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Why Super League could be the only option for a returning Sam Burgess

‘Medically retired’ – The term used when Sam Burgess announced his retirement from rugby league in October 2019.

It was a decision forced on the England forward as a result of the chronic shoulder problem that blighted his final few NRL seasons at South Sydney.

At just 30, Burgess’ retirement sent shock waves through the sport. It felt like a premature ending, so much so that many actually predicted the headlines that have come about over the last few days.

Fox League, the TV network at which Sam works as an NRL pundit, revealed the 2014 Clive Churchill Medalist is thinking of a comeback in 2021 after returning to ‘top fitness’, having spent the last few months training with the Rabbitohs’ squad.

If Sam’s shoulder is improving and his fitness is at an elite level, then it seems a no brainer for the Bunnies to bring him back into the playing fold next year, especially when you consider the struggles Wayne Bennett’s side have had in the forwards this season.

But, unfortunately, it isn’t that straight forward. As Burgess was medically retired, the remaining $1 million of his contract was wiped from Souths’ salary cap, allowing them to bring in another superstar in the shape of Latrell Mitchell from the Roosters.

Now, you may think that surely doesn’t matter by the start of 2021, as Sam’s contract would have been up by then anyway, that however isn’t the case.

When the NRL grants a medical retirement, it’s on the grounds that the player is to never play in the competition again. It’s the point of no return for a decision forced on the player and one completely out of the club’s control. It’s the reason the NRL have such compassion in this situation, allowing salary cap dispensation.

Since the ‘medically retired’ rule was brought in, Sam’s case is the highest profile the NRL has seen. Warrington-bound Greg Inglis, a former teammate and close friend of Burgess, announced his retirement from the NRL in April 2019 after a series of injury concerns.  Although he had 18 months remaining on his contract with the Rabbitohs, Inglis was paid out in full by the club despite not being medically retired.

It’s expected there would have been a backlash should Inglis have returned to the NRL due to the reasons for retiring and the situation regarding his remaining salary. If Sam did it, all hell would break loose!

This is not even entertaining the thought that the NRL may even block his return, or at least require Souths to pay big to bring him back. So where would all this leave a Sam Burgess itching to get back on the pitch but unable to play in the NRL?

Well, the obvious answer to that is to come back to the place where it all started – Super League! Brother George is at Wigan, best mate GI is at Warrington, so why not Slammin’ Sam at Leeds or Saints?

George Burgess joined Wigan ahead of the 2020 season. Credit: News Images

Having left Bradford Bulls as a 21-year-old to pursue his NRL dream, Sam has never been shy is expressing his love and admiration for Super League – the competition that gave him all the foundations to become one of the world’s greatest players.

A stumbling block in that could be his current role at the Rabbitohs, where he is involved heavily behind the scenes from administration and coaching to dealing with sponsors and recruitment.

Sam’s love for Sydney and the Redfern club may just prevent him from returning to English shores, but if he is that desperate to play again, then Super League may be his only option.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Lee Cartwright

    September 23, 2020 at 2:14 pm

    Don’t worry Sam, we’ll have you back at Bradford! Come on home Sam 🙏🏼

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