Sam Burgess hailed ‘one of the greats’ by legend Jamie Peacock

NOW-RETIRED former England captain Sam Burgess has been hailed as a “true champion” by Leeds Rhinos legend Jamie Peacock.

Wednesday, 30th October 2019, 5:34 pm
Updated Wednesday, 30th October 2019, 5:35 pm
Sam Burgess.

Dewsbury-born Burgess has called time on his glittering playing career, aged just 30, because of a chronic shoulder injury. He began at Bradford Bulls and made his first-team debut, against Rhinos, in 2006, the season after Peacock left Bradford to join Leeds.

Having seen him in Bulls’ academy set-up, Peacock never had any doubt the then-teenager would go all the way to the top.

“The impact Sam’s made has been huge,” Peacock, the Great Britain team manager, said.

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Sam Burgess.

“He is the best player I played alongside and it has been wonderful to see a 15-year-old with bags of talent make the most of it and develop into one of the modern greats.

“It is a sad loss. It is sad when any player has to retire not on his own terms, but I think Sam has made a deep mark within the game.

“He will be gone, but never, ever forgotten.

“He is one of the true champions of the sport, an absolutely fantastic player and great bloke off the field as well.”

Burgess joined South Sydney Rabbitohs in 2010 and had two spells there, either side of a brief and ill-fated stint in rugby union with Bath and England.

He was capped 23 times by England in rugby league and twice for Great Britain.

Peacock described Burgess’ contribution to Rabbitohs’ 2014 Grand Final win – when he was named man of the match after suffering a broken cheekbone in the first tackle of the game – as “the most inspirational and courageous performance I have ever seen by a rugby league player”.

He said: “I don’t think it will ever be surpassed. It was absolutely incredible.”

Burgess’ younger brother Tom also plays for South Sydney and is a member of the Great Britain squad preparing for Saturday’s Test against New Zealand in Auckland.

“He has made a decision for himself and his body,” Tom said.

“I am proud of him for having the strength and the will to do that. I made my debut for Souths alongside Sam and then alongside Sam and George [Tom’s twin] for England.

“I have some great memories I will always cherish. He has been a big part of my career and of why I came to Australia.”

Great Britain captain James Graham hailed Burgess as “one of England’s and Great Britain’s greatest and one of the NRL’s greatest players of this generation”.

He added: “From the game’s point of view, for England and Great Britain, he is a huge loss – and for the NRL.

“The game is going to be poorer for him not being there.”

In a letter to South Sydney fans and members, Burgess described ending his playing career as “one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in my life”.

But he admitted: “[It] was out of my hands essentially.

“I am no longer able to be myself day in, day out on the training field and consequently the playing field.”