Can Sam Burgess save South Sydney from themselves?
In all likelihood yes.
The iconic, talismanic Souths enforcer will return to Redfern next year on a three-year deal, just in time to launch another Rabbitohs revival.
Without Burgess in 2015 following his defection to rugby, South Sydney were always going to do it tough to defend their premiership. Injuries didn’t help, but the Rabbitohs ended their title defence in highly forgettable fashion.
They won just one of their last six matches in a season that concluded with a comprehensive defeat to Cronulla in their elimination final shortly after coach Michael Maguire had been linked to a move to Newcastle.
That move was eventually knocked on the head, but with it died the Rabbitohs’ season amid reports Maguire had lost the dressing room.
If that wasn’t bad enough the prescription drug overdoses of Dylan Walker and Aaron Gray left an awful Post Script.
But all is now good again at Redfern because the prodigal son has returned, with Rabbitohs owner Russell Crown hailing it as Christmas come early for Rabbitohs fans.
“To all @SSFCRABBITOHS fans and Members in good standing (@SSFCMembership), Merry Christmas [email protected],” Crowe wrote on Twitter.
Indeed some might forgive the Academy Award winner some self-indulgence if he does pen a script about the Sam Burgess story one day.
He had a significant support staff, but it was Burgess who led the way to Souths’ record-breaking premiership triumph, with a man-of-the-match effort in the grand final with a broken cheekbone suffered in the very first tackle of the match.
Burgess left the NRL on the ultimate high, respected by most across the rugby league world and he will be welcomed back in same fashion.
What he could have achieved in rugby will now never be known. But he leaves the game a dual international and even his code-jumping forefather Sonny Bill Williams acknowledged Burgess’s exit will be a loss to the 15-a-side code.
He was largely, and some say unfairly, blamed for England’s disastrous Rugby World Cup campaign. But in truth Burgess was never loved in rugby like he is in league.
There was widespread lament across the NRL when both Burgess and Williams left at the end of 2014. Now one of them is back and there is a good chance one day Williams will return too.
Rugby’s loss is league’s gain and Burgess’ return mean Souths are a genuine chance of repeating their 2014 title triumph next season.
Burgess was the game’s best player when he left it and despite his brief, unfulfilling liaison with rugby, he could very well be rugby league’s best player when he returns to the NRL too.