New recruits Glenn Stewart and Tim Grant will be expected to bring the type of aggression that has been the trademark of Sam Burgess's five years at South Sydney. Credit: Robb Cox. Copyright: NRL Photos
Former Rabbitohs teammate Scott Geddes believes it will take new recruits Glenn Stewart and Tim Grant and an even more explosive George Burgess to fill the massive void left by Sam Burgess when he departs Redfern at season's end.
Current teammates have noticed an extra purpose in the work of the big Englishman as his five-year stint in the NRL draws near ahead of a return to England to play rugby union for Bath and the numbers back up his apparent desire to go out with a bang.
His 305 runs for the season are 45 more than any other player in the competition has registered, his 213 hit-ups are also top in the comp as are his 2596 running metres, 197m more than the next best, Brisbane's Daniel Vidot.
Of course, the stats don't tell the full story of Burgess's contribution to South Sydney's premiership drive and Geddes believes the pressure will be on the two major signings for 2015 to pick up the considerable slack.
"As far as I'm concerned, Sammy's the best front-rower in the comp, if not the world. He is going to leave a massive hole at Souths and it's going to be really interesting to see how they fill it," said Geddes, who played alongside Burgess in seasons 2010-2012 and now operates a personal training business called First Grade Fitness.
"Standing on the outside looking in I'd say they've picked those guys (Stewart and Grant) to try and make up for Sammy's aggression that he brings to the team. Glenn Stewart coming from Manly, they're obviously a really tough club and they play tough and I guess they play a similar sort of style to how Sam plays.
"Georgey has got to step up again next year another notch. He's been unbelievable this year and last year but Sam's going to leave a massive void there so everyone's going to have to step up."
Burgess's next assignment is to help to overpower a Titans forward pack on Monday night who will be minus Greg Bird, Nate Myles and Dave Taylor and Gold Coast prop Luke Douglas knows the challenge they have to contain South Sydney's spiritual leader.
"He's up there as one of the best in the comp, definitely," Douglas said. "His size and strength and he's got the ability and is probably one of the only ones in their forward pack that passes and his footwork too so there's a lot to handle when he's coming at you.
"You've got to think about everything that he's doing so it's a big job to handle him and definitely one of the best."
If he can carry South Sydney to a grand final appearance Burgess will finish his Redfern stint one shy of 100 games for the club and made an impression almost from the first moment he walked through the door as co-owner Russell Crowe's prized recruit in 2010.
"He's got one of those personalities that commands attention," said Geddes. "The first year when he came to Souths, he'd been here for maybe three or four weeks and he decided to start an in-house footy tipping competition. For a bloke to be three weeks in to a new place and organising fun things like that just shows what a champion bloke he is.
"I was really surprised about [his decision to leave]. I know Sammy loves getting his shirt off down at Coogee Beach so I was very surprised to hear he was going back to England, I thought he'd be here for good.
"Obviously I wish him all the best because as a footballer your career can come to an end at any time so good luck to him to want and go and challenge him playing union.
"He'll be earning twice as much as he's earning now which is a massive thing but knowing Sammy, it wouldn't be about that, it would be more about the challenge because he's an absolute freak."