WHEN Young Sables’ eighth man Aiden Burnett decided to lace up his boots and pick a rugby ball as a six-year-old, he did not have to look very far for a role model.
“I started playing rugby when I was in Grade One and it was all because of my brother. I looked up to him, I wanted to do everything he did, play the sports he played … even the same position he played,” says the 19-year-old.
The brother in question is Nicholas Burnett, one of the brightest prospects Zimbabwe rugby ever came across.
Sadly, he is late.
Nicholas was a champion swimmer, national water polo player and Young Sables stalwart. He died in a car accident in July 2013.
Now the desire to make his brother proud, wherever he is, spurs Aiden and his siblings.
“It seems the whole family has decided to follow in their late brother’s footsteps,” said the boys’ father John Burnett. “We are left with three boys now Aiden, Liam (17) and Connor (12) who all swim, play rugby and water polo all sports Nicholas excelled in.
“However, it is in Aiden that we see more of Nicholas in as both of them have that extra drive, commitment and natural talent.”
Adds mother Dawn Burnett: “Nicholas was just the shining light of the family and we remember him in everything the boys do, say and in every joyous or sad moment.”
Born August 6, 1997, Aiden has gone further than his siblings in following in his later brother’s footsteps.
The talented eighth man plans to dedicate every game he will play at the Under-20 World Rugby Trophy scheduled to begin in Harare next week to Nicholas’ memory.
“I carry a little piece of my brother in everything I do; he was my best friend, role model and partner-in-crime,” said the Young Sables talisman.
“He supported me in everything I did and my dream was to play alongside him one day. He was very supportive and helped me out when I failed to make the first team at St John’s College and offered words of wisdom any chance he got.
“Even when he stopped doing water polo, he would still come into the pool with me and lend a hand by hitting a few balls. I have fully committed to honouring his memory, giving up every other sport to concentrate on rugby because it’s the sport he loved the most.”Turning his attention to the Under-20 World Rugby Trophy, Aiden reckons the hosts can spring a surprise or two.
“We really have a talented bunch of guys, who have been putting in their best at practice and believe in themselves. I really think we have what it takes to cause a few upsets and win some games; all we need to do is improve on the discipline aspect of the game.
“We are playing at home, and have already demonstrated what we can do on our home turf, the trick will be keeping our concentration and discipline during every minute of every game,” he said.
Zimbabwe are in pool A along with Fiji, Samoa and Uruguay.
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