Sam Burgess’ incredible display of courage in producing a Churchill Medal-winning performance in South Sydney’s euphoric grand final success capped a brilliant season for the rugby union-bound Englishman – and emphasised what a huge loss he will be for the NRL.
The engine-room powerhouse came under fire for some questionable tactics and hot-headed outbursts on the field late in 2013, but he curbed those wild ways with a season of extraordinary consistency and excellence this year.
He scored 10 tries from 26 games, led the NRL in hit-ups with 510 (67 clear of his nearest rival) and finished third in the Dally M count, before playing virtually the full 80 minutes with a fractured cheekbone and eye socket in the decider.
While it remains to be seen whether he can make a successful transition from rugby league forward to rugby union midfield back, Burgess’ 2014 efforts saw him become recognised as arguably the greatest British player to grace the Australian premiership – an illustrious list that already boasts premiership winners Malcolm Reilly, Dave Bolton and Adrian Morley, and modern-day Lions greats Ellery Hanley and Garry Schofield.
His last game of rugby league, for the time being at least, will go down in the annals of history as one of the greatest individual performances of all time, destined to become embedded in the fabric of the code’s narrative.
This outstanding montage captures the impact Burgess made in his five seasons as a Rabbitohs leader and an NRL superstar.