Nathan Wilson – Defending Sam Burgess

Rumors abound that Sam Burgess is seeking a release from his South Sydney Rabbitohs contract to return to the UK to play Rugby Union. As a result he has been mercilessly attacked by the Rugby League community for being a ‘dog’ and ‘stabbing Souths in the back’.

Essentially the (source-less) reports without quote or fact suggest that a deal has been agreed with Rugby club Bath and all that is left is for a transfer fee to be negotiated. Despite denials I believe the old saying ‘where there is smoke there is fire’ rings true in this case and 2014 will be Burgess’ last at the club.

The first point I want to make is that Sam Burgess arrived at South Sydney in exactly these circumstances via a release from his Bradford Bulls contract. Furthermore South Sydney also secured the game’s premier player Greg Inglis via a release from TWO contracts – from the Melbourne Storm and Brisbane Broncos, while brother Luke Burgess was contracted to Leeds when he made his mid season move. What’s more is that in this time Souths have released local juniors such as Shannon McPherson, Nathan Peats and Beau Champion from contracts often against the players first preference. Other contracted first graders to be moved on by mutual agreement in this period include Jeff Lima, Jamie Simpson while a number of others have been moved into retirement.

Lets get this clear. Sam Burgess is not leaving South Sydney high and dry. He is not stabbing the club in the back. And he is not fleeing the club in the dead of the night to play Rugby Union in France. I have always argued that what Sonny Bill Williams did all those years ago was not wrong. The problem was how he did it and if the story is true (which I believe it to be, despite denials) Sam has gone about everything in the correct manner. Just as he did all those years ago while seeking a release from Bradford.

For fans to log onto social media and attack, abuse and bag a person out that has done so much for the club is the true disgrace in this story. It is disgusting the ways fans harp on about loyalty while they are mercilessly kicking one of their own square in the guts. Loyalty as with contracts is a two way street and you can’t expect players to be unconditionally loyal to a football club without reciprocation from either fans or the club itself.

A number of years ago Sam Burgess took a pay cut for an opportunity to travel half way across the world and test himself in the world’s strongest Rugby competition. In that time he has cemented himself as the game’s premier forward, contributed immensely to South Sydney’s most successful era in forty years, played through the pain barrier of countless injuries and become A View From the Top’s favorite ever footballer. To see him leave South Sydney would shatter me. Anyone that knows me knows how much I love the bloke. But the truth is he doesn’t owe me, or South Sydney, anything.

Unfortunately Sam Burgess can’t live his life to fulfill my dreams – I have referred to him as South Sydney’s next Clive Churchill medalist since he arrived in Australia and will back him in again for 2014 – no matter how much I want him too. If he feels that he cant pass up the opportunity to test himself as a dual international in two World Cups then I implore him to chase that dream rather then risk a lifetime of regret.

Sam Burgess is a South Sydney legend. He is the greatest forward to pull on the Cardinal and Myrtle in my lifetime and I’m told he has the potential to challenge our best ever. Whether he stays or goes I won’t ever say a bad word about him or his time at the club and I would expect the door at Redfern is always open for him.

For I am told to preach loyalty you should first practice it.
South Sydney’s future is bright with our without Sam Burgess. The culture and influence of ‘Slammin Sam’ will remain at the club long after he has departed and for that I will be forever grateful.

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