THERE is a great contradiction in the South Sydney revival: while there are countless stories associated with the Rabbitohs’ run, there are few quotes to slot into those stories.
That’s because coach Michael Maguire, who went to Wigan with the assignment of restoring their glory days and achieved that aim spectacularly, has instructed everyone associated with the club not to talk about premierships. The hype surrounding Souths since Russell Crowe and Peter Holmes a Court took over has clearly been the biggest obstacle to them justifying it, in the coach’s eyes.
“Obviously my experience over there has definitely helped me with what I’m trying to do here,” says Maguire. “They’re very, very similar clubs with all the expectation.”
But that’s not the only English link to Souths’ run for their first premiership in four decades. In their squad are Sam, Luke and George Burgess. Brits in the NRL are still a novelty, as they were back when the Bunnies last won the competition.
To have three in the same club, in the salary cap era, who are brothers speaks volumes for the sort of atmosphere the rabbits are trying to engender at Redfern. And next year they may be joined by a fourth Burgess, Tom.
Sitting next to George in the ANZ Stadium grandstand on Sunday, watching South Sydney beat Wests Tigers 32-6, was England coach Steve McNamara. Souths’ recruitment of Sam, Luke and George could one day – soon – see all three of them don St George’s Cross together, an achievement that happens maybe once a generation.
And the Burgess family will have Souths to thank for it. McNamara wouldn’t comment but Wests Tigers’ England back rower Gareth Ellis says Luke is ready.
“He’s certainly playing... the best football he’s played in his career,” Ellis, who has stayed on the field for all but a few minutes of his first two games back from long-term injury, told NRL.com.
“He’s really carrying the ball forward and he’s not just a bit-player now. He’s one of the big go-forward men for Souths, in such a big squad.
“It’s great to see him out here and playing so well and I’m sure he’s on the radar when it comes to selection for England.”
Luke Burgess says he didn’t come to Australia thinking it would give him an armchair ride into the England team, which plays France and Wales at the end of the year after a training camp in South Africa.
“I want to do my best to make the squad this year and if we keep focusing week-on-week, those kinds of things take care of themselves,” he says. “If I’m playing consistently, hopefully I’ll put my hand up.
“I came out here for a challenge. I wanted to move on from what I’d started in England. I was happy with how I progressed with myself over there. I managed to win a grand final. This is the next step in my career.
“Hopefully playing over here in the NRL will help my selection for England.”
As for Souths’ title prospects, Luke says: “We’ve got to keep grounded, there’s no point getting ahead of ourselves, we’ve got to take each week as it comes.”
Sorry readers. Shouldn’t have asked.
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