A veteran of the game, Harry Burgess started his playing career in the middle of the 1900s when he was under the guidance of Ray Rosbrook.
After making a great first impression, selectors had no choice but to put him in the NSW team for the inaugural Australian championships held in 1946. NSW won the championship and Harry was named on the list of the top five players of the competition.
Harry played his basketball in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney for Moore Park Playground before moving to the Eastern Suburbs Police Boys Club. After some sensational performances, he was selected for NSW in 1948 and 1949.
He always had an interest in the community and ways to better society. When the Newtown Police Boys Club opened in 1951, Harry took the opportunity with open arms.
When Bruce Flick moved from the Camperdown Playground to join the young group of talented players at Newtown, Harry’s coaching credentials were further developed.
Harry had a basketball brain, he knew what had to be done but when the formation of the ‘ Paratels’ sponsorship came in, he introduced a more structured framework into Sydney basketball. He had numerous connections abroad but the one connection that helped him most was the assistance of Kentucky’s Rupp. He was the inspirational leader behind Harry’s offences and philosophies and these he introduced into basketball in Sydney. The effectiveness of Harry’s initiatives changed the way basketball was played and coached.
Harry was well respected in the basketball circle. He was firm and tough. This formed the foundation of his ethical, disciplined and professional attitude apparent to all those who came in contact with him. Nevertheless, Harry had the patience to teach others. Indeed, future lauded coaches such as Flick and Ammit were both developed by Harry.
Crunching the numbers and working out how to stop other teams was one of Harry’s fortes. It was in 1954 that he introduced a player statistics programme to be used until 1959.
At first, for Harry, it was all about gaining experience and reputation while helping the game of basketball succeed. Later, his mind was on expanding the horizons of our great game. He organised the first known basketball team tour of the Southern states. The Newtown Police Boys Club took teams out into the country and this assisted the development of the game.
Harry was always very meticulous in his coaching and when he was asked to become the assistant coach of the 1956 Australian Olympic team he was never going to say no. He was the mastermind behind the team’s Olympic campaign in Melbourne. In 1956 and 1957 he also coached the NSW team.