All Star Burgess back where it began
He made a thunderous entry into Australian rugby league when he brought his no-holds barred approach to the inaugural All Stars game in 2010 and players and coaches are expecting more of the same upon Sam Burgess's return in 2016.
As promised when Burgess was still playing rugby union in England, World All Stars coach Wayne Bennett had no hesitation in making Burgess one of his four English selections for the match against the Indigenous All Stars at Suncorp Stadium on February 13.
Unconcerned by the fact that Burgess's contract to return to South Sydney after 12 months away is yet to be ratified by the NRL, Bennett said he was delighted to have the opportunity to once again select the 2014 Clive Churchill Medal winner in his squad of 20.
"I'm elated to see Sam back. Sam's great for the game and I'm really pleased to see him back," Bennett said.
The sentiment was echoed by World All Stars captain Cameron Smith, who played alongside Burgess in 2010.
Before he had the opportunity to run out for the red and green Burgess was a late replacement for Rabbitohs teammate Dave Taylor and Smith said the way he ripped into what was a new pre-season concept made an immediate impression.
"Hopefully he has a club before the All Stars game. Does he still get to play if he doesn't have one?" Smith asked.
"He was pretty impressive [in 2010]. I was impressed with the way he went about things just at training and he's a world class player in our sport and in rugby union as well so I'm thankful that I get the opportunity to play with him again.
"He's a fantastic footballer, there's no doubt about that and I think the game has missed him over the last 12 months. When you get to play alongside a quality player such as Sam, it's always a pleasure.
"We all know the style of player that Sammy is and I think the thing that typified the way he goes about his football was that grand final a couple of years ago for the Rabbitohs."
The last time Bulldogs prop James Graham shared a football field with Burgess was in the 2014 Grand Final and while the pair caught up while Graham was in England with the national team recently, he also welcomed the chance to play alongside him again.
"It's only been 12 months out of the game, I can't see why too much would have changed," said Graham, who with the head clash in the opening tackle helped write Burgess into grand final folklore.
"I caught up with him a few times back in England and delighted to have him back in the game to be honest.
"I think the year he left we lost three of the best five players in the game at the time so to get at least one of those back is great. He's a superstar, he puts bums on seats and makes people tune in.
"He's a tremendous player and just pleased to have him back in our game where he belongs."
But of course, on the other side of the field will be an Indigenous All Stars forward pack now facing the prospect of a fired up Burgess eager to prove he still has what it takes to be a dominant forward in the NRL.
"I thought that wasn't very fair picking him," said Indigenous All Stars forward Sam Thaiday.
"Hopefully with playing rugby he's lost that rugby league conditioning. It's a very different game, playing rugby union and rugby league. We have to go up and back and he'll probably have to do a lot more tackling so hopefully we knock the wind out of him that way.
"He was massive; he was huge [in 2010]. I've played a few games against him now and he's a fantastic player and that's why he's in the World All Stars team."