Sam Burgess remained in the spotlight even after his football career came to a sad end, as off-field issues continue to dominate the headlines.
The NRL has been rocked by serious allegations levelled against the former Rabbitohs star after The Australian newspaper today published an exclusive report claiming South Sydney officials tried to hide Burgess’ post-season celebrations late in his career.
The Englishman’s lawyer Mark O’Brien has vigorously denied the accusations, which included allegations of violence and substance abuse.
Lured to Australia after connecting with actor and Rabbitohs co-owner Russell Crowe, Burgess became a cult hero in the NRL. He led the Bunnies to a drought-breaking premiership in 2014, famously playing on despite fracturing his eye-socket in a brutal tackle at the start of the grand final against the Bulldogs.
But the 31-year-old was denied a Hollywood farewell to rugby league, retiring at the end of 2019 because of complications with a serious shoulder injury.
The end of Burgess’ footy-playing days were accompanied by revelations of turmoil in his private life for the once-golden boy of the competition.
HIGHS AND LOWS OF BURGESS’ FOOTY CAREER
Burgess left Bradford in the UK Super League to join Souths as a 21-year-old in 2010 and developed a reputation as one of the toughest, most skilful and most durable forwards in the NRL.
He became the face of the Rabbitohs and developed an emotional attachment to the club that remains today, bursting into tears as he hugged Crowe and coach Michael Maguire after the 2014 premiership triumph.
Burgess left the NRL at the end of that year for a disastrous stint in rugby union, where he was part of England’s abysmal 2015 World Cup campaign. He was slammed for being woefully out of his depth as England copped stinging criticism for failing to make it to the knockout stage of its home tournament.
Burgess returned to Souths in 2016, playing several more seasons before injury cut his career short.
SAM EMBROILED IN SEXTING CONTROVERSY
On the field in 2018, the Bunnies were rolling along smoothly but Burgess was rocked by an off-field scandal before the Rabbitohs were due to face arch-enemies the Roosters in the preliminary final.
A woman alleged she was exposed to inappropriate images in a video chat from one of Burgess’s social media accounts with other Souths players.
The woman emailed the club about the incident, saying she felt violated and alleging some players exposed themselves to her.
Souths conducted an investigation in the matter and cleared Burgess and his teammates of any wrongdoing.
RELATIONSHIP CRACKS START TO APPEAR
Burgess admitted his biggest concern about the sexting scandal was the impact it had on his family and while things appeared rosy when he and wife Phoebe — who he married in 2015 — brought their second child into the world, the pair soon split.
William, nicknamed Billy, was born in December 2018 but Sam and Phoebe’s relationship was on the rocks over that festive period. Images of Sam were deleted from Phoebe’s social media accounts and the bullocking back-rower was spotted leaving their Sydney home with bags, not wearing his wedding ring.
Rumours of a family feud between Phoebe and the tight-knit Burgess clan also did the rounds.
After the initial separation Sam and Phoebe appeared to reconcile in 2019. They were photographed together on several occasions with their kids as Sam reappeared on Phoebe’s Instagram profile, but in the end they couldn’t make it work and remain separated.
WILD WAYS SUGGEST THE END IS NEAR
Before an official announcement on Burgess’ playing future had been made he was spotted partying on a boat in Mexico in October last year, suggesting his mind was far away from returning to the field.
Wearing nothing but a hat, necklace and leopard-print sarong, Burgess was seen hoisting a woman up on his shoulders and it looked like he was already resigned to his footy carer being over.
CRUEL END TO A GLITTERING CAREER
The Rabbitohs went within one game of making the grand final in 2019 but Burgess endured a horror time on the field in a season plagued by injury and ill-discipline.
He was charged three times with infringements on the field last year and missed the first week of the finals after pleading guilty to pulling the hair of Roosters player Billy Smith. He then described the judiciary system as a “kangaroo court” and was fined $10,000 and forced to apologise.
His shoulder injury and quad troubles forced him to retire — a call Burgess described as “one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in my life”.
POLICE GET INVOLVED
Last December, Burgess pleaded not guilty to intimidating his father-in-law after he was charged by police following an incident involving Phoebe’s dad Mitchell Hooke in Bowral in the NSW Southern Highlands.
Officers were called to an address at Glenquarry last October in relation to a domestic dispute. No one was injured during the incident, which is alleged to have taken place when Burgess went to visit his kids.
A hearing is set for November 16 and police have called upon Phoebe to act as a witness in the case, along with her father and sister Harriet.
NEW ROMANCE WAS SHORT AND SWEET
A short fling ended when American waitress Oak Schuetz claimed Burgess would not return her calls after the pair’s romance was reported in the media late last year.
The 27-year-old was seen hugging the footy star in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs in December and she told The Daily Telegraph she had spent a couple of nights at Burgess’ place after meeting at a bar in the CBD.
However, days later Schuetz told the newspaper Burgess had gone cold as friends of his denied he was in a relationship.
FOOTY REMAINS BURGESS’ TRUE LOVE
His playing days are over but Burgess has a job as a development coach at Souths, helping out his former teammates and veteran mentor Wayne Bennett.
The Brit became part of the Bunnies’ “bubble” this season, putting his TV and media commitments on hold to help his beloved club chase another premiership.
The Rabbitohs finished sixth and play Newcastle on Sunday afternoon in the opening round of the finals.