Battered Burgess beats pain barrier
Having been battered and bruised for the first 46 minutes, Sam Burgess looked a broken man when he limped up the tunnel after his second try against the Bulldogs on Thursday night.
His team had been fumbling their way through a rotten night, unable to find their usual rhythm in attack that had been the Rabbitohs' trademark since the Burgess brothers arrived on our shores.
So when the departing star hauled his beaten frame into the sheds at a critical junction in the match, South Sydney's hopes of a statement victory seemed to go with him as the Bulldogs regained the lead not long after.
"I was in that much pain, that was all I was thinking. [But] the doc managed to calm me down and I got back out there," he said post-game.
Burgess's inspirational return to the field coincided with momentum turning in South Sydney's favour, as halfback Adam Reynolds ripped the carpet from the Bulldogs' feet with a handful of clutch plays at the death.
His position in the halves under threat, Reynolds forced a line dropout, threw a long cutout for the match-winner, then sealed it with a sideline conversion, a penalty goal and field goal in the closing minutes.
And he later said his teammate's inspirational comeback might've had something to do with it.
"Seeing what he puts his body through, it's a massive eye-opener for everyone else. It gives all the boys a lift. It was great having him out there," Reynolds said.
"Sammy's a special player and all the boys love having him around. He's tough, and gets the boys rolling forward. He's an inspiration to everyone out there on the field at the time."
By the end of the night, Burgess finished with a game-high 193 metres, two tackle breaks, 31 tackles and two tries – a statline that even had his coach at pains to describe his frontman's willingness to continually put his body on the line.
Asked on the exact nature of Burgess's ailments, Michael Maguire said: "I think just his whole body. He throws himself around and he's incredible how he keeps going.
"But I think he had a knee clash with Greg [Eastwood], and it was just a bit of a cork there. But that's just how Sam plays, we all know that.
"He does it for his teammates, which is great to have. But as a team, everyone gets behind each other, and that was just one of those moments, there that Sammy did for the team. He just kept going."
His personal duel with countryman James Graham certainly lived up to the billing, with Burgess copping one shot in particular to the ribs from the British bulldog in the first half that halted play for a few moments.
"Yeah, he got me a couple of times me old mate. He's a great bloke, but that's footy you know?" Burgess said.
"I was probably trying to do the same thing to him. We're best of mates after the game. That's footy out there. I really admire the way he plays.
"I thought he was very good tonight. And he's tough to control when he's in that form. I've played with him many a times and certainly enjoying playing with him, sometimes it's tough to play against him."
So a knee cork, bruised ribs, and a shoulder problem that Burgess describes as "ongoing". How does he do it?
"I really don't know. I guess just the team, really. Obviously we've got a good bond with the team," he said.
"I want to be out there as long as I can. I struggled a bit tonight. I've got a few little injuries but I managed to get through. I don't know, I kind of enjoy the game and enjoy playing with my teammates.
"... I've not been this sore for a long time. We'll see how we go. Next couple of days will be a telling factor. Like I said, we've got a good medical staff and we'll certainly work out on trying to get as much recovery as we can this week."