Titans brace for Burgess barrage
Premiership intensity will hit the Titans a fortnight early with Sam Burgess set to play his first game of rugby league in close to 18 months in a trial game on the Gold Coast next month.
The trial between the Titans and Rabbitohs at Pizzey Park in Burleigh on February 20 will be the final hit-out for both teams prior to Round 1 and it is appearing more and more likely that it will mark Burgess's return to the famous South Sydney colours.
With speculation that Burgess will be a withdrawal from the World All Stars team to play the Indigenous All Stars on February 13 – and thus also miss the Charity Shield against the Dragons the same night – the 2014 Clive Churchill Medal winner is expected to rip in to a Titans forward pack that will feature a couple of familiar faces.
Eddy Pettybourne and Chris McQueen both played alongside Burgess for extended periods at South Sydney and Pettybourne said that his presence would certainly bring an extra level of intensity to the final match of the pre-season.
"It will be good. It's always a good game against Souths, especially because that's where I grew up and it will be good competition," said Pettybourne, who played three seasons with Burgess from 2010-2012.
"It will be good to see Sam get out there and play footy, it'll be awesome.
"He was always having a good laugh with the boys, always happy and always positive. He's a good fella and can't wait to see him at Pizzey Park.
"He always wants to win but at the same time he always wants to have fun as well. He's a tough competitor and a good player as well and brings a lot for the Rabbitohs.
"Every game is intense but with him being back I guess it would be [more intense]."
The last major trial game that Burleigh Bears hosted was between the Titans and Broncos in 2012 and club CEO Damian Driscoll has no doubt that they will see a similar crowd to the 7,000 that turned up on that occasion.
"Souths have a massive following in the south-east so we believed it would be a sell-out anyway even if it was Sam's second game back but the fact that it will be his first game back will only add to the occasion," Driscoll said.
"I read in one of the Sydney papers that we don't have any grandstands at Pizzey Park but there is plenty of seating available as well as areas on the hill that people really seem to enjoy.
"With some discounts on offer for pre-sales we've sold more than 1,000 tickets already and I'm sure it will be a full house come kick-off at 5pm on February 20."
Pettybourne averaged between 40-50 minutes in 21 games for the Titans last season and with his late footwork at the line shapes as one of the Titans' danger men through the middle in 2016.
In order to take full advantage of tiring defenders he knows that he has to play bigger minutes himself and that means laying a stronger base during the pre-season.
"That's my goal at the moment, to get a spot and play longer minutes with the less interchanges," said the 27-year-old.
"The dummy-halves can play a bit more and that's why we've got to get those 'kays' in our legs, to last a bit longer.
"We've just got to see how we go and see what the staff wants to do with all the boys in the top 17."
Click here for tickets to the Titans v Rabbitohs trial on February 20.