Has Sam made the right decision?

League Express editor Martyn Sadler wonders whether Sam Burgess might have been better advised to sign for Leeds Rhinos in Super League, rather than returning to the South Sydney Rabbitohs


So Sam Burgess is going to return to South Sydney in 2016, after finally severing his links with rugby union and the Bath club!

Despite Bath coach Mike Ford saying he would stay with the club, and the club’s owner Bruce Craig emphasising that Sam still had two years remaining on his contract, the news finally came through on Thursday afternoon that Sam would indeed be leaving the club to return to Rugby League.

Now that we know he will return to the Rabbitohs in 2016 I’m sure we will all wait with great interest to see how they will fit him into their salary cap. I can only imagine that Sam will go straight in at the top of the salary scale, which surely means that the club will have to make some sharp adjustments to its playing roster to fit him in. Obviously they feel confident that they can do that.

But I have to admit to a slight feeling of disappointment. I had hoped that if Sam were to return to Rugby League in 2016 we would see him back in Super League with Leeds Rhinos, who had expressed a strong interest in signing him, with the new marquee-player rule meaning that they could easily have afforded to sign him. They could have paid Sam what he was worth, while only counting the first £175,000 of his wages on the salary cap.

Sam could have delayed his return to the NRL until 2017, and could have gone about winning a Grand Final medal in Super League in 2016 to go alongside the NRL Grand Final medal he won in 2014.

It would have been great for the Rhinos and great for Super League. The Rhinos would, I’m sure, have helped offset the transfer fee that Souths will have had to pay Bath, who were apparently asking for anything up to £800,000, and they would have agreed to allow him to head to Souths in 2017.

I’m sure that Sam knew that the Leeds option was on the table, but he has decided to head back to join his brothers Tom and George, and not least his mother Julie and club owner Russell Crowe, in Sydney. We have to respect his decision, although I can’t help wondering whether it’s a wise one.

Sam led Souths to that historic Grand Final victory in 2014, with an amazing display of courage after breaking his cheekbone in the first minute of the game. The emotion was overwhelming as Souths won the competition for the first time since 1971.

But 2015 was much less successful for the Rabbitohs. They finished seventh in the league and were bundled out of the play-offs in the first week by Cronulla.

So no doubt they will hail Sam as a returning saviour. And he may well be. But they may be expecting too much of him. I’m never sure that it’s wise to go back somewhere when you’ve had great success there earlier in your career. The game moves on, and you can rarely replicate something that happened in earlier times.

Having said that, the Rabbitohs may sweep to another Grand Final victory in 2016 with Sam at the helm. But it won’t be the same as it was in 2014.

But then again, Sam is a remarkable player. Who’s to say he won’t prove me wrong?