South Sydney have come under fire after CEO Blake Solly announced Sam Burgess would be coaching one of the club’s junior sides next season.
The former Rabbitohs star has stood down from his media commitments with Fox Sports and as a development coach at Souths after explosive allegations of violence and substance abuse were levelled against him in a report by The Australian last week.
Burgess, through his legal representation, has vigorously denied the accusations.
The 31-year-old did not appear in Moss Vale Local Court this week as he fights an accusation he intimidated his father-in-law Mitchell Hooke last year. However, his lawyer claimed the footy player’s estranged wife Phoebe and her dad were acting out of “malice or retaliation” by orchestrating the allegations.
Speaking to fans in a video that was uploaded to Souths’ website, Solly answered a question from a member by saying Burgess would be in charge of the club’s Under-18 SG Ball team next season.
“Sam Burgess and (ex-Souths star) John Sutton will be the coaches of our SG Ball team, which is a first,’’ Solly said.
However, the Sydney Morning Herald reports Souths officials have since said they will wait for the NRL Integrity Unit and NSW Police to finish their investigations before giving the green light to Burgess’ appointment as coach.
NSW-based clubs have to make a formal application with the NSW Rugby League (NSWRL) to register coaches for any competitions administered by the governing body.
A NSWRL spokesperson confirmed to news.com.au it has not received a formal application from Souths regarding Burgess at this point, and said all coaches must have a Working With Children Check and minimum Level 2 Coaching Accreditation.
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Sam Burgess has stood down from his role at Souths.Source:News Corp Australia
Rugby league writer Andrew Webster said the video announcement of Burgess’ proposed new gig was “tone deaf”.
“I couldn’t believe the story in the Herald today that Blake Solly has told the members that Sam Burgess will be one of the junior coaches at Souths next year,” Webster told the Big Sports Breakfast.
“I think that’s completely tone deaf given what is going on at the moment. If you’re not going to say anything publicly and that’s it, that’s the one thing you probably shouldn’t say.”
Webster took aim at Solly and Rabbitohs co-owner Russell Crowe for not answering questions about Burgess since the scandal broke, saying it was unfair to leave the players and coach Wayne Bennett to deal with the fallout in the middle of their finals campaign.
“The way that South Sydney powerbrokers have handled this is terrible. I can’t believe that Blake Solly or (chairman) Nick Pappas or Russell Crowe haven’t put their head up,” Webster said.
“Souths are really angry that Wayne Bennett had to answer all those questions at the press conference on Saturday.
“I would suggest if Blake Solly, the chief executive and Nick Pappas the chairman got on the front foot as any strong leader would and answered questions in front of the media about it, it would be far better.”
Souths play Parramatta in Saturday night’s semi-final to keep their premiership dream alive and have said over the past week the Burgess drama will not distract them.
The Rabbitohs released a statement last Friday saying they are taking the allegations against Burgess extremely seriously.
“The allegations in today’s The Australian newspaper are very concerning and the Club is treating them with the utmost seriousness. There is no place in our society for violence, harassment or abuse against women. If anyone is found guilty of allegations of this nature, the Club will take the strongest possible action.
“The Club takes issues of drug use very seriously and has well-established policies and procedures in place around the use of performance enhancing or illicit/recreational/prescription drugs. The Club will continue to work closely with ASADA and the NRL which administer testing of the players. The Club will also continue to work with the playing group to support their wellbeing and educate them about drug use.
“The Rabbitohs welcome the NRL Integrity Unit’s investigation in relation to these allegations and will fully co-operate with the investigation. The Club is supportive of Sam Burgess’s decision to step down from his role at the Club while the NRL Integrity Unit investigation is underway.”
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