Sam Burgess was the golden boy of the NRL, with both his on-field performance and off-field life with wife Phoebe appearing to be perfect.
Now, the former Rabbitohs star and his bride are seemingly at war after he was rocked by serious allegations following a four-month investigation published by The Australian on Thursday night.
Burgess, through his lawyer, Mark O’Brien, has denied allegations of violence and substance abuse. His solicitor, Bryan Wrench, has claimed Phoebe or her father Mitchell Hooke were acting out of “malice or retaliation”.
This isn’t the first time Burgess has faced series allegations or had his personal life thrust into the spotlight.
The NRL star’s marriage breakdown and the allegations and drama that followed all occurred in the public eye.
The couple met at a music concert in January 2014 and married the following year in December at Phoebe’s parents’ home in Bowral in the NSW Southern Highlands.
But cracks began appearing before the end of the reception.
As Burgess’ older brother, Luke, delivered his best man’s speech, the Daily Telegraph reports Mr Hooke made a loud “shoosh” sound.
The awkward union between a rough-and-tumble footballer from the north of England and the daughter of a high society type was further highlighted when Luke Keary, one of Burgess’ rugby league buddies, was involved in an altercation at the wedding reception with Phoebe’s brother-in-law, retired rugby union player Gene Fairbanks.
Despite the tension publicly life rolled on for the glamour couple.
The pair welcomed their two children Poppy and William into the world and life seemed to be perfect for them.
But in January, 2019, reports emerged they were splitting just weeks after the birth of their son.
Not long after the shock announcement pictures emerged of the Rabbitohs player not wearing his wedding ring as he left their Sydney home with packed suitcases.
The couple then reconciled a few months later before eventually splitting for a second time in October 2019.
The duration of their on-again-off-again relationship was marred by scandals, and Burgess being charged with intimidation against Phoebe’s father. He is defending the charge and, through Mr Wrench, “categorically denied” the allegations in court this week.
Speculation that the couple’s relationship could be at breaking point started in 2018 when Burgess was rocked by an off-field sexting scandal.
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 23-year-old emailed the club about the incident, saying she felt violated by her online interactions with some of the players, who she claimed exposed themselves to her in a video.
The club conducted an investigation into the claims and later cleared Burgess of any wrongdoing.
Phoebe was six months pregnant with their second child when the allegations emerged, with Burgess at the time saying he wanted the situation to be “resolved quickly” for his wife’s sake.
“I’m not angry. What hurts me the most is seeing my wife upset about what’s out there,” he told reporters.
“I just want to protect my family in this whole thing.
“I’ve got a wife. I’ve got a daughter. My wife’s heavily pregnant. I just want them to be safe and happy. In my current situation at home there’s just no chance of that.”
Rumours of tensions between the Burgess family and Phoebe emerged following the couple’s first split, with reports the hostility between the two families may have played a part in their marriage breakdown.
Issues between the two families reportedly arose during the couple’s 2015 wedding.
According to The Daily Telegraph, issues between friends and family members led to a scheduled recovery session the day after being cancelled. The publication also reported Phoebe and the partners of Burgess’s brothers — also rugby league stars — did not get along.
Sam’s sister-in-law, Joanna Burgess, appeared to take a shot at Phoebe when she posted an image of the Burgess family — sans Phoebe — celebrating end-of-year festivities at Watsons Bay and wrote: “#bestoneyet”.
Some outlets reported it as a declaration by Joanna the family was better off without Phoebe, prompting her to clarify the situation, but in the process she also appeared to hit out at Phoebe’s lack of involvement with the Burgess family during the marriage.
“No need to drag my family or I into any of this — thank you,” Joanna wrote.
“It is not in my nature to take a ‘dig’ at someone. Phoebe has never joined the ‘Burgess’ side for previous Christmas festivities therefore my # couldn’t possibly be aimed at her! This year was no different to last year on her behalf.
“My last years Christmas upload I used a similar caption as it was our sons first Christmas, this year we had our daughter join the three of us hence it being the #bestoneyet!”
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ALLEGATIONS
Shortly after Burgess retired from NRL, he was hit with a single charge of intimidation after a reported dispute with Phoebe’s father, Mitchell Hooke.
Police confirmed they were called to a home in Glenquarry, east of Bowral, on October 19, 2019, in relation to a domestic dispute. No one was injured in the incident.
“It’s alleged the man intimidated the older man during the incident,” NSW Police said in a statement.
An interim apprehended domestic violence order was taken out by police on Burgess on Mr Hooke’s behalf following the incident.
In the wake of the explosive allegation, people on both sides on Burgess and Hooke camp revealed contrasting views on incident.
Burgess pleaded not guilty to the intimidation offence and has continually maintained his innocence