A chronic shoulder injury threatens to force Sam Burgess to consider premature retirement with his playing future hinging on how he recovers during the off-season, but the Rabbitohs are hopeful of their captain suiting up in 2020.
The Rabbitohs are resigned to the fact Burgess is next to no chance of seeing out the remaining four years of his deal, with concerns growing over his ability to play in 2020.
NRL.com understands Burgess, just like Greg Inglis, is suffering from arthritis in his shoulder and was forced to pull out of this month’s British Lions tour to give himself the best chance of playing next year.
The club is hoping to nurse him through one more season, however a lot will hinge on how he recovers over the off-season after a year plagued by injury, and whether he wants to play in discomfort and with restricted mobility.
Burgess, largely considered the best forward of his generation, has struggled to play his best football in 2019 after undergoing surgery midway through the year on a shoulder he already had reconstructed twice previously.
He was also admitted into hospital post-surgery to have a drip line connected to his heart to control an infection in July, however the infection is believed to be related to a previous operation.
Burgess looking at bigger picture with World Cup Nines
Burgess is scheduled to meet with specialists and surgeons over the summer, but is likely to be left with a huge decision to make in the off-season.
The Englishman is the heart and soul of the club, however the little regard he has shown for self-preservation throughout a decorated career may have caught up with him.
The fact that Burgess has withdrawn from the Lions tour is a strong indication of how serious the concerns are about his body, such is his commitment to representing England and Great Britain.
The Rabbitohs are looking into alternative methods to try and help Burgess recover in time for 2020.
Burgess, who turns 31 in December, watched first hand just how much Inglis was impacted by his shoulder injury and may find himself at a similar crossroad with a decision to make in the coming months.
His brother, Tom, backed his brother’s decision to pull out of the Lions tour but is hopeful he still has more to give.
"Obviously he missed a few games this year and he’s made the smart decision, I think," Tom said.
"If you’re missing more than a couple of games a year through a chronic injury then you’ve got to think about it. You speak to the medical staff and make a smart decision.
"He needs to recuperate his body properly in the off-season. He’ll get his body right and get himself right for next year. He’s very determined to get it right and I’m sure he will."