Pre-season duties for Sydney FC midfielder Max Burgess involve long hours, tough training sessions and disciplining his mind to new tactics and team-mates.
However, along with a focused football mindset on the field, Burgess also challenges his mind off it by studying online.
“I’m doing a Bachelor of Arts which I enjoy. I’m doing some philosophy subjects and a little bit of sociology,” said the midfielder.
“It’s challenging your perceptions on the world and the ideas you inherit from your society around you.”
Along with his studies, Burgess also has a passion for playing music.
“I try to get on the keys (piano) each day, there are a couple of Gang of Youths songs that I’ve been trying to get my head around.
“In my opinion they are the best Australian band at the moment.”
It’s those moments of extra-curricular activity which give the Sky Blue a rest from the stresses of the professional game, ahead of the most important Isuzu UTE A-League season in the club’s history.
In less than 50 days, Burgess will step out at the new 42,500-seater Allianz Stadium where he made his Sydney FC debut in 2014 at the age of 19.
The return home holds extra significance for the Paddington-born playmaker, growing up as a Sky Blues’ supporter and being a club Member during the inaugural 2005/06 A-League season.
Weekends at the Sydney Football Stadium were a regular occurrence for the Burgess family, with a young Max playing junior football for Easts FC close by at Queens Park.
“I’d be heading out to Moore Park most weekends after football on Sundays. I’d go out with the family and watch either the Sydney Swans or Sydney FC,” Burgess said.
“We did a stadium tour a couple of days ago. It’s going to be fantastic to be back home, I’m sure our fans are really excited and we are too.”
After winning a National Youth League Championship with Sydney in 2016 following a stint at the Newcastle Jets, Burgess signed for Sydney Olympic in 2017 where he linked up with his younger brother Darcy.
Opportunity then came calling from overseas, as Burgess moved to Europe to play in the Portuguese second division for CF União Madeira in the latter half of 2017.
“It was a fantastic experience,” he continued. “To be in a different country I learn a lot and especially when you’re by yourself, you grow up.
“You get out of your bubble and see the world for what it is and I think it was super important that I got the opportunity to do that.”
Returning to Sydney Olympic at the end of 2017, Burgess again played with his brother Darcy as the pair went on to win the NPL NSW Men’s 2018 championship.
“We always grew up kicking the ball around the backyard, going down to the local park and playing with mates,” said Burgess. “That’s probably the earliest memories of playing football.”
After tasting success at Sydney Olympic, Burgess earned an A-League move to Wellington Phoenix in October 2018—featuring 22 times in the league for the New Zealand outfit.
A move to Western United then followed, as Burgess netted seven goals and assisted six times in the 2019/20 regular A-League season—averaging a goal involvement in the league every 100 minutes before his return to the Sky Blues in July 2021.
‘There’s really high standards at this club and amongst the group of players and staff’ – Max Burgess
Ahead of the 2022/23 A-League campaign which starts in October, head coach Steve Corica is looking to instill winning ways into his rebuilt Sydney side.
With new signings Jack Rodwell, Joe Lolley and Robert Mak through the door, Burgess says that the Sydney squad is “looking really strong” and must focus on working hard in pre-season.
“Now that we’ve got all the foreigners here the squad’s looking really strong, very competitive, they are going to add a lot of experience and quality,” Burgess said.
“We’re building well and we’re putting in our processes at training which are really important.
“There’s a really strong, competitive vibe amongst the group.
“Obviously there are really high standards at this club and amongst the group of players and staff.”
Driven on and off the field, Burgess is living in the moment to put his energy into creating a successful Sky Blues season when the A-League begins in October.
“I’m not looking too far down the road, just literally moment to moment, day by day.” he added.
“We’re looking forward to a good season. We’ll find ourselves in October soon enough.”