West Pymble’s Clem Burgmann is set to make his 400th First Grade appearance for the club in the opening round of the 2019 NSFA Men’s Premier League competition this season.
This year will be the 45-year-old’s twentieth season as First Grade goalkeeper for Pymble, having first joined the ranks as an 18-year-old in 1993.
“I was a bit lucky, me and a bunch of mates joined together and West Pymble was at a point when they were looking for new blood,” he explained.
“They were really successful through the 80’s, but it was basically the same team getting on a bit.
“I got a bit lucky because the incumbent goalkeeper injured himself before the season started so I got chucked in as the only other option.”
Success was not immediately forthcoming for Burgmann and his teammates, but the first piece of silverware finally arrived in 1998.
“We didn’t win anything else in the 90’s, we were perennial runners-up in all sorts of competitions, but thankfully we got that one league title in 1998,” he said.
“It was just in time as in 1999 I moved out of Sydney for work and I was away from Pymble for seven seasons.”
Burgmann returned to the club in 2007 and was dropped straight back into First Grade football, with immediate success.
“When I came back to Pymble and I thought I might have a bit of a run in reserves, but it turns out that they needed a First Grade goalkeeper again so I went straight back in.
“We won the NSFA Cup that year which was nice, because I’d lost four Cup finals up until that point.
“It still is the only cup I’ve won though; I’ve been in 8 or 9 finals and lost all except that one!”
As in his first spell, success in the NSFA Premier League was slow to come. However, the club would break their title drought in 2015, winning their first title since 1998 in dramatic fashion.
“The way it panned out, we were playing Lindfield in the last round, they were second and we were first. They had to win, we had to at least draw, it was like a grand final,” he reflected.
“We were down at Norman Griffiths Oval and I’ve never seen it like that, there were hundreds of people there – it was packed.
“All the old blokes who’d been playing for years came along to see if we could win, it was such a great atmosphere.
“We went down 1-0 in the first half so we had to claw our way back and thankfully we did.
“To win on the last day against the team in second, not having won the league for 17 years was probably the highlight of my career by a long shot.”
That title win was the first of an incredible four in a row for West Pymble, culminating in last year’s league and finals series double.
However, with coach Greg Fuchs moving on in the off-season the winds of change are blowing through the squad as they look to equal Asquith’s record of five straight titles.
“It’s a new look team for West Pymble this year, it’s almost like starting again – new coach, lots of new players, so I’m excited to see how we go,” Burgmann said.
“I don’t think we’re necessarily expecting to win (the league), but we’ll see what happens.”
With the dual milestones of twenty seasons and 400 appearances being notched up this year, the prospect of hanging up the Premier League gloves is certainly playing on Burgmann’s mind ahead of round one.
“For a while now I’ve played every season like it could be my last because that’s what happens when you get older,” he said.
“I reckon this probably will be my last season – although, who knows?
“It’s a lot of fun to play at the highest level you can play at, so while I’m enjoying it and feel like I’m doing well I’ll keep going, but not forever!”