Burgess’ pep-talk hoists Rabbitohs back to winning ways

Jasper Bruce |

Experienced forward Thomas Burgess (2R) has put into perspective Souths’ slow start to their season.
Experienced forward Thomas Burgess (2R) has put into perspective Souths’ slow start to their season.

South Sydney players have credited a pep-talk from veteran prop Thomas Burgess for helping the Rabbitohs snap their disastrous losing streak to begin the new season.

Souths dropped their first three games of 2024, crashing to last on the ladder for the first time since 2010 and placing Jason Demetriou’s coaching job under pressure.

But Friday’s 20-16 defeat of Canterbury, while hardly emphatic, helped ease scrutiny on the blue-chip club, which had been in the firing line since last season’s capitulation from finals contention.

After the club’s third consecutive loss, a 48-6 shellacking from the Sydney Roosters late last month, Burgess convened the playing group for a pep-talk.

Burgess is one of only two players from the Rabbitohs’ 2014 premiership-winning side that remains at Souths and reminded his teammates the club bounced back from a similarly slow to the season that year.

Thomas Burgess.
Thomas Burgess is left looking for answers after Souths’ round-two loss to the Broncos in Brisbane. (Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS)

The Rabbitohs won their first game in 2014, only to lose their next three and slump to 14th spot on the ladder.

But the side recovered in round five and went on to win 17 of their next 23 as they stormed to the grand final and notched a drought-breaking 21st premiership victory.

“(Burgess) just brought that up and it really changed everyone’s perspective and mind, that you can start but there’s still a lot of games to be played,” said centre Isaiah Tass.

“Everyone gets a little bit of a buzz off him.”

Burgess’ spiel made an impression on the younger cohort at Heffron Park.

“He rallied the troops,” said forward Tallis Duncan.

“Sometimes it’s good to learn from the older boys who have been through it hundreds of times, and just how to be a professional.”

Burgess, who joins Super League side Huddersfield next season, said 11 previous campaigns with the Rabbitohs had put the slump in perspective.

“Obviously if I can use some experiences from the past, I will, to help the team,” he said.

“We’ve been there before, it’s nothing new, a lot of teams go through it, and you can start the year poorly and it’s not the end.”

Souths are set to field their fourth different back-five combination in five games this season when Izaac Thompson replaces Alex Johnston for Saturday’s clash with the Warriors.

Alex Johnston.
Rabbitohs flyer Alex Johnston scores a try against Manly in Las Vegas. (HANDOUT/NRL PHOTOS)

Thompson trained on the left wing on Tuesday in place of Johnston, who is expected to miss up to six weeks with the hamstring injury he suffered against Canterbury.

“(Thompson) is a physical body, he’s tall, he’s big. He’s definitely going to be helping us out of yardage,” said Tass.

“We’re going to miss (Johnston) out there, scoring all those tries.

“We know he’s trying to chase down a record (for most tries in a career) so hopefully this doesn’t put too much of a dent in him getting it this year.”