Burgess clears air with McQueen
He was one of the players jettisoned to make way for the return of Sam Burgess to South Sydney this season but Titans back-rower Chris McQueen has revealed the champion forward rang to clear the air before he left Redfern.
McQueen played 116 games for the Rabbitohs – many of them beside Burgess – and is chomping at the bit to face his former club in the Titans' final trial at Burleigh's Pizzey Park in front of an expected crowd of close to 7,000 on Saturday evening.
The match will mark Burgess's first game of rugby league since he won the Clive Churchill Medal in the 2014 Telstra Premiership Grand Final, the dual England international named at lock in a strong South Sydney team that also includes Greg Inglis, Adam Reynolds, Thomas Burgess and Luke Keary making their first appearances in the red and green for 2016.
Conceding that he was disappointed to have to move on in December and find a new home at the Titans, McQueen said that Burgess was quick to get in touch and apologise for the chain of events that led to his departure.
"I was disappointed with having to leave and getting shown the door the way that I did but I also understand that's footy," McQueen said.
"It wasn't his fault. Me and him had a chat after I left the club, he wanted to I guess let me know that he was sorry with the way things worked out.
"I'm understanding of that and there are no hard feelings and I'm very excited to be playing against all the boys.
"He hadn't returned to training when it all went down and I posted a message to all the boys and he gave me a call back pretty quick after that and we had a good chat.
"Me and Sam played a lot of footy together, won a premiership together so our relationship and our friendship will go long beyond footy.
"He's probably the best forward in the world; he'd be up there with the best players in the world. He certainly brings something and is someone that we have to watch and shut down if we want to win this game and be competitive."
A near full-strength Rabbitohs side will give Titans fans a good gauge of how competitive their team will be in 2016, the season-ending knee injury to Kane Elgey prompting bookmakers to install them as wooden spoon favourites.
They are expected to be without Greg Bird (cheek), Josh Hoffman (knee) and Kierran Moseley (ankle) but halves Tyrone Roberts and Ashley Taylor will get the chance to partner for the first time with a full complement of players on the park following their club debuts at the Auckland Nines.
McQueen played 55 minutes – including a 15-minute stint in the centres – against the Eels in Alice Springs last Saturday and said fighting back from 20-6 down to level the scores at 20-all at full-time was a further step forward after qualifying for the semi-finals at the Downer NRL Auckland Nines.
"It shows confidence," said McQueen of their three late tries. "We were down 20-6 late in that game and just like with the Nines when we lost that first game it would have been easy for the boys to lose a bit of confidence and go into our shells a bit but we just kept playing footy.
"We were talking about the result not mattering because it was a trial so to just go out there and play good footy and we did that late in the game and managed to get back and get a draw."
Kick-off between the Titans and Rabbitohs is at 5pm at Pizzey Park this Saturday. Gates open at 1.15pm and tickets at the gate are $20 for adults, $10 for children aged 11-16 with kids under 10 admitted free of charge.