There have been some extraordinary things written about Sam Burgess in the aftermath of his switch back to rugby league from union. Some would have us believe that Slammin’ Sam is a selfish, no-talent northener who couldn’t hack playing ‘proper’ rugby and, of course, is solely to blame for England’s poor performance during this year’s union World Cup.
How dare he attempt to take on a new challenge by leaving South Sydney Rabbitohs for Bath RUFC in 2014. The audacity of the man to receive such plaudits from those in league circles and how outrageous it is that he should play for his country during the World Cup, allowing himself to be selected like that – the nerve of the guy.
Yet, if you were unfortunate enough to read Paul Ackford’s piece in The Times on Saturday, you would probably be ready to lynch Burgess for the ‘massively damaging legacy’ he has left on rugby union.
Of course, it is pretty easy to see right through Ackford’s snobbery towards league, and well done the BBC for highlighting this in the build up to the second Test match between England and the Kiwis on Saturday – Jonathan Davies giving it short shrift in front of millions of viewers certainly helped undermine what little credibility there was to the article
But how on Earth was this drivel allowed to be printed? It seems astonishing that some union journalists just can’t help themselves but attack league whenever they get the slightest hint of an opportunity.
The Telegraph’s Steve James got in on the act on Saturday, too, claiming that Burgess’ return to the XIII-man game mocked Bath RUFC, England and union in general. In reality the anti-Burgess crew made their own game a laughing stock all by themselves, slating a player new to the game for the sake of filling their papers with their own hatrid towards league.
It’s maybe just a coincidence that on the Telegraph’s website the rugby union tab is right up there at the top of the page, while rugby league is hidden away via a sub-menu along with the Boat Race 2015 and NFL.
Throughout the two broadsheet’s attacks on Burgess, both conveniently gloss over the reason he gave for wanted to move back to the NRL – which was that he missed his family, in case you were wondering. But, I suppose you can’t let little things like that get in the way of attacking the man and another sport.
The problem with these types of articles is that they don’t come as a surprise. As Ray Gent’s book ‘The Petition’ testifies, this type of bias tripe has regularly found a home in the back pages of some British broadsheets for decades.
But Sam is someone who always seems to conduct himself very well in the media and he is an exceptionally talented rugby league player, so it is great to see him back in rugby league and pitiful to see the response from certain union writers.