Burgess: Ambition behind player departures
Departing South Sydney hero Sam Burgess says that player ambition, rather than the NRL and the game of rugby league, is to blame for the exodus of stars in recent times.
With Burgess himself leaving the game and the country on Tuesday to return to England to ply his trade with English rugby club Bath, the newly-crowned RLIF International Player of the Year believes the game is as strong as it has been during his five year stay in Australia.
With fellow stars Sonny Bill Williams returning to New Zealand and Super Rugby outfit Waikato Chiefs with an eye towards the Rugby World Cup next year and Jarryd Hayne trying his luck in America's NFL, the NRL has lost three of its biggest names.
Burgess said his own move is a chance to fulfil his ambitions of representing England at the Rugby World Cup.
"I don't think it has anything to do with the game. I think it is more that players have purely become more ambitious," Burgess said.
"It is just a matter of players getting to such an elite level now they have opened up so many doors [for themselves]. Good luck to everyone going down different pathways but I think once you play rugby league it will always hold a special place in your heart."
As fate would have it, Burgess wouldn't have been in Australia to receive his prestigious Player of the Year award if it weren't for his fractured cheekbone suffered in the Rabbitohs' Grand Final victory.
While Burgess was excited to be returning home, he admitted he was envious of those representing England in the upcoming Four Nations tournament.
"I'm thankful I was able to stick around and receive my award," Burgess said.
"I'm actually a bit jealous that I'm not a part of it after spending some time with the England team. Instead I'll just be a very passionate supporter throughout the tournament."
While Burgess was adamant his recent success was very humbling, the 25-year-old said it doesn't give him any extra confidence as he gears up for his change in code.
"The award is great and I'm really humbled to receive it... but in terms of confidence I guess I'll just go back home and do my job when I get there," Burgess said.
"I'm really happy with how the year went at South Sydney. Not only for myself but every squad member involved and the thousands of fans that stuck with the club over many years of not so many good times.
"It has been a cracking five years and it has been a fairytale finish so I'm happy with these awards. I really enjoyed my time with England at last year's World Cup as well... so it has been a great 12 months and something I certainly won't forget."