Sam Burgess says he was left with no choice but to walk away from rugby league after succumbing to a left shoulder injury.
The South Sydney captain confirmed his immediate retirement from the NRL on Wednesday afternoon, bringing to an end a glittering career.
The 30-year-old England Test star had long battled shoulder issues but the discovery of an irreparable condition followed surgery earlier this season and it became progressively worse.
“This decision was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in my life, however the decision was out of my hands essentially,” Burgess said.
“I am no longer able to be myself day-in, day-out on the training field and consequently the playing field.
“I have loved absolutely every minute: the highs, the lows, the grand final, coming home, my injuries, my dates with the judiciary.
“It really has been a fantastic ride.”
Burgess will go down as one of the NRL’s great forwards.
He played 182 games for Souths and was Clive Churchill Medallist despite a debilitating facial fracture in their drought-breaking 2014 grand final win.
Rugged and fearless in the middle, he was the Rabbitohs’ leading forward from his NRL debut in 2010 until the end.
Apart from a brief switch to the 15-man code which culminated in representing England at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, Burgess was named Souths’ player of the year in 2014, 2016 and 2017.
He also played 88 games for Bradford in the English Super League.
“He was one of the drawcards for me in coming to coach at South Sydney,” Souths and England mentor Wayne Bennett said.
“I was lucky enough to coach Sam in the All Stars game in 2010. I’d had heard so much about this Englishman that I had to see him for myself.
“Then I had the opportunity to coach him with England and I was hoping to coach him again this year with Great Britain.
“I’m glad to have played a sma ll role in his career and I feel blessed that he has been part of mine. I know he has made the right decision.”
Burgess’ imminent exit with three years to run on his multi-million dollar deal presents questions about South Sydney’s salary cap, given his retirement is based on medical grounds.
The Rabbitohs are yet to formally request dispensation but it’s believed they will given their claim it is a new injury only discovered this year.
The fact he has retired before the beginning of the next rugby league year on November 1 could mean his entire salary is struck from the 2020 cap if their application is successful.
Meanwhile the announcement will leave a leadership void at Redfern.
Greg Inglis had to call time on his career earlier this year, while fellow former captain John Sutton called it quits at the end of 2019.
Damien Cook, Cameron Murray and Adam Reynolds are expected to be the leading contenders to assume the role.
Dav id Fifita, Jai Arrow and Tyson Frizell have been mooted as back row replacements, all of them off contract at the end of 2020 and available to be approached from Friday.
SAM BURGESS CAREER:
* NRL Games: 182
* Tests: 26 (24 for England, 2 for Great Britain)
* Tries: 44
* Premierships: 1 (2014)
* 2013 RLIF prop of the year
* 2014 Clive Churchill Medallist
* 2014 Dally M lock of the year
* 2014 RLIF player of the year
* Three-times South Sydney player of the year (2014, 2016 and 2017)
* Rugby union Tests: 5 (including England’s 2015 World Cup campaign).
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now