Just when Rabbitohs skipper Sam Burgess was looking to string three consecutive games together for the first time since round 13 he has been forced to confront the very real possibility of another suspension.
Burgess, who faces a one-match ban for contrary conduct after pulling the hair of Roosters winger Billy Smith, played 54 minutes in just his fourth match following a shoulder operation three months ago.
He had gradually lifted his minutes from 48 minutes in the round 24 clash with the Warriors and 52 minutes against the Bulldogs two weeks earlier but still well short of his average 74.53 minutes per match before surgery.
Burgess was strong in the 16-10 victory over the Roosters and will be looking to increase his minutes significantly against the Roosters or Storm in week one of the finals - should he successfully contest the charge.
The possibility of Burgess being suspended for the 29th minute incident was such a surprise that no one asked him about it after the match and he did not have any concern about being charged.
However, the Rabbitohs are now considering whether to fight the charge at next Tuesday night’s judiciary as it will be difficult to beat a grade one charge and the only reason Burgess is facing suspension is because he has exceeded the number of times a player can be fined in a season.
Loading from three previous offences has also pushed him into suspension territory for the most minor charge.
If Burgess is suspended, brother George may take his spot after completing a nine-match ban for gouging.
Souths coach Wayne Bennett has been impressed by the attitude of George while he has been serving his suspension and Sam agreed.
“I echo what Wayne has been saying. He’s been great and when you have an end day in sight it’s easy to work back,” Burgess said. “George has been doing that and he’s been enjoying every minute. He’s doing everything he needs.
“He’s been running well in the second team and we may also get a few numbers back next week. Thomas [Burgess] is back [from injury] next week and George will do whatever job we need. We won’t put any pressure on anyone and make the call at the right time.”
Sam Burgess began the season as a right edge second-rower but is now playing in the middle.
“I’ll do whatever the team needs, whether that’s 50 minutes or 20 minutes. I’ll do whatever is required. I won’t be selfish and say I want to play 80 minutes, I just want to be efficient and do what’s needed for the team and helps get the best results,” he said.
“We’ve had a plan the last couple of weeks and we’ve stuck to that plan building my minutes up the last couple of weeks. I’m feeling better for the last two weeks.”