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Country roots: Reg Burgess

BTV: Country Roots; Reg Burgess Reg Burgess reflects on his journey to Essendon.

Essendon was in the midst of one of its great eras when Reg Burgess took up an invitation to join the Club. 

Burgess was raised in Apsley, a small town just on the Victorian side of the border with South Australia.

He arrived at a Club that had played in ten Grand Finals in 13 years.

“I had invitations from West Adelaide, because we were right on the border, and Geelong, Melbourne and Essendon,” Burgess said.

“So I decided when I got the opportunity I’d come down and test myself out, not thinking for one moment I’d have any hope of making it.

“It was a big decision for me because I’d only been to Melbourne once as a 10-12 year old when my brother brought me down.

“It was unbelieveable to think I could move from up home … but I was so keen to satisfy myself as to whether I could play the game or not.

“I didn’t play well in the first two gamest … I was very nervous about it, I can remember getting to the ball in the air and looking around to see if it was all possible.

“I’d lose track of the ball because I’d say ‘gee whiz, how could I be up here?’" 

Burgess made his debut in 1954 and went on to play 124 games for the Club.

He won the best and fairest in 1957, a year the Bombers made the Grand Final.

“To think I could come down to get to a situation where I could win a best and fairest … when you’ve got blokes like Jack Clarke and John Birt kicking around … was a hell of a thrill,” he said.

“They made me a Life Member at the Club and I also got in the Hall of Fame at this great Club, it was tremendous.”

Burgess was best and fairest winner again in 1960 and was also runner-up in 1956.

He played in the midfield and was lauded for his ball handling, judgment and aerial strength.

But aged just 26, he returned home to run the family farm.

“I’d had seven years and I was playing as well as I could possibly play at that stage,” he said.

“I had to make a decision about whether I stayed in Melbourne – this decision wasn’t forced on me by my parents or anything like that … I just thought I either stop in Melbourne and make a life of it here or I go back to the country.

“It was getting tough and I was just wondering if I could go on any further … I was 26 so I probably could have played another couple of years so to leave Essendon was pretty tough.”

Burgess joined Casterton in the Western Border Footbll League where he coached the side to three straight premierships.

Reg Burgess is ranked at number 13 in the Champions of Essendon.

Years Played: 1954-60

Games: 124

Goals: 9

Best and fairest 1957 and 1960, runner-up 1956

Most improved player 1955

Best utility player 1959

Essendon Team of the Century

9 times Victorian representative

All-Australian 1958