Much has been made of Sam Burgess’ impromptu return to rugby league, but at the end of the day, only one man is to blame.
There has been plenty of finger pointing, at the press, the RFU, the England coaching team and even at Bath, yet at the end of the day, only one man could make the decision, and that was Burgess himself.
There’s no doubting that he has come in for some unjust criticism for England’s World Cup failing, and it’s also bloody obvious that he’s been messed around by coaching staff, but it was still Slammin’ Sam who decided to return to Australia and the NRL.
You don’t see Chris Robshaw skulking off at the first possible opportunity having come in for some pretty harsh criticism himself after England’s disappointing World Cup campaign. Instead he has got his head down back at Quins, and is putting in solid performances to help his side get off to a solid start in the Premiership.
Whilst I feel sympathy for the way Burgess has been demonised by some members of the press, it is disappointing to see a potentially very bright union career cut short after just one disappointing season. If he’d of stuck it out a little longer, there is every chance Burgess could have been a key figure for England in 2019, and possibly even made the Lions tour in 2017.
Instead union fans, and probably even Burgess himself will always be left wondering ‘what if’. At the end of the day, he committed to Bath for at least three years when he signed back in 2014, but has turned his back on them after just 21 games in the blue and black hoops. To me, this is one of the most disappointing aspects given the time and money the club committed to bringing him over.
It just amazes me that a clearly world class athlete seems to have given in so quickly on what could have been a very fruitful period if given the right time. You only have to look at the success of Sonny Bill Williams to see what a difference an extra couple of years in the code can make.
It can’t have been easy dealing with the fallout of the World Cup, but as an internationally recognised sporting personality, Burgess should have no problem coping with a few hacks making ill informed comments in idiotic newspapers.
At the end of the day, he has come to Bath on a salary that is astronomical in rugby terms and taken a place in England’s World Cup squad before disappearing at the first sign of difficulty. Both the money, and the squad place could have instead been used on players like Slade or Eastmond who clearly have much more commitment to the sport.
Now it could well be that there is much more to this than meets the eye, but even so to see him not even try and stick it out for another 12 months is a huge disappointment. It will certainly have taught lessons to all those involved, and could well damage any future cross-code switches given the way things have gone down with Burgess.