South Sydney have been taken to task over the extraordinary claim that Sam Burgess departed the club on Wednesday to focus on the impending birth of his child and his move to Warrington next year. Burgess has departed his role as assistant coach with immediate effect, despite there being two games remaining in the regular season.
The South Sydney legend, who helped the club win the premiership in 2014, was already leaving at season's end to take up the Warrington head coaching role in the Super League. But reports emerged on Tuesday night that the Souths board were considering the immediate futures of Burgess and fellow assistant coach John Morris due to a difference of opinion with head coach Jason Demetriou.
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Co-owner Russell Crowe was reportedly brought in to help make the final decision, and Burgess departed on Wednesday morning. Burgess and Morris had reportedly been unimpressed that Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker weren't being held to the same standard as teammates at training. While Burgess has left, Morris will remain at the club and see out his contract to the end of the year.
Sam Burgess to focus on family and Warrington move
The Rabbitohs released a statement saying Burgess had left to focus on the upcoming birth of his child with partner Lucy Graham, as well as his impending move to Warrington, a line that Burgess also used in a statement of his own. Burgess later said it was the right time to leave "given the circumstances".
However the claims about why Burgess has left was called out by journalists as Demetriou and club CEO Blake Solly held a press conference later on Wednesday. Demetriou denied that Burgess' departure had anything to do with a clash with him or the way Mitchell and Walker are treated.
“I didn’t want Sam out of the club. But it is what it is, the decision has been made and we move on,” Demetriou said. “Sam and I had many discussions, it’s not something I’m going to talk about publicly, they’re discussions between Sam and I and I’m sure Sam will respect that as well. We all have differences, I had many conversations with Wayne Bennett and every coach I’ve worked with, we all have differences.
"But there’s a lot more external factors as well with him about to take the job at Warrington and he’s about to have a baby as well. They’re all factors that pour into it but my focus is to get the team ready for two weeks time.”
South Sydney questioned over claims about Sam Burgess
Leading journalist Michael Chammas, who broke the story about Burgess and Morris on Tuesday night, put it to Solly that no-one will be buying the line about Burgess leaving for his fiancee. “No-one is going to believe that Sam Burgess left a week out from the start of finals contention for those reasons, do you feel Sam was let down by the club?” Chammas asked. “Obviously Sam deciding to leave means he feels there are issues that he has which were not being heard."
Solly responded: “That’s not the discussion we had with Sam this morning, that he felt let down by the club at all. Jason just said there were discussions with Sam that will remain in these four walls."
Chammas asked Demetriou about claims Mitchell and Walker are being given preferential treatment. “I have no issue with it, people can say and do whatever they like, I know what’s going on within the four walls and I know my relationship with Cody and Latrell in particular and I know what the board values out of both of those guys,” Demetriou said. “We’ll bunker down, we’ll come together as a group and focus on the Roosters in 10 days time." Fans were also highly sceptical of the official line regarding Burgess' exit.
MEME CLUB…. Disgraceful ….
— Mike (@PantherMike182) August 23, 2023
GUTTED!!!! Absolutely disgraceful that the club expects us to believe that. I have no words 🙄
— becwjack 💚♥️ (@becwjack) August 23, 2023
We all know Sam would never quit on this club, would a load of garbage that press conference was. The truth will come out eventually.
— jkb (@Perthkiwi3) August 23, 2023
With only 2 weeks remaining do you honestly want us to believe that he wasn’t pushed
— Darren (@Bridge70191799) August 23, 2023
Things have gone horribly wrong for the Rabbitohs in recent weeks and there is a very real possibility they won't even make the finals. After a bye this week, it looks like the will need to beat their arch-rivals the Roosters in order to finish in the top eight.
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