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Burt a reluctant club legend

He is the most prolific point-scorer in the history of the Parramatta Eels, but the term 'club legend' doesn't sit well with Luke Burt.

After a career spanning 14 years, 262 games and 123 tries, the one-club man is still uncomfortable being mentioned in the same breath as other Eels icons.

Sitting on the lush turf of Parramatta Stadium, Burt's own theatre of dreams for more than a decade, the sun is beaming down on a picture-perfect day.

Burt knows this ground as well as any player to have ever come before him, yet he still humbly dismisses his status at the club when asked about it by

"The legend part doesn't fit very well with me," Burt tells almost embarrassed by the question.

"It is great to be mentioned, I was just one of those players who was lucky enough to play here for so long.

"I've loved my time and every year I've been here. The fans have been wonderful and the club has been great for me too."

Burt surpassed the legendary Brett Kenny as the greatest try-scorer in the club's history (110) when he scored a double against the Cowboys in round four, 2011. It was something Burt never imagined was possible. While it is undoubtedly a proud achievement in his career, it is not something he ever aspired to do.

"It is something you don't set out to do, but to achieve that and have those records, it is a bit weird," Burt said.

"Taking the record off Brett Kenny, he is a legend of the Parramatta club. It is something I’m very grateful for. I've always said that I'm very lucky that I have been able to play at the same club for 14 years, so that gives me the opportunities to break those records.

"Obviously being a winger, I've played outside some great players who have given me the opportunities to score some nice easy tries.

"I was lucky enough to do that here on my home ground against the North Queensland side, I actually equalled it and then broke it in the same match which was great, it is obviously something I will never forget."

The journey for Burt started when he was signed by Parramatta's recruitment officer Noel Cleal from Newcastle as a 16-year-old. It meant Burt's parents needed to drive their young son down to Parramatta twice a week for training and then again at the weekend so their son could follow his dream of playing first-grade.

His debut as a 17-year-old was in front of a record 104,583 fans to launch the opening of the Olympic Stadium in 1999.

Burt has been a mainstay in the blue and gold ever since.

Now 14 years later, he will play his last match, coincidentally against St George Illawarra – the same team that were there to greet him as a long-haired kid looking to make it in rugby league.

"It has come the full circle, that debut was pretty bizarre," Burt recalls.

"I remember I played a couple of trials with the NRL boys and early that week Brian (Smith) approached me and mentioned that I would be playing. I remember being this little 70 kilo fella sitting on the bench and looking up at the crowd and not really feeling like I belonged.

"I think it helped the quality of players I was playing with, I had a lot of really top-line players I debuted with. It was an amazing experience and something I'll definitely never forget."

During the match Burt chased down a grubber and claimed a try after diving full-stretch into the in-goal. The video referee would soon see that Burt had fumbled and promptly ruled no-try. Was it a case of a young brash kid trying to fib his way to a try on debut or was it a case of an old head on young shoulders?

Burt has a different interpretation.

"It was off a Jim Dymock kick and I didn't really want to look like I knocked-on, I was a bit scared of him," he said.

"It was one of those things, I was hoping the video referee might have awarded it and saw some kind of grounding, but unfortunately not, but those things happen.

"It could have been the first video ref to be honest with you."

The only thing missing from Burt's stellar career in the blue and gold is a premiership ring.

In 2001 the Eels were raging favourites for the title until an Andrew Johns inspired Newcastle scored 24 unanswered points in the opening half of the grand final to obliterate their dream of lifting the trophy.

It cut deep.

"I can't remember 2001 too well," Burt said.

"It is something I have shut out. I've never watched a replay of the game, the whole experience leading up to it was mad, obviously because of my age it was a bit bizarre, there was a lot to take in for me at that age.

"It is probably something I didn’t realise that it was so hard to get to. At that age I probably thought I've got to one this early, I'll probably get another chance."

Burt would finally get another chance at the premiership eight years later, riding a seemingly unstoppable wave of victories into the grand final.

Ultimately the Eels came up short again, Melbourne would later be stripped of their title for systematic rorting of the salary cap.

"In 2009 I really wanted to enjoy that week," Burt said.

"I did [that] soaking in all the experience of grand final week and unfortunately we missed out on the result again, that was probably a lot easier to take because of the run we made late in the season.

"It was a tough back-end to the year, but a very enjoyable one. They are two highlight games, but not really highlights if you know what I mean."

So while Burt and Nathan Hindmarsh won't get the elusive premiership ring they have been seeking for over a decade, they will still finish as club legends in their own right.

"He is a bloke I still look up to and when he says something it means a lot to me," Burt said of Hindmarsh.

"He has done so much for the game, not only the club Parramatta, but Australian football. It has been great to share those experiences with him and we have made a lot of close mates and to retire on the same day will make it a lot easier."

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