BY CURTIS WOODWARD
One of the greatest forwards to ever play rugby league has been medically retired with the South Sydney Rabbitohs confirming inspirational tyro Sam Burgess would be hanging up the boots effective immediately.
Dubbed “the sparkly eyed man” by Rabbitohs owner Russell Crowe after the club’s 2014 premiership victory, 30-year-old Burgess has succumbed to a chronic shoulder injury he simply couldn’t shake. It began when he picked up an infection after recent surgery. He has reportedly got less than 30% bone in his shoulder.
The English great has been battling on and off-field dramas recently and is currently on holidays overseas celebrating good mate Sean Garlick’s birthday.
Souths released a letter written by Burgess to the fans on Wednesday afternoon:
“To all South Sydney Members and fans, fans of the game and even the supporters that aren’t my biggest fans, I’d like to thank each and every one of you for making my career what it was in the NRL,” Burgess wrote.
“I have loved absolutely every minute; the highs, the lows; the Grand Final; coming home; my injuries; my dates with the judiciary. It really has been a fantastic ride.
“This decision was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in my life, however the decision was out of my hands essentially. I am no longer able to be myself day in, day out on the training field and consequently the playing field.
“I’d like to encourage everyone to smile as they read this. Let’s all remember what we have done together as a Club over the past decade rather than what’s not to be in the coming years.
“We have some amazing young men at the Club and it’s in safe hands. I will stay close and help grow the Club continually in any way I can.
“To my team mates and coaches along the way, I’d like to thank you all for being supportive and great men. I’ve learnt so much in my ten years here. From the young boys all the way through to ‘the fossil’ John Sutton. I value each friendship created and they’ll last a lifetime.
“To Russell – for making all this happen initially – I’ll be forever indebted to you. Your passion is infectious.
“To the Board of Directors, and all of our wonderful men and women in the office making everything possible, thank you.
“My family have been by my side the whole way, on and off the field. I love you all so much.
“Maybe I’ll come and watch a game in The Burrow next year. You truly are the heartbeat of the Club.
“I’m sure you’ll agree with me, the spirit of South Sydney is alive and will live long after me. It will always be a huge part of my heart. Just like it is yours.
It’s a drastic change of scenery for the Redfern organisation who also lost Greg Inglis to medical retirement earlier this season while club stalwart John Sutton also finished up at the end of 2019.
But there’s no replacing the fire inside Sam Burgess.
You can try but you can’t teach or swap out what the rugged leader has.
He is the greatest English import in Australian rugby league history.
Burgess did have a contract with the Rabbitohs for several more years and the club has been in discussions with the NRL over what kind of salary cap exemptions they will receive.
The Dewsbury lad played 182 games for the Bunnies over two stints, debuting in the NRL back in 2010. He famously won a Clive Churchill Medal in the club’s premiership victory over Canterbury after smashing his cheekbone in the first run of the grand final. Ironically, it was his great mate and countryman James Graham who did the damage.
Nobody will forget the on-field celebrations that night. Burgess, hurting and bloodied, watching the time tick down on the clock as we watched the tears roll down his face.
He was fearless. A marquee superstar and made it personal with the opposition. Whether it was searching out and running over Sonny Bill Williams, destroying the monster Fui Fui Moi Moi as a 19-year-old in his Test debut, his battles with Jimmy Graham or any number of other challengers.
Sam Burgess has retired.
A true legend of our code.