George relishing Rabbitohs responsibility
Barnstorming Bunnies prop George Burgess believes his development to forward pack leader within the reigning premiers stocks is a case of natural progression rather than a response to the departures of representative duo Ben Te'o and his brother Sam in the off-season.
As he did in the Grand Final win over the Bulldogs last October, Burgess dramatically changed the course of the second half with a powerful solo try, earning man-of-the-match honours in South Sydney's 34-26 win over the Roosters.
Carrying three people over the tryline to score a hugely important try early in the second half, Burgess constantly powered through the Roosters defence where he produced 170 metres, 39 tackles and an abundance of offloads to boot.
Getting to the point where he is rivalling Bulldogs James Graham as England's finest forward currently in rugby league, Burgess isn't concentrating on filling the void left by his older brother.
"I think we have had to step up as a group and as a team. It isn't all about one player. Obviously I take it upon myself – because I've played plenty of games and representative games with England – to try and step into that role a bit more," Burgess said.
"In saying that, it's a natural progression and I don't really think hard about filling Sam's void.
"As you play more games, it's natural to become more of a leader especially when you gain more experience. It essentially becomes a thing you grow into too.
"Everyone is always improving. It's hard not to especially with the coaching staff drilling everything into us and making sure we're ticking all the right boxes during the week to make sure we're improving."
Although his own continued good form has mirrored that of his team as a whole following their premiership triumph, Burgess said the pressure isn't off the Rabbitohs despite all their recent success.
Looking like world-beaters in recent months having taken home every trophy on offer in the pre-season, Burgess insisted, as clichéd as it is, that his team are taking it game by game.
With the goal of becoming the first team to win back-to-back competitions in a unified competition for the first time in 22 seasons in the back of their mind, Burgess said while their difference in forward playing style has thrown positive spanners in the works they are still a long way off from where they want to be.
"Last year was last year. Every team starts the season off evenly matched and it's no different this year," Burgess said.
"We have a few more options there definitely now with the ball-playing back-rowers in [John] Sutton and [Glenn] Stewart there but we're still working on our combinations too because it is a new team.
"We'll just have to wait and see how it goes."