'Breathing through a straw': Burgess' endurance effort in Denver
Rabbitohs star Sam Burgess has backed the Denver Test to return to Mile High Stadium as he prepares to back up after 80 minutes of "breathing through a straw" and an endurance effort a unlike anything he has experienced in rugby league.
Burgess and injured Canterbury and Kiwi counterpart Raymond Faitala-Mariner were the only forwards to play every minute of last Saturday's historic England-New Zealand Test on US soil, played at 1600 metres above sea level.
While Faitala-Mariner copped hand and knee injuries that have since ruled him out for the season, Burgess and younger brother Tom are confirmed starters for South Sydney against the Cowboys in Cairns on Sunday.
With a seven-day turnaround from his gritty performance, which included 19 runs for 189 metres and 16 tackles in England's 36-18 win, Burgess returned to training with the Rabbitohs' other representative players on Friday and has pulled up well with a couple of extra days rest this week.
"Playing at altitude was pretty good," Burgess said.
"Because everyone was so fatigued, with the effort on effort as physically demanding as any NRL game, but I've pulled up really well.
"I played 80 and the conditions, it was like breathing through a straw, so the conditions were extremely hard to play in just with the breathing but obviously it meant a bit more space at times.
"It was good, it was a great experience and a great mental test. The fatigue levels were high but in saying that we pulled up well."
While New Zealand's flight dramas have played havoc with NRL clubs and added weight to arguments against the Denver Test being staged mid-season, England's recovery processes couldn't have gone any smoother.
By flying out of Colorado as soon as post-game recovery and media commitments were done, English players were back in Australia by 7am Monday, while coach Wayne Bennett was back at Broncos HQ before his Maroons players returned from Origin duty in Sydney.
The Denver Test's future will come under review later this year, with several NRL coaches pushing for the game to be pushed into an off-season time-slot in October or November.
But the Test's promoter, Jason Moore of Moore Sports International, told The Australian this week rugby league is not capable of competing with the NFL, NBA and college sports seasons which have kicked off by that point in the year.
Despite Rabbitohs CEO Blake Solley leading a representation of clubs against the current scheduling of the Test, Burgess backed the fixture to remain a part of Rep Round next season.
With a crowd of 19,320 turning out even with competition from Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer matches on the same day, Burgess believes a return to Denver in 2019 will only build that attendance figure.
"We need to have a bit more of a detailed conversation with the people who are against it because I thought it works quite well mid-season," Burgess said.
"Especially if the schedule allows for it in the rep round. We're professional when it comes to the travel.
"Obviously there's a bit of planning now moving forward. The stadium looked pretty empty because it's a big stadium but in terms of recent internationals it's not a bad crowd. So what we're looking to do is grow it next year, double the crowd the year after and have a full stadium."