Signs are right for Souths in decider
This is the sign that will greet Sam Burgess when he steps into the South Sydney dressing room at ANZ Stadium and sits down in front of his locker for the most important – and possibly last – game in his rugby league career.
With Burgess playing his 96th and final game for the club before taking up a contract to play rugby union back home in England, Rabbitohs staff have endeavoured to make their return to the grand final stage even more special by ordering specially-designed street signs for each of the players' lockers.
It was a request made by the players themselves after seeing them in the hands of passionate fans during the week as 43 years of pain and anguish is being washed away in a sea of red and green.
Only recently licensed as an official NRL product, former international Peter Tunks and business partner Chris Levick have been overwhelmed by the response to their MVP Street signs (www.mvpstreet.com) and were honoured to adorn the Rabbitohs dressing room when contacted earlier in the week.
The 2014 Grand Final represents the culmination of five years of unquestioned commitment to the Rabbitohs' cause by the inspirational Englishman and a victory on Sunday would see him join the likes of Adrian Morley, Harvey Howard, Lee Jackson and Kevin Ward as English imports to claim an NRL premiership in the past 30 years.
Fairytales rarely come true but former Rabbitohs and Bulldogs front-rower Tunks says South Sydney wouldn't be the team they are without the enormous influence Burgess has had on the club and may miss an opportunity to create a dynasty upon his departure to English rugby.
"I lived in England for 12 years and coached and ran clubs over there but he's on a par with Ellery Hanley as the best English player I've seen," Tunks told NRL.com.
"Ellery Hanley was the best Pommy I've ever seen. I've seen him in Test matches almost beat Australia single-handedly, he was just a phenomenal player and Sam is a different player but he sits on a level playing field with Ellery.
"He's such a big player, he's mobile, he's got ball skills, he's tough, he's just got everything. He's like Sonny Bill Williams, they've been great for the competition and it will be very sad next year that we'll be missing two of the best players that we've had from those countries.
"I know the money he's getting to play rugby union is ridiculous but if he had of stayed for the next two years – which he was under contract for – and if they had of kept Ben Te'o I think they could have had a bit of a dynasty. With him and Te'o going, that's a couple of holes they're going to really struggle to fill."
With Burgess taking the gong as Dally M Lock of the Year and Bulldogs workhorse James Graham named Prop of the Year, it marked the first time since the Norths pair of John Gray and Mark Graham in 1982 that two international forwards had received such an honour in the same year.
And while many are already speaking of Graham in the same breath as Burgess and other English imports, Tunks believes he still has some way to go.
"James is a terrific player and he does remind me of the old-time English prop who has got plenty of ball skill," Tunks said.
"I had the luxury of captaining Lee Crooks when I was captain at Leeds in 1987-88 and while James is a terrific player, he's not as good as Lee Crooks. Lee Crooks was an unbelievably talented player and when he came out here he played with some average sides but I played with him and against him and he was an unbelievably good player. He was big, he was mobile, he was a great ball-player, he could kick goals, he'd kick in general play...
"Great player James Graham but he's still got a bit of a way to go before he's as good as Lee Crooks."