and it’s directed at you,” he said.

“There was a fair bit of it growing up and I wasn’t the only one, a lot of my cousins experienced the same thing.

“Through talking to them and talking to your parents, you understand what it is and why people target you and see you as different because of your skin colour.”

Burgoyne admits that he did use violence as a young boy when he was racially abused. 

“Early on, I would just go ‘whack’. I wouldn’t cop any abuse and my attitude was: ‘Hit first and ask questions later,” - Shaun Burgoyne, extract from Silk.

But he also said that he learned how to control how he responded.

“(Racism) was there, it was something that we had to get used to because it wasn’t going away,” he said. 

“It makes you the person you are today going through some of those experiences.

“It did take a few years to understand that and to control my reaction and my cousins were going through the same thing as well.”

“We didn’t do enough”

Watching the Adam Goodes racism saga unfold in 2013, Burgoyne reflected on that time in his book and criticised his own actions in response to what was happening to the Swans legend. 

“Looking back, I know I was too slow to speak up in support of Adam, and I know there are a lot of other people who also feel they should have done more about how Adam Goodes was treated,” - Shaun Burgoyne, extract from Silk.

“It’s disappointing the way he was treated on the way out,” he said. 

“I think it affected a lot of Indigenous players, but also a lot of people in the community.

“To see a beloved player and Indigenous man go out that way wasn’t what we wanted to see. 

“We want everyone to be treated with respect… especially for the players like Adam who have done so much for the game and the community."

Burgoyne said the only positive to come from the saga was that Indigenous players became more vocal against racism.

After Goodes retired from the game, he also stepped down as the inaugural Chairman of the AFL Player’s Association Indigenous Advisory Board. 

It was a position that Burgoyne would step into. 

Black Magic

As a leader for other Indigenous footballers in the AFL, Burgoyne said he is not comfortable with the public perception that the game comes easy for Black players.

He knows better than anyone, the discipline and sacrifices it takes to play elite-level football.

“I've never really liked the term, you know, ‘black magic’ or, you know, ‘he's got something that other players don't,'” he said. 

“I think all players, including Indigenous players, have talent, have potential, but you've got to get out on a training track and you've got to train hard.

“You've got to put in the time and effort away from football with your diet, sleep, in the gym and Indigenous players do that just like every other player.

“Lance Franklin doesn’t play well because he’s Indigenous, Lance Franklin... is a legend of the game because he trains hard, he puts in the time and effort to his body and he just happens to be a good footballer.”

A new chapter 

After 407 games of AFL football, four premiership medals, all-Australian selection and many other accolades, Burgoyne called time on his career at the end of the 2021 season. 

Following that decision, he made the move back to Port Adelaide, where he is set to join the club in a varied role next month.

In his book, Burgoyne’s former coach, Mark ‘Choco’ Williams said Burgoyne would make an even bigger role off the field as an advocate and leader for his people. 

Williams encouraged Burgoyne to take up politics, which is something he has thought about. 

"I actually think that Shaun has an even greater career ahead of him off the field than he had on the field. His potential – and I’ve told him this forever – the way he speaks, the way he’s forthright with his opinion, the way he stands up for his people but also for what is right, is amazing." - Mark 'Choco' Williams, extract from Silk. 

“Yeah, I’m not too sure where life after footy, in terms of politics will look like,” he said. 

”Whether I do go down that path or not is quite stressful… our politicians are in the media every day at the moment.

“I just want to get myself settled at Port Adelaide first.”

At Port Adelaide, he wants to pass on and teach the next generation of Indigenous footballers coming through the club, what it takes to play at the elite level. 

“My advice for the young kids is to just believe in yourself straight away,” he said.

“We’ve all got potential… everyone, no matter who you are, has the potential. It’s just if you want to work hard enough to achieve your goals.

“You may have to sacrifice a few things along the way, but in the end, the results far outweigh the sacrifices.”

His new book, ‘Silk’ will be available for purchase on October 13.  

Shaun Burgoyne returns to Port Adelaide in off-field role
The retired AFL great will become the club's Indigenous Liaison Officer and will also help with player development, mentoring and stakeholder relationships.