Shaun Burgoyne doubts he could have played in the AFL at such a young age without the guidance of coaches such as Phil Walsh.
The Hawthorn star paid an eloquent tribute to Walsh on Monday, three days after the Adelaide senior coach died in horrific circumstances.
Burgoyne was 19 when he debuted for Port Adelaide in 2002.
He made an immediate impact and has gone on to enjoy an outstanding career, transferring to Hawthorn in late 2009.
Burgoyne was blessed with great mentors when he joined the Power.
Apart from Walsh, Alastair Clarkson and Dean Bailey were also assistants in Mark Williams’ regime.
Clarkson now coaches Burgoyne at Hawthorn.
In 2004, two years after his debut, Burgoyne was a key player in Port’s first premiership team.
“It was very hard to take the news … I had some pretty good football people around me as a young kid,” Burgoyne said.
“Obviously Phil touched a lot of people over his journey, being at a few different clubs.
“He’s going to be missed.”
Burgoyne spent about eight years working with Walsh and remembered him as a fierce taskmaster with a good heart.
“When I first went (to Port), he was pretty hard on me,” Burgoyne said.
“He’d give me a few sprays here and there.
“But he was also very caring and nurturing of all the younger players, trying to get the most out of them.
“His attention to detail was something that will stick with me – young or old, he expected you to fully pay attention.”
One of the features of Walsh’ time in the AFL is the large number of people who worked with him.
Burgoyne said he and Clarkson are among six or seven people at Hawthorn who used to be Walsh’s colleagues.