Sam Burgess found guilty of intimidating former wife's father

Australian Associated Press
·3-min read
Phoebe and Sam Burgess, pictured here in 2018.
Phoebe and Sam Burgess at the David Jones Autumn Winter 2018 Collections Launch. (Photo by Don Arnold/WireImage)

Former South Sydney NRL captain Sam Burgess has been found guilty of intimidating his then wife’s father, former mining lobbyist Mitchell Hooke.

The 32-year-old yelled “f*** you, I'm going to get you” 20 centimetres from Mr Hooke's face during an expletive-riddled rage, sparked when he was asked to leave the Hookes' Southern Highlands property in October 2019.

“I accept Mr Hooke was terrified, that his whole body went cold,” magistrate Robert Rabbidge said in Moss Vale Local Court on Friday.

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Burgess was found guilty of intimidation, having intended to cause Mr Hooke fear of physical or mental harm.

The retired star was sentenced to a two-year community corrections order, requiring him to be of good behaviour.

“I'm confused with the decision, I will appeal the decision and I won't say anything further,” Burgess told reporters as he left court.

Burgess had denied swearing in the home but admitted angrily cursing when the argument continued in the driveway.

Sam Burgess, pictured here arriving at Moss Vale Local Court.
Sam Burgess arrives at Moss Vale Local Court. (AAP Image/Joel Carrett) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Burgess’ own words come back to bite him

Ultimately Burgess’s own words undermined his defence, the magistrate found.

The former footballer conceded his father-in-law did exclaim “What are you going to do? Hit a 64-year-old man?” during the incident.

But - disputing Mr Hooke's evidence that the statement came after Burgess aggressively yelled centimetres from his face - Burgess said it occurred when the men were metres apart on the property’s driveway angrily cursing each other.

“Surely such words could only be uttered after a close encounter,” the magistrate said.

Burgess also texted his estranged wife 20 minutes after the encounter that her father had been “provoking me”.

“I find the words used ... (is) a concession on his part that he was the aggressor,” Mr Rabbidge said.

Noting people in a highly emotional state can say things they later regret, the magistrate accepted Burgess had become annoyed and angry when told to leave the Hookes' Daffodil Downs property in Glenquarry before Ms Burgess returned.

Sam Burgess, pictured here before a South Sydney Rabbitohs game in 2020.
Sam Burgess looks on before a South Sydney Rabbitohs game in 2020. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Mr Hooke in October testified his own calm words were rebutted with “f*** you, I'm going to get you, you orchestrated all of this”.

“Six foot five, 118 kilograms, threatening to hit me, I was terrified,” Mr Hooke told the court.

“I had never felt fear like it. My whole body went cold.”

Mr Rabbidge said Mr Hooke’s version was clear and concise, as opposed to the defendant's “changeable” testimony.

“What is incontrovertible is the shock and distress that Mr Hooke displayed to his daughters and police,” the magistrate said.

Burgess’s legal team had alleged Mr Hooke and Ms Burgess set out to harm Burgess’s career and reputation by making the allegation and orchestrating a damaging expose on the retired Rabbitoh published by News Corp Australia in October 2020.

But that was dismissed by the magistrate, who found Mr Hooke’s testimony clear and concise.

Mr Rabbidge convicted Burgess and sentenced him to a two-year community corrections order, requiring him to be of good behaviour.

Burgess retired in 2019 after a 270-game NRL and English Super League career and stints with England's national rugby union and rugby league sides.

He stood down from roles as a commentator and South Sydney assistant coach in October.