Harsh reality of Burgess return
"Go back to union!"
It was a lone dissenter amongst a large group of South Sydney faithful but served to highlight the fact that Sam Burgess must win the hearts and minds of fans all over again in his second coming to the Rabbitohs.
At a members-only training session on the Gold Coast ahead of their trial game against the Titans at Pizzey Park in Burleigh on Saturday night, Burgess reached forward to take a difficult pass from dummy-half and then passed the ball forward essentially to nobody.
Self-admonishment would have been all that was required but a solitary voice made it clear that even amongst friends Burgess is now more of a target for quick-witted fans looking for a new villain to castigate.
It's not that Burgess didn't have his detractors in his initial five-year stint in Redfern – opposition fans regularly branding him a grubby Englishman who at times went beyond the spirit of the game – but when you finish your last game with a smashed cheekbone, a Clive Churchill Medal and drought-breaking premiership, much is forgiven.
After a 12-month stint in rugby union where he represented England at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, Burgess's return to the Rabbitohs necessitated the manipulation of the playing roster and the releasing of contracted players in Dylan Walker and Chris McQueen.
But he's back, and on Saturday evening in his return to rugby league the 27-year-old will be given ample opportunity to show that he can again be a dominant force in the NRL.
With a foot injury that he picked up in last weekend's All Stars game halfback Adam Reynolds is almost certain to be rested but Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire said both Burgess and captain Greg Inglis will see plenty of game time in front of an expected crowd of close to 7,000.
"They'll play a fair bit of time," Maguire told NRL.com.
"It's a good opportunity for them, especially for Sam obviously in his first game back.
"For Sammy, he'll play as much time as we think he can get through and see how the body is travelling.
"To have the All Stars boys back and Sam back in adds to the things that we've been working on so that's really what we're after [on Saturday].
"Just a good solid hit-out for the boys and to work on their combinations that we've been working on for the past three months."
Originally chosen in Wayne Bennett's World All Stars team, Burgess didn't return to full training with the Rabbitohs until January 11 but Maguire has every faith that his preparation for Round 1 is on track.
In addition to his own sizeable contribution on the field, much of Burgess's appeal is in the influence he has on those around him and Maguire says that has already translated to the training field.
"I'm really positive about where he's at at the moment. He's come back and put his head down and he knows what he needs to do," Maguire said.
"He's a great man to be around the team but I think the team really enjoy having those types of players around them.
"You can see the enjoyment that some of the guys get at training; I get to see that every day."
The Titans v Rabbitohs trial kicks off at 5pm Saturday at Pizzey Park in Burleigh. Gates open at 1.15pm with Burleigh playing Sunshine Coast in the main curtain-raiser at 3.15pm.