George unfazed by Burgess baiting
Giant Rabbitohs prop George Burgess has shrugged off the suggestion that he and older brother Sam are being targeted by opposition teams, instead taking any extra attention being thrown their way as a compliment.
Following back-to-back losses against aggressive Sea Eagles and Wests Tigers outfits in rounds 2 and 3, the suggestion that the best way to skin the Rabbitohs was to bait the Burgess boys gathered momentum, even leading to Titans prop Ryan James to suggest it was a tactic worth exploring last Saturday night.
But one game after Sam (168 metres), George (249m) and Luke (63m) combined for a total of 480m against the Broncos, they were at it again against the Titans, bulldozing their way through the middle of the field to create space for their outside men to run riot.
The next challenge lies in a Melbourne Storm forward pack boasting four internationals from the recent Test between the Kangaroos and Kiwis but if they think they can lure the Burgess boys into displays of ill-discipline, George isn't biting.
"I try not to take too much notice to it but teams are obviously going to target players they think lead the team or whatever so you've just got to get on with it and deal with it," George said after racking up 148m and a try assist against Gold Coast while Sam ran for 129m.
Asked then if he thought it was a compliment that he and his brothers were being targeted, George simply replied: "Yeah, you can say that."
Prodding the biggest bear in the team can be a practice fraught with danger but while Sam can be overly protective of his brothers on the field at times, George is determined to keep contributing big numbers and solidifying his place in the team.
Prior to the 2014 season George had been used off the bench by coach Michael Maguire in all but four games but has started in all but the Round 7 clash for which he was suspended so far this year.
He played 69 minutes against the Titans – his longest stint in any game this year by 11 minutes – and is averaging 53.5 minutes per game in a further sign that he is maturing into a leader at the club.
"It's a bit of a step up with the speed at the start of the game but I've been enjoying it and looking forward to it continuing to progress," he said.
"Slowly [becoming a leader], but I'm only 22 so I've got a lot of years left in me and a lot of learning still to do so I've just got to keep taking it all in and learning."
And while it is his bullocking charges that bring South Sydney fans to his feet and get his teammates on the front foot, it is his work at the defensive end that is most pleasing coach Maguire, with his 39 tackles against Gold Coast his second-highest tally of the year.
"He's another real strong member of our team and I know the players love when he runs that ball forward," Maguire told NRL.com. "It's probably his defence that he's been working really hard at and it's paying off for him."
With twin Tom making his return from a toe injury for North Sydney in NSW Cup – the same injury that sidelined teammate Nathan Merritt two years ago but which only affects 10 per cent of the population – the four Burgess boys could be back in first grade together soon for the first time since Round 25 last season.
And with Sam leaving to play rugby in England at the end of the season, George says the brothers are conscious of savouring each game they get to play together while they can.
"I've said that a few times, that we've got to make the most of the last year with Sammy and make these games special," he said.
"[Tom] had his first game [two weeks ago] so he'll be looking forward to getting back in the team."