South Sydney have confirmed Sam Burgess will play a key role in coaching their future teen stars in 2021, despite the superstar Englishman facing serious allegations of drug use and domestic violence.
A day after a lawyer for Burgess slammed explosive claims in The Australian last week as "orchestrated propaganda" and "retaliation" by the former Souths skipper's ex-wife Phoebe Burgess, Rabbitohs chief executive Blake Solly said the club intended to proceed as planned.
Fronting a video that was uploaded to the club's website on Thursday morning, Solly said Burgess was still in line to coach the club's under-19s team, a move first mooted last month. Solly was asked a question from a member about the partnership between the senior club and Souths Juniors and took the opportunity to double down and stand by his man.
"Sam Burgess and John Sutton will be the coaches of our SG Ball team, which is a first,'' Solly said.
Burgess has already shown immense promise as a coach whilst working in the club's biosecurity bubble as one of Wayne Bennett's assistants.
But the 31-year-old stood himself down from all coaching commitments, as well as his role at Fox Sports, after the bombshell allegations made in The Australian.
Souths officials later confirmed to the Herald they would await the outcome of the NRL Integrity Unit investigation and any police inquiry before rubber-stamping any appointment.
NSW Rugby League runs the SG Ball competition, with some rival NRL clubs conducting trials for their sides later this month.
A NSWRL spokesperson said it was yet to receive any formal application from Souths for Burgess and Sutton to coach a junior team.
The spokesperson said all applicants would need to satisfy a Working With Children Check, and hold the proper accreditation. It remains unclear if Sutton and Burgess have completed a Level 2 coaching certificate, a minimum requirement to work with an SG Ball team.
Just this week Burgess' lawyer appeared in Moss Vale Local Court over one charge of intimidation and one charge of common assault levelled against his client last year after a clash with Phoebe Burgess' father, Mitchell Hooke, on October 19. Burgess has pleaded not guilty.
Bryan Wrench said Phoebe had handed a 50-page affidavit over to police six days after the pair got into a dispute following Sam making a separate court application.
Wrench added Burgess ''categorically denied" all the allegations made against him in the media reports, and his legal team had "not even seen" the 50-page affidavit in question.
Some of the claims levelled against Burgess included him being treated with "liquid valium" at his home that was allegedly prescribed by South Sydney's club doctor Andrew McDonald and under Mitch Hooke's name. There were also allegations that Burgess underwent a drug test in the car park at Souths Juniors that was conducted by a different doctor name and logged under a false name. It is alleged that test returned returned positives to MDMA and ketamine. None of the allegations in the report have been proven.
The NRL Integrity Unit continues to conduct its interviews, while it remains to be seen if Souths' Hollywood heavyweight owner Russell Crowe will be contacted. In Phoebe's affidavit, she says she reached out to Crowe on several occasions, including in September 2018 when Burgess could not be located after Souths crashed out of the finals race against the Sydney Roosters.
Burgess has remained holed up at home since the report first emerged. He has not been charged by police and has found plenty of support from family and players at Souths and rival clubs.
"As a kid, he was the bloke I looked up to," English teammate and Canberra forward John Bateman told the Herald this week. "I dropped him a text last week when it all came out, but I haven't heard from him yet. We don't know the full story or what happens behind closed doors."
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