From footy clinics to 50k fans: Braidon Burns is back

Jasper Bruce |

Braidon Burns (l) celebrates one of his two tries in his Cowboys debut against the Rabbitohs.
Braidon Burns (l) celebrates one of his two tries in his Cowboys debut against the Rabbitohs.

Three weeks ago, he was running footy clinics for school kids but Braidon Burns never gave up hope he would make it back to the NRL.

The journey to turn that dream into a reality took North Queensland’s new recruit from Sydney, to Townsville and Port Moresby and finally to Brisbane for Magic Round, where he scored a try double against his old firm South Sydney on Saturday night.

Now, Burns is confident there are more pages to be written in his NRL fairytale.

When Canterbury opted against renewing Burns’ contract at the end of last year, the outside back rejoined the Rabbitohs, who had handed him his NRL debut as a 20-year-old in 2017.

“I loved my time at the club the first time and being at the Bulldogs for two years, I wanted to go back to them,” Burns said.

The plan was to take a job in the Rabbitohs’ charity arm Souths Cares while playing NSW Cup – hopefully well enough to earn an upgrade into the top 30 squad.

But despite injury chaos and poor on-field results at the Rabbitohs this season, Burns’ phone never rang.

“It just didn’t work out,” he said.

Burns was happy working with Souths Cares, visiting schools and running Indigenous leadership camps out of Sydney. He was good at the work, and popular with his colleagues.

But the boy from Coonamble still had unfinished business in the NRL. 

Around the time the Rabbitohs sacked coach Jason Demetriou, Burns’ manager called.

The Cowboys had been monitoring his progress for a few weeks and were keen on bringing him up to bolster their stocks in the outside backs.

“I jumped at the opportunity,” Burns said.

“I still think I’m an NRL player and the club’s given me the opportunity to come up here and be an NRL player.”

He took one last Indigenous leadership camp up to the Central Coast before moving some 2000km north to Townsville and then turning out for feeder side the Northern Pride in Port Moresby two weekends ago.

When Kyle Feldt succumbed to an ankle injury last week, Burns was thrust into the bright lights of Magic Round, where some 50,000 people would be ready to watch his Cowboys debut.

There, his two tries on the right wing proved the difference as the Cowboys snapped a five-game losing streak with their 28-22 defeat of Souths.

“It’s a great story. He’s a great kid,” said Cowboys coach Todd Payten.

“He’s come in and he’s fitted in well, worked hard. He’s articulate, (brings) good energy around the group. To play against his former team, it’s strange how things work out.”

But Burns is hopeful his NRL comeback isn’t ending here.

AAP understands Feldt will be touch-and-go for Friday’s clash against Wests Tigers, which could present Burns with another chance in the first-grade side.

“If I have to go back to Cup next week and earn my way back up, then that’s fine. I’m happy to do that,” Burns said.

“(But) I’ve got belief in myself and my game. I think I can push my way back into the team somewhere.”