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Star Hawk to wear special number for Indigenous Round

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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 23:  Shaun Burgoyne of the Hawks celebrates a goal during the round five AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the West Coast Eagles at Melbourne Cricket Ground on April 23, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images/AFL Media)
Shaun Burgoyne will wear No.67 when the Hawks take on the Swans at the SCG

FOUR-TIME premiership-winning Hawk Shaun Burgoyne wants to see more indigenous coaches in the AFL, but says he is unlikely to follow that path in his post-career life.

Former St Kilda footballer and NT Thunder premiership coach Xavier Clarke boosted the number of Aboriginal assistant coaches in the AFL to three when he joined Richmond at the end of last year.

Roger Hayden (Fremantle) and Andy Lovell (Gold Coast) are the others, but no indigenous person has served as a senior coach since Barry Cable coached North Melbourne from 1981-84. Geelong legend Polly Farmer was the only other indigenous senior coach, guiding the Cats from 1973-75.  

Burgoyne, the AFL players' indigenous board chairman, said boosting those figures would go some way to keeping Aboriginal players in the sport.

"I think the next step for the AFL is to get more indigenous coaches to help the transition of players and hopefully maintain those players in the system for longer," Burgoyne told reporters.

"If you've got 9-11 per cent – I'm not too sure what the actual number is – that's indigenous (players), we'd like to see that translate to indigenous coaches as well.

"It's a really good story of (Clarke's) persistence and pathway, obviously going through injury setbacks as well … we just want to see that grow over the next couple of years."

As part of Indigenous Round, Burgoyne will switch the usual No.9 on the back of his guernsey for the No.67 when his Hawks take on the Swans on Friday night at the SCG. 

The number change is in honour of the 1967 Australian Referendum that saw discriminatory language against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people removed from the constitution.

"I was asked from the club if I wanted to wear it and what my thoughts were and I said, 'Yeah, I would be pumped if I could'," Burgoyne said.

"I'm very happy and proud (to be wearing the number)."

Burgoyne wrote an open letter last month in his AFL players' indigenous board role, suggesting there was "a lot of work to do" to beat racism after an incident where a fan abused Adelaide's Eddie Betts.

Port Adelaide handed the club member an indefinite ban in the aftermath.

"I've definitely noticed (positive) change," he said.

"The general public and general footy supporter out there are very supportive … and know the boundary and cheer very hard and loud, and that's what all people want, especially when you're taking families with children.

"You want passionate supporters and there's always going to be a small percent of people who overstep the mark … and we'll weed those people out."

Burgoyne was born in Darwin, but moved to Port Lincoln with his family, including his AFL-playing brother Peter, who played 240 games for Port Adelaide, when he was three years old.

"It probably helped having my brother, who is five years older than me, play AFL footy and watching him get drafted," he said.

"For indigenous kids, to see role models playing footy and AFL, it gives them something to aspire to. 

"We talk about Cyril (and) Maurice (Rioli) and Michael Long being three Norm Smith medallists from the Tiwi Islands – it is an unbelievable feat."