New Gold Coast recruit Chris Burgess was toiling away in the second division of Adelaide’s amateur football league four years ago — a world away from the AFL — but now he is on the cusp of making a Round 1 debut.
The 22-year-old arrived at Metricon Stadium in November along with Werribee pair Sam Collins and Josh Corbett as part of the AFL’s special assistance package, following a remarkable rise from local football to the SANFL to the highest level.
Since then, the tall swingman has enhanced his reputation over the summer, earning a spot in attack ahead of experienced utility Sam Day for last weekend’s trip to Mackay to play the Western Bulldogs in the JLT Community Series
It was there, in far north Queensland, where Burgess put his hand up for a spot in Stuart Dew’s Round 1 side, kicking 2.2 from nine disposals and five marks, a week after slotting three goals against Brisbane in a practice match.
“He is certainly in the mix right now, no doubt. He has been super impressive since he got here,” Gold Coast head of football Jon Haines told foxsports.com.au ahead of Gold Coast’s clash with Sydney in Lismore on Sunday.
“We played 26 last weekend with a reasonably strong team and we will do that again this week. That will be an indication of our thinking ahead of Round 1. If he keeps playing the way he is then he will put his hand up.
“He is a really coachable player and he has been really diligent with his preparation and his training, so that’s given him every chance. He has worked really closely with the coaching staff to adapt to the AFL environment. And to his credit, he has adapted really, really quickly.”
With Tom Lynch now at Punt Road, Gold Coast desperately needs key targets in attack. Peter Wright is well placed to do that this year, while prized picks Jack Lukosius and Ben King can’t be expected to shoulder the load in their debut seasons.
That’s where Burgess — who played at either end of the ground in the SANFL — fits in.
“We’ve got him in that forward group at the moment but he has certainly shown at state league level that he has the capacity to play at both ends. He has certainly taken his opportunity in the forward line,” Haines said.
Everything about Burgess’ rise to this point has been unconventional.
He was cut from Woodville-West Torrens at the age of 14, before earning a chance to do a pre-season at West Adelaide at 18 after turning heads in a ‘Come n Try’ session.
From there, he earned a spot on the Bloods’ list, gradually working his way from the reserves to the ones, where he attracted interest from almost every AFL club in 2018.
And now he is here, one good game away from booking a spot on the flight to Melbourne in a fortnight.
“It is just a great story,” Haines said.
“He isn’t the first to come from a non-traditional pathway and he won’t be the last. We think it is a real strength of the system that we have players who develop late and come in through the state league system and they get the opportunity in the AFL and that’s a really positive thing.”
While there has been a bit of noise about Collins’ first pre-season at the Suns — and Corbett’s summer before he had a knee clean-out last month — it might be the unassuming South Australian who is picked first.
This article originally appeared at: https://www.foxsports.com.au/afl/gold-coast-suns-recruit-chris-burgess-fairytale-rise-from-amateur-football-to-in-the-frame-a-for-round-1-debut/news-story/e7f935cccd3dd2b687bfc7ab570af2c5