Born: Darwin on March 13, 1973.
Parents: Elizabeth Vigona and Graham Burns.
Education: Darwin Primary School before going to St John's College in Darwin.
Sporting highlight: playing my first game of AFL footy for Geelong against Melbourne at the MCG in 1996.
We'll talk about your AFL career with Geelong and Adelaide shortly, but I want to have a chat about your time playing for Port Fairy in 2005. Can you remember much about that season with the Seagulls?
Yeah. I was great mates with Brad Sholl, who was coach at Port Fairy. I had played footy with Sholly at Geelong. I'll be honest with you; I never knew where Port Fairy was when I got the call from Sholly.
I ended up catching up with him and club president Mick Finnigan. They told me the Seagulls had recruited Frank Matthews, plus John McNamara, and I knew both were very good players.
We made the finals and played arch-rivals Koroit in the preliminary final. It was a really close contest against Koroit in front of a huge crowd at Reid Oval. We ended up winning by two points and had to play Terang Mortlake in the grand final. They were the favourites for the grand final but we had beaten them twice during the season.
Was Port Fairy in front at any stage of that grand final?
From my memory, we were playing catch-up footy for the day but our chances were not helped when John McNamara and I were sent off the ground for 10 minutes for indiscretions. We were both in the sin bin. The side was under extreme pressure and could not recover.
Terang Mortlake ended up beating us by 21 points.
What was the reaction from Port Fairy's coach Brad Sholl after McNamara and you were sent off at a vital stage of the grand final?
Brad was not happy that John and I had lost our cool.
I would say our actions cost us winning the 2005 grand final.
Terang Mortlake was a very good side but I think if John and I were not in the sin bin, we would have won the flag.
Brad gave John and I the cold shoulder for three months after the grand final loss and I don't blame him. We're all mates again but the chat often comes up about the 2005 grand final and we all agree it was the one that got away.
I went on and was playing coach at Berwick for two seasons before taking part in the Marngrook Footy Show for 15 years.
Ronnie, you're now involved in a business venture with John McNamara. Can you give me details about the business?
I'm the national Indigenous employment and engagement manager for Yambuk Labour Solutions, of which John is the director and founder.
The name Yambuk came about because John was raised in that area. The mission statement of the business is we're about building a solid, economically-sound foundation for future Indigenous generations. Every day, our staff work hard and meet the expectations of our clients from some of the biggest Tier-One building sites in Victoria and Australia.
We consider it a privilege to support and represent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders by providing them with a safe and meaningful work environment not just for today, tomorrow, months or years from now, but for generations to come. We want to change the cycle and embed the culture of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people into the mind, body and spirit of all Australians collectively.
A lot of our work is based in the Western District but we are not limited to Victoria - we have supported flood victims in Queensland clean up after the floods.
What are your memories of your first game of AFL footy with Geelong?
I was just 22 years old when I made my debut.
I was selected in a forward pocket to play alongside Gary Ablett senior, Billy Brownless and Barry Stoneham. I had to pinch myself that I was playing in a side with such wonderful players.
I ended up kicking a couple of goals, which was a bonus. My journey to making my debut with Geelong saw me playing for Darwin juniors, Nightcliff, St Mary's and West Perth.
How many games did you end up playing in the AFL?
I played 154 games in total in the AFL. The number was made up with 134 with Geelong from 1996 to 2002 and then 20 with the Adelaide Crows from 2003 and 2004. During my career between the two clubs, I booted 262 goals.
Who were your coaches at the AFL level?
I had Gary Ayres for five years at Geelong and then Mark "Bomber" Thompson for two years with the Cats and my AFL career finished up with Gary Ayres as my senior coach with Adelaide for two years. I had a great relationship with Gary Ayres during my AFL career. He really took me under his wing.
What was "Bomber" Thompson like as a coach at Geelong?
He came in with fresh ideas and was really helpful to my career.
Can you remember what it was like living in Adelaide in 2003 and 2004?
It was a bit strange, to say the least. Adelaide was like a big country town back in that era. It was good but it was really quiet considering it was a city. I had moved in with my Adelaide teammate Graham Johncock.
Shops were closed by 6pm but the one big thing I noted was on every third corner was a charcoal chicken takeaway place. I'm not sure what people ate if they never liked the old charcoal chicken and chips back in 2003 and 2004. Let's just hope their taste buds have changed in 2022.
I had to take a substantial pay cut to join Adelaide but I was fortunate to have played in the same side as Wayne Carey, Nigel Smart, Simon Goodwin and Andrew McLeod to name a few of the Crows' top players in that era.
Ronnie, finally, what was it like to play in the same side as Gary Ablett senior?
Gary was a champion and it was a privilege to play in the same side as him.
I was very lucky to have played in the same sides as Gary and Wayne Carey. They were both probably the best players to have played in the AFL.
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