'Sam Burgess made as big an impact in Australia as Ellery Hanley' - tributes to retiring Great Britain star

Sam Burgess has been widely saluted after announcing his retirement, with Mal Meninga saying he made as big an impact Down Under as Wigan legend Ellery Hanley.

Wednesday, 30th October 2019, 10:12 am
Sam Burgess has called it quits because of a shoulder injury
Sam Burgess has called it quits because of a shoulder injury

The Australia coach led the tributes to Souths superstar Burgess, who has been forced to retire because of a shoulder injury.

Asked where Burgess ranked among the great English players who played in Australia, Meninga said: "In my time he's certainly No.1 if not No.2, I think Ellery Hanley was probably in that space as well.

"In my time he's done a fantastic job for England and obviously paves the way for more English players to the competition. He's been a great pioneer for that."

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Ex-Wigan skipper Hanley had hugely-successful stints with Balmain Tigers and Western Suburbs in the late-80s. Adrian Morley, Gareth Ellis and current GB internationals James Graham, John Bateman and Josh Hodgson are among the other Brits to have since thrived in the NRL.

Graham, in the GB camp preparing for Saturday's Test against New Zealand, said: "As a team-mate and a friend, I'm disappointed with the circumstances but it's a consequence of the way he plays the game.

"For GB and England he's a huge loss, the NRL will be poorer with him not being there, he's one of the competition's biggest stars and drawcards.

"As a team-mate, I remember once we were playing the Kiwis and I hurt my knee and he was saying, 'Come on, we need you', and maybe it was his voice or his presence but he managed to drag me through it - he has that presence. He was phenomenal to play with, he really was, he squeezed every ounce of effort and talent from this group.

"One of England's and Great Britain's greats, I'd say.

"He is a superstar, but he's still a lad from Yorkshire who you can sit and have a beer with or a coffee with and talk about life, and credit to him for still being that lad from Dewsbury."

Burgess' brother George will be joining the Warriors in 2020.

Former Wigan John Bateman - who like Burgess started his professional career at Bradford - tweeted: "As a young English kid growing all I wanted to do was be like you.

"Then I got the chance to meet and become friends with you and to play alongside you, which was a dream come true. You're an inspiration to every rugby league player in the game."

Warriors centre Oliver Gildart wished Burgess well in retirement and wrote: "One of the best to play the game. Gutted to have not had the chance to play with him."

Former England captain Jamie Peacock, who is the Great Britain team manager, said: "That performance was the most inspirational and courageous I've ever seen by a rugby league player and I don't think it will be surpassed.

"To fracture your cheekbone like that and go on to win the man of the match, in the biggest game of the year, is absolutely incredible, the best player I ever played alongside."

Burgess was joined at the Redfern-based club by older brother Luke in 2011 and younger twin siblings George in 2012 and Tom the following year, and all four played together in a match in 2013.

Tom said: "Sam wants us not to feel sad, just celebrate what he has done and the good times we've had together and that's what I'll be doing.

"He's made a decision for himself, for his body, and only he can do that. I'm proud of him for having the strength and the will to do that."