South Sydney Rabbitohs have made an interesting choice by appointing Englishman Tom Burgess as their captain during a week of strained sporting relations between Australia and England. Following in the footsteps of his older brother Sam, who also captained the team, Tom becomes part of an exclusive group of brothers to lead the historic club, with the last pair being Jack and Vic Lawrence in the 1920s. Souths fans can take solace in the fact that Tom has recently become a dual citizen, aligning himself closely with the Australian identity.
Sam Burgess, who now works on the Souths coaching staff, expressed his disagreement with the controversial stumping of Jonny Bairstow in the recent Ashes cricket match. “We’re actually mates with the cricketers, good mates with Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Joe Root,” Burgess said. “I know I’ll get hammered for this, but what happened the other day [at Lord’s] is equivalent to getting a tickle on your face, then laying down in front of the posts in an Origin game. Imagine the fans if you did that? If you play to the letter of the law, Bairstow is out, but if you play in the spirit of the game, it’s not on.”
Despite the timing, Coach Jason Demetriou stood firm on his decision to appoint Tom as captain, even during Ashes week. “Tommy is a one-club Rabbitoh – I don’t see him as English, I see him as part of the fabric around here,” Demetriou stated. He praised Tom’s humility and presence, emphasizing the importance of his leadership on the field, especially for the forwards. Demetriou acknowledged that the decision may raise eyebrows given the rivalry between England and Australia in the Ashes, but for the Rabbitohs, Tom’s commitment to the club and his ability to get the job done were the deciding factors.
With regular captain Cameron Murray and fellow leaders Damien Cook and Cody Walker in the NSW Origin camp, and Latrell Mitchell injured, it was necessary for the Rabbitohs to appoint a stand-in captain for the upcoming match against Canterbury. Alex Johnston will take on the leadership role in Burgess’ absence.
Looking ahead, the Rabbitohs will have a bye after the Bulldogs match and will welcome back key players such as Mitchell, Campbell Graham, and injured Queensland forward Jai Arrow. With the return of their all-star artillery, Souths aim to continue their strong performance in the NRL competition.