Lyle Burns may have tasted limited success as a player with Burrumbuttock during the 1980s and 90s. But the tireless Brock-Burrum treasurer is living the dream since the two clubs merged in 2006. Burns caught up with The Border Mail's BRENT GODDE during the week.
BRENT GODDE: I heard you showed some promising signs as a footballer growing up?
LYLE BURNS: I won a couple of junior best and fairests with Burrumbuttock. I got picked in a couple of Riverina representative sides and went away to play in Canberra. Big Al Thomas from Walbundrie was in the side as well as Bill Brownless and Paul Spargo.
BG: I could imagine it wasn't too warm at Canberra in the middle of winter?
LB: Yeah, we started playing at around 11am and the ground was just white with frost. We had a team photo taken and I remember years ago Billy pulled it out one night when he was on The Footy Show.
BG: For those who don't know you, how would you describe yourself as a footballer?
LB: I was only a battler and wasn't too gifted or anything like that. I probably played roughly more than 300 games for Burrumbuttock and 60 per cent for seniors and reserves the rest.
BG: How were Burrumbuttock travelling for numbers back in those days?
LB: It was always a bit of a struggle and the seconds were short a lot of the time. I remember one year I ended up playing 25 matches because I had to double-up and played seven in the reserves and 18 in the seniors, which was a record at the club at the time.
BG: Who were some of the guns at Burrumbuttock you can remember as a kid?
LB: I remember the club had some great players. Jack Danckert came out from town and was a freak, Allan Scammell was a champion, Barry McDonald and Noel Kirk also played.
BG: Noel is obviously the father of Brett who had an outstanding career with the Swans?
LB: Yeah, I remember Noel ended up at Burrumbuttock because North Albury didn't want him because of his arm injury. Noel finished runner-up seven times in our best and fairest, so we were the big winners there.
BG: Who else caught your eye?
LB: Peter Hore played full-back and was one of the most prodigious kicks I have even seen. He used to kick some big torpedoes from full-back and could roost the ball into the centre.
BG: Who were some of the better coaches you played under?
LB: Were were struggling but when Simon Plunkett came out to coach he got us back on track. In 1987 we finished fifth, but it was still a top-four back then.
BG: What about when Dave "Eagle" Coulston was coaching the Swans?
LB: Dave was fantastic and was a real character. He attracted a lot of new faces to the club and we were fairly competitive the three years he was at the helm. We made finals and ended up playing Brocklesby, but they bloody beat us.
BG: How did you get on with Dave?
LB: He was a champion fella and would be the first one there on a Saturday morning helping the ladies set up the canteen. He enjoyed the social side as well and would be the first to a function and the last to leave.
ALSO IN SPORT:
BG: The club was on the end of some fearful hidings when it was at its lowest?
LB: I remember one day against Lockhart Warren Sykes kicked 18 goals against us. We had four blokes on him but it didn't matter, he was just a freak.
BG: I remember in 1993 when Peter Copley was coaching Culcairn, Shannon Barber kicked the league record of 23 goals. What are your memories of that day?
LB: Brian Hodge was coach and I had that season off before returning the following year when Coulston was appointed.
BG: Did you play in any senior finals at Burrumbuttock?
LB: One in 1995 against Brocklesby and that was it.
BG: Other than playing, what are some of the other roles you have performed at the club?
LB: I was treasurer at Burrumbuttock for eight years before the merger in 2006 and have been since the merger as well. I think it's 22 years all up. I'm also the licencee and help run the bar on home games.
BG: A lot of people wouldn't realise how much work is involved?
LB: Yeah Saturday is a big day. I usually start loading the ute up with stock for the bar and canteen around 6.30am, while the missus, Tammy, is in charge of running the canteen. So we are usually down at the ground by 7.30am unpacking stuff and on the gate by 8.30am.
BG: Obviously, before the merger Brocklesby was your biggest rival. How would you describe the rivalry?
LB: We would always set ourselves during the season to beat Brocklesby. I remember one year we beat them last round and we celebrated like we won the grand final. It was the only game we won for the year and the pub put on a keg for us.
BG: Any good stories about the rivalry you can recall?
LB: One year we were playing against Brocklesby and I had a wedding on the same day. I decided to still play football which turned out being a huge mistake. It was the most atrocious conditions I have played in, it was freezing and it started hailing. I remember the runner had a bottle of Stones and everyone was having a swig and trying to keep warm. We only had a couple minutes break for half-time so we could finish early. I think everyone was back at the Burrumbuttock pub by 4.30pm that day.
BG: I remember big Brett "Bear" Allen coached Burrumbuttock in 1999. Did you have anything to do with getting him to the club?
LB: Ron Boulton, Neil Bradford and myself went to big 'Bear's' to interview him about being coach as his house. We sat down and he pulls out a six pack and says 'you blokes look thirsty.' So we have a chat about coaching over a few beers and he ends up cooking us all dinner. We ended up dropping a slab of cans and got him signed up.
BG: Did he bring any recruits with him?
LB: Big Gary Ziebell came out and his young bloke Jack was only a pup back then. Bernard Toohey also signed and Dave Schilg came back as well.
BG: How did the Swans go that season?
LB: We won about half-a-dozen games and came eighth from memory.
BG: Dave Schilg was a gun in his prime?
LB: One of the best going around in the Hume league. He won two Azzi medals and seven club best and fairests which is a sensational effort.
BG: I think Toohey coached the following season?
LB: Yeah I remember that year we played Osborne and it was around the time Russell Smith was marking everything and Stephen Clarke would rack up 40-plus possessions a game and blitz us. We told Toohey about Clarke so he put up his hand to play on him. Every time Clarke got the ball Toohey would smash into him and make him earn it. He would of done it a dozen times. But to Clarke's credit he kept getting up. I left the ground with a new found admiration for Clarke that day.
BG: The two clubs merged in 2006, what are your memories when the merger talks were first floated?
LB: Brocklesby came across and told us they wanted to merge and half the Burrumbuttock supporters' initial reaction was immediately 'no way.' Burrumbuttock had plenty of money at the time, but the biggest struggle was recruiting players. When you are struggling you find it hard to attract players or you have to pay overs for players who are only average.
BG: So financially, Burrumbuttock was in a strong position.
LB: Money was never a problem and now since the merger, we are one of the most strongest financially in the league.
BG: What was your personal opinion on the merger at the time?
LB: I knew we had to do something different because we weren't playing finals. It's hard to recruit a decent coach when you have been down the bottom of the ladder for so long. Some of the money coaches were asking for was ridiculous.
BG: Who convinced the supporters to change their mind?
LB: Peter Chisnall had the Burrumbuttock pub at the time and not being from the town originally, took an objective view. He just pointed out that Burrumbuttock was struggling for juniors and volunteers and it was only going to get worse.
BG: Apart from yourself, who were some of other driving forces behind the merger from a Swans point of view?
LB: Matt I'Anson and Geoff Whitty were tireless workers around Burrumbuttock and were of the opinion we had to think of the future of the club.
BG: What about Brocklesby?
LB: Brocklesby were desperate to merge but actually approached Walbundrie first. They then came to us second, that's why some of our supporters had their noses out of joint.
BG: Why were Brocklesby so desperate to merge?
LB: Howlong poached all their gun players at the end of 2005, guys like Shane Tanner, Ben Nicholson, Shaun Myles and Anthony Ross left and they didn't have a coach.
BG: What were some of the biggest stumbling blocks to overcome?
LB: Basically who was going to run the show. Peter Chisnall was talking to John Ervin who didn't have a connection to either club. John basically oversaw the whole merger.
BG: Initially the club was known as BB Saints so it didn't favour either club?
LB: Personally I didn't like the club being referred to as BB because if you look at the name you think to yourself who is BB. But when you see Brock-Burrum you haven't lost your identity.
BG: Any reason why the clubs ended up settling on the Saints jumper for the merged identity?
LB: There were discussions on what jumper they should have with Burrumbuttock being red and white and Brocklesby the Kangaroo colours. Trying to get all those colours on one jumper wouldn't have been a good look. A bit like when Rand and Walbundrie merged, I thought their jumper was one of the worst I have seen. Once Justin Koschitzke got involved, we all thought it would be a good idea to become the Saints because Justin was obviously at St Kilda at the time.
BG: What other roles did Justin play in the merger?
LB: He has been instrumental in getting some big names to our annual sports luncheon.
BG: There was a toss of the coin to decide whether it was Brocklesby or Burrumbuttock named first in the merger?
LB: Yeah Justin Koschitzke tossed the coin and Craig Eastick was president at the time and he lost, so we became known as Brock-Burrum.
BG: You have been able to attract some huge names to your sports luncheon in the past. It must be a good money spinner for the club?
LB: Greg Koschitzke was the driving force behind the introduction of the luncheon. Wayne Carey, Ricky Ponting, Kerry O'Keefe and Shane Warne are some of the big names we have had. The one I enjoyed most was David Schwarz. The club makes about $20,000 out of the day.
BG: It is true there was talk of building a new footy oval in your front paddock because of its central location between the two towns?
LB: I think Barry Mott jokingly suggested that once because I live exactly half-way between the two towns.
BG: Do you alternate grounds each home game?
LB: No, we have three at one venue, two at the next one, then another two at the first one and then another two at the second one. It's a bit of a pain moving gear around but it works well. We train wherever we are playing that weekend.
BG: It's been 14 years since the merger and the Saints will be aiming for their fifth flag today. But the merger wasn't met with instant success?
LB: Success didn't happen overnight. The first few years we were still down the bottom of the ladder and it wasn't until 2010 when Glen Eddy came on board things started to change. We made the preliminary final that year.
BG: Would it be fair to say when Darryn McKimmie was appointed coach was when Brock-Burrum announced itself as the new powerhouse of the competition?
LB: McKimmie was a fantastic coach. When he addressed the players he would never yell or rant and get carried away. McKimmie just used to sit the boys down and had their full attention and he would tell them calmly what needed to be done to win the game. I rate him tactically as one of the smartest coaches I have seen. He is still involved with the club.
BG: IthinkLuke Brauer replaced McKimmie at the helm?
LB: Brauer got the boys super fit and was big on recovery with ice baths and stuff like that. I remember when I was playing I couldn't wait to get my hand in an ice esky and grab a beer.
BG: As a success starved supporter, what has the feeling been like since the Saints started winning flags?
LB: I can't believe it to be honest and have to pinch myself sometimes. I was just happy to start winning games but to be winning premierships is unbelievable. The wheel will turn but I'm stoked to be living the dream at the moment.
BG: Obviously Saints president Steve Koschitzke has done a power of work?
LB: I don't know how he runs a farm and puts the amount of work he does into the club. Noel Livermore is secretary and also does a lot of work, while Taki Griparis is a champion bloke.
BG: I believe Taki is a bit of a character around the club.
LB: Yeah, he is 57 but rocks up to training most nights and trains with the boys. He has played three games this season for the opposition when they were short. His young bloke, Kade, won't talk to him for a week after he plays for the opposition.
BG: What do you feel has been the secret to the success?
LB: I think the committee has been fantastic and everyone does their bit. I also think we have been lucky to have been able to land some fantastic coaches over the past decade. Whoever replaces Kade Stevens has got some big shoes to fill.
BG: Who do you rate as the best player you have seen since the merger?
LB: Big Trent Storey was fantastic, Luke Schilg was unstoppable in 2015 and now we have got big Matty Seiter. Little Nico Segdwick is probably my favourite to watch and it's unbelievable how quick he is.
BG: Can you see further mergers in the Hume league in the not too distant future?
LB: I think most clubs are fairly strong except for the Murray Magpies. I'm not too sure what's going to happen there.
BG: What do you think is the biggest issue locally in country football at the minute?
LB: There is a couple of things. I think dwindling numbers in the juniors is a concern. Also reducing the salary cap from $100,000 to $90,000 over the next two years is a bit of a head scratcher and in my opinion and will lead to more clubs rorting the cap. Every club strives to improve, not go backwards. Changing the Hume league's original player points system two years ago to fall in line with other leagues was a mistake. Why change something that was working?
BG: The club is building new facilities at Brocklesby?
LB: Yeah we are building a new function room which hopefully will be ready for next season. Burrumbuttock is looking to doing something similar down the track.