Super Sam: 'Good enough for 1971'
On the eve of the biggest match of his life, Sam Burgess has been given one of the biggest raps of his career, with Rabbitohs royalty John Sattler declaring the big Brit worthy of a run in Souths' star-studded 1971 grand final winning pack.
When Sattler led the Bunnies to a 16-10 defeat of St George 43 years ago, he did so with one of the greatest forward packs ever assembled at club level.
In the front row alongside Sattler, who captained the red and greens to five consecutive grand finals between 1967 and 71 with just one loss among them, were John O'Neill and George Piggins.
In the back row, two Australian skippers in Bob McCarthy and Ron Coote, while tough-as nails-local junior Gary Stevens completed one of the most formidable scrums in the game's history.
Coach Clive Churchill's forward contingent was so illustrious the blockbusting Paul Sait, with 16 Kangaroos jumpers and 221 games for the club, was forced out into the centres to get a run.
All in all the last outfit to deliver a premiership to Redfern crammed 82 Australian caps and over 1200 games in the cardinal and myrtle into its forward pack, and it is widely considered one of, if not the greatest, ever assembled in club colours.
Speaking at the NRL's celebration of the 1967 grand final between Souths and Canterbury, as well as the '71 decider between the Rabbitohs and Dragons, Sattler conceded he wasn't sure exactly where Burgess would have broken into Churchill's team of all-stars, but was adamant the 25-year-old was worthy of a start amongst a line-up of red and green legends.
"The side that we had was a very good side, and if Sam was in the club I'm sure that he'd have been in the side," Sattler said.
"He'd certainly get a start if there was a hole open there for him.
"They're very lucky to have a bloke like Sam Burgess because he's tough and he's hard and he's ruthless. But he's also a really good man within the club. It's sad to see him going to the other code but hopefully one day he'll be back."
As Burgess prepares for Sunday's grand final showdown with the Bulldogs in what will be his last game in the 13-man code before taking up a three-year deal with English rugby club Bath, Rabbitohs legend George Piggins also paid tribute to the 25-year-old.
Piggins, who played the house down in the '71 grand final as a late starter for fellow club legend Elwyn Walters, praised the contribution Burgess and his three brothers have made to the Rabbitohs, and compared him to fellow English enforcer legend Malcolm Reilly, who took Australian rugby league by storm when he won back-to-back premierships with Manly in 1972-73.
"He's a good footballer, he's hard to bring down and he plays a good strong game," Piggins said. "His brothers are pretty willing so he's got a fair arsenal with him.
"You can compare him with his fellow countryman; he's like a Malcolm Reilly. Tough, big strong player, and he's very fit for a Pommy.
Piggins also reserved a special mention for Dogs hard man James Graham, who will gear up for one final battle with his great mate Burgess after going tooth and nail with the British bunny whenever they have clashed over the last three years.
"[Graham's] a tough bugger too," he said.
"The last time they played I was watching him, they had Sam held and he had his rib cartilage exposed and he gave it to him. He didn't miss him. He's a tough bugger."