Former Bradford Bulls and South Sydney Rabbitohs star Sam Burgess suffered a heartbreaking loss over the weekend.
Going into his first Grand Final as an Orara Valley Axemen head coach, Burgess had already won the minor premiership, but that wasn’t enough – he wanted the main prize.
Burgess’ Axemen had gone into the final buoyed by a 60-0 hammering the semi-final of the play-offs, but succumbed to a 36-8 loss against the South Grafton Rebels in front of 3,500 fans.
The former hulking forward revealed he was ‘devastated’.
“I’m proud of the boys but devastated at the loss,” Burgess told The Daily Telegraph.
“I know the guys are gutted. My job when I got here was to enrich the valley and get the game going again and you can tell by today there is plenty of energy in the place.
“Sadly we couldn’t get the last win. This game will teach us more than the whole year.
“We’ll be right.”
Burgess was surprised by one guest appearance – new Dolphins head coach Wayne Bennett who had tried to lure Burgess to Queensland for an assistant coaching job.
“I didn’t realise Wayne was coming. Legend — he’s the best,” Burgess said.
Burgess will return to the South Sydney Rabbitohs for 2023 after enjoying his spell at the Axemen in local rugby league – and the Rabbitohs hierarchy cannot wait to see him.
“Everyone at the club is looking forward to getting Sam back on deck here at Souths. Clearly he has done a magnificent job with Orara Valley, who started with almost nothing and getting to a grand final,” Souths CEO Blake Solly said.
“That is a remarkable achievement.
“Sam has a passion for football and coaching but it’s also been a great learning experience outside the NRL environment, having to be all things to all people when you’re a bus footy coach. It’s a great education but also a reminder how privileged we are in the NRL.
“He will be re-joining the club as an assistant coach with Jason and everyone will be excited to see him in the red and green again. His record on the field speaks for itself and we’re looking forward to him having similar success off it.”