Burgess explains rugby departure
Returning Rabbitohs premiership winner Sam Burgess has penned a column explaining his early return from UK rugby, opening fire on unnamed ex-players but denying suggestions he was treated poorly by the sport.
Writing in the UK's Daily Mail, Burgess said his heart wasn't in it in rugby union and while he acknowledged criticisms around the timing of his return straight after England's failed Rugby World Cup campaign he said there would never have been a good time to leave the code.
Burgess said he faced 18 months out of the national team trying to prove himself in the more technical position of flanker rather than inside centre, and given the "very limited window" athletes have at the top level he didn't want to see those 18 months go by "without the same excitement and enthusiasm as the previous 12".
Burgess also wrote of his desire to return to Australia and start a family with Australian fiancée Phoebe Hook in the next year or two in the same country where his children would have their grandparents around to help out.
Burgess said while it was tough asking Bath coach Mike Ford for a release, the fact his heart was no longer in rugby meant Bath would not be getting the best performances out of him anyway. He also confirmed Bath skipper Stuart Hooper advised him not to come in and farewell the players as he wouldn't be well received.
While Burgess refuted suggestions English Rugby Football Union had treated him unfairly, he didn't hold back when it came to certain segments of the rugby community.
"The RFU have come in for a lot of stick for my decision, which I think is unfair... they have been supportive through it all. I disagree with this idea that I have been let down or treated badly," Burgess wrote.
"I think a lot of people outside the England camp had an agenda against both England and in some circumstances, me. Certain ex-players had an agenda and sections of the media had an agenda, too. I also think certain coaches not involved with England had an agenda.
"Slowly but surely, when you are trying to get support within the team and the voices from outside with an agenda are so strong, it's too powerful. No matter what I did, I always felt that I was fighting a losing battle."
He said the treatment from certain ex-players was particularly upsetting.
"It's almost like they don't want anyone else to do well in the jersey. That's definitely the feeling I got in rugby union. And since the tournament, there have been players coming out in the press, leaking stories. I find that really disappointing and I didn't want to stay in a sport like that. It makes it harder to build on when people from the inside are crumbling."
Rugby league is a physically tougher and more exhausting game, according to Burgess, who said he never felt the same feeling of being "completely, physically gone" in rugby union.
"That's what I enjoyed in rugby league; getting to that tough period as a player and getting through it," wrote Burgess.
The 2014 Clive Churchill Medal winner added he had been in contact with Souths coach Michael Maguire and co-owner Russell Crowe and while he was deflated by how the World Cup panned out he hadn't been in a hurry to leave – rather, that was just how things panned out.
"I was deflated with the way things had gone and how the 'blame game' was played out and dealt with. It made me question whether I wanted to be part of it. I felt I was never going to win, regardless of what happened, so I thought: 'I'm going to stop wasting my own time and everyone else's time here.'"
Burgess said he was proud of his performances in the England jersey and much of the criticism directed towards him was unwarranted.
"I don't have any regrets about playing union. I enjoyed it and met so many good people. I've got a lot of good friendships from it, but at the end of the day, the game just didn't give me as much enjoyment as rugby league gives me," he concluded.