Sam Burgess dismisses ‘chatter’ about South Sydney Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire

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Nanjing Night Net

Rabbitohs enforcer Sam Burgess said he was stunned to learn there were rumblings Souths coach Michael Maguire was on the outer at the club, describing Maguire as a key reason behind his decision to return to Redfern after his stint with England’s Rugby World Cup team.

Burgess, who made an immediate impact during Souths’ 42-10 opening round victory over the Sydney Roosters, said he wasn’t aware of off-season chatter that suggested Maguire’s renowned intensity had worn thin with members of the club’s playing unit.

Maguire’s supporters were adamant the nature of Souths’ effort to defeat their arch-rivals should have killed off any suggestion the club was in crisis, but 27-year-old Burgess made a point to voice his support before this weekend’s match against Newcastle for a man he called a close friend and mentor.

“There was speculation?” said Burgess. “I’ve not seen it. ‘Madge’ [Maguire]  is an amazing coach and his record speaks for itself – look at what he’s done for South Sydney.

“I have a good friendship with Madge, we have a good understanding, he’s an influential guy and is an absolute joy to play for.

“Souths is exactly the same [to when I left]. It has a few different players, the coaches are exactly the same, everyone is on the same path, everyone wants the same results and it is good to be back.”

Winger Alex Johnston made it clear he and his teammates had paid little attention to the off-season chatter, saying they were in a “bubble”, they were a unified group and only focused on doing well this season.

In a further sign of his commitment to Souths, Burgess, who was named man of the match after playing most of the 2014 grand final with a fractured cheekbone the last time he played at ANZ Stadium, said he intended to play the entire 80 minutes each week under the NRL’s new interchange rules, which has resulted in the number of players on the bench being reduced from 10 to eight.

The Englishman played 53 minutes against the Roosters last weekend when he packed down in the front row to cover for his brother George who was completing a suspension.This weekend the dual international will start at lock.

“That is the goal,” he said of playing 80 minutes each round. “I guess I’ll see how I go at lock this weekend which is a bit different to playing up front. I’ll see if I can knock out a few more minutes then.

“I think in 2014 I averaged 78 minutes a game. I think I’ll start pushing out a few minutes [against Newcastle], but Madge has a good plan in place and he’s not going to push anything too early.”

Burgess said he expected Luke Keary – who is said to be on the outer after a blow-up with Souths owner Russell Crowe at his Nana Glen property before Christmas – would bring “energy” after Adam Reynolds was sidelined by a fractured jaw.

However, he didn’t want to elaborate on what he might discuss with Keary  regarding a possible switch to rugby union after a newspaper report suggested the former Australian Schoolboy might return to the 15-man game.

“He’s off contract, he’ll make his own decision, and as a teammate and a friend we support anything he is doing at the moment,” Burgess said. “He’s played [rugby] before but he’s playing rugby league now and we just want Luke to do his best at South Sydney.”

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