Embarrassed Burgess calls for calm
So intent were the assembled media of hammering South Sydney coach Michael Maguire and captain Greg Inglis with questions of Sam Burgess's return that we failed to notice that the champion back-rower was sitting behind us listening to every word.
In his first game of rugby league since the 2014 Grand Final Burgess was the focal point – whether he liked it or not – in a pre-season trial that saw the Rabbitohs hold off a gallant Titans team 22-20 in Burleigh on Saturday night.
He played 60 minutes, scored a try, hit hard and passed more before the line than perhaps ever before in his career in the 13-man game and most importantly got through with burning lungs as his only injury concern.
Inglis spoke effusively of what Burgess means to the team while doing his best to highlight the contributions of the other 18 players who took part while Maguire again recognised the influence he has both on and off the field.
Once famously branded "the sparkly eyed man" by Souths co-owner Russell Crowe, Burgess was clearly embarrassed at the number of questions referencing him in a press conference in which he wasn't involved and seemed bewildered as to the interest in his return to the NRL.
"I've come back to play at Souths but I think we need to chill out a bit," Burgess said.
"I'm just a small part of a big team. I'm here to do my job as everyone else is.
"I heard you pepper Greg there about five times with questions and I think you can probably just ease off a bit, if not just for me for the club and for the team as well.
"I'll give my best efforts to perform every week for the team and the fans and this club but it's not a circus so maybe we can just chill out a bit."
Although he highlighted the need to connect with all members of the team, Inglis seemed far more able to assert himself on the game with Burgess leading the way up front. On a number of occasions he took strong carries into the Titans defence on the back of a Burgess run and said that the Englishman's influence on the rest of the team is undeniable.
"His presence and his leadership around training amongst all the boys, you can really feel it," said Inglis, who was involved in a lifting tackle in the eighth minute for which Zeb Taia was placed on report.
"Unless you've been in our sheds you wouldn't truly understand what he's all about.
"I could sit here all day and talk of the qualities of Sam Burgess, that's just the bloke he is, but we can't just focus on that one area. We've got to focus on what South Sydney is about this year.
"It's the first time playing together in two years so it's just getting that reconnection that we had before. We've been working on it since he's been back and I've been back so looking forward to the season ahead with him and the rest of the guys."
After playing 25 minutes of the first half Burgess played all but the final five minutes of the second half as the Rabbitohs turned a 14-10 half-time deficit into a 22-14 lead courtesy of tries to Burgess and Inglis.
He will continue to feel the glare of the spotlight in the build-up to South Sydney's Round 1 clash against the Roosters at Allianz Stadium and admitted that there were some additional butterflies hiding beneath the famous jersey as he pulled it on again.
"I'm always a little bit nervous before a game but probably a few more nerves today," he said.
"In the changing rooms with the guys feels at home, staying in the hotel with the team and the staff and everyone around it certainly does feel like home in that respect.
"It's back playing rugby league, my lungs got a workout and I'll see how I pull up tomorrow morning."