Unforgettable farewell for Sam as Burgess boys take the spoils
- Match report
- Team history repeats with the crack of a cheekbone
- Rabbitohs won’t have to wait 43 years for next premiership
- Player ratings: Canterbury Bulldogs
- Player ratings: South Sydney Rabbitohs
- Sam Burgess lost for words after galvanising display recognised
John Sattler only had to play 77 minutes of a grand final with a broken jaw.
Forty-four years after Sattler courageously battled through the pain to deliver South Sydney glory, a modern-day Rabbitoh wrote himself into rugby league folklore.
A fitting farewell: Sam Burgess saved his best until last. Photo: Getty Images
Sam Burgess had to carry his suspected broken cheekbone for the entirety. Had Burgess gone off when he sustained the injury, his last game of rugby league would have been a short one indeed. Instead it was memorable for all the right reasons after Burgess was awarded the Clive Churchill medal. No one has been more deserving.
“It feels like I cracked my eyeball in the first half,” Burgess said.
“I just played on adrenaline and my teammates got me through it. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be sore tomorrow but I’d do it all over again. It’s a feeling that you can’t replicate. I’m just very lucky to be in this position.”
2014 NRL Grand Final
George Burgess scores for the Rabbitohs during the 2014 NRL Grand Final. Photo: Brendan Esposito
The Bath-bound forward had the privilege of taking the first hit-up of the game. Predictably, the first man to meet him was his great friend and English teammate James Graham. Everyone braced for a damaging collision but no one could have predicted this. Heads collided and Burgess came off much the worse. The Dewsbury product reeled out of the tackle and was immediately attended to by the trainer. The early prognosis was a fractured cheekbone. It should have ended his night, his season and potentially his NRL career. Instead, with Sattler and mum Julie watching on from the stands, Burgess played on.
In one of the bravest performances in the history of the game, Burgess produced a blinder. He was asked by commentator Brad Fittler how the injury was. Whatever he said, with mouthguard inserted into a busted mouth, was indecipherable. Although most observers reckon it resembled ‘It’s f—ed, it’s gone”. By that time he had made 13 runs — the most of any player — for 113 metres, along with 18 tackles. And that was just before half-time.
He finished with almost 200 metres, 30 tackles, three offloads. And very nearly a sideline conversion to top it off.
This would have been a supreme performance if produced by a fit man. Rather than steer clear of Graham, it was as if Burgess made a conscious attempt to find him. When the Bulldogs dropped the ball in the third minute, it was Burgess forcing the error. Midway through the opening half, the 25-year-old came agonisingly close to scoring after charging towards the tryline. He got the next best result when he earned a penalty.
At one point opposing prop Tim Browne appeared to try to take advantage of Burgess’ misfortune when throwing his head forcefully towards him when a scrum was being packed. It was only fitting that a crowd of 83,833 — the biggest since ANZ Stadium was reconfigured — was on hand to witness the heroics. This after Rooster Shaun Kenny-Dowall played the majority of last year’s decider with a fractured jaw.
Even now, 44 years after it happened, Sattler’s deeds are still revered. Only this year, a book was released and became an immediate bestseller. One can only hope to secure the rights to this tale. The Englishman who came to Australia, shed his playboy image to become not only a player of substance but the best on ground when Souths broke their premiership drought. It was made the more special because he rode every moment of the journey with his three brothers. And then, after breaking his cheekbone, celebrated a premiership while playing alongside two of them. There are further chapters to be written as he embarks on his next adventure in the 15-man code.
And, if there wasn’t already enough Hollywood in this story, Burgess paid tribute to co-owner Russell Crowe.
“Russell, good on you buddy, what a man,” Burgess said. “My mum is the greatest mum in the world .. it’s been a cracking year.”
While Burgess is irreplaceable, the three brothers tasked with filling the void are from good stock. George was the outstanding player in the opening quarter but he too suffered a head knock. Seemingly knocked senseless, he was duly taken from the field as required under the new concussion laws. He returned shortly afterwards and continued to make an impression on the game and the defence. The try he scored after steamrolling hapless Bulldogs defenders is as good as any scored by a forward in a grand final.
Tom Burgess also was involved in a controversial moment when he was placed on report for a shoulder charge. And to think their opponents on Sunday are considered ‘The Family Club’.
Burgess wasn’t the only Bunny to be taken out by Graham’s head. Underrated prop David Tyrrell was also floored after being involved in a head clash with the Canterbury co-captain. However, Tyrrell didn’t get up. The former winger, now playing in Souths’ famed pack, had to be taken off late in the match via medicab and may not recall much of the most memorable night of his life.