The big interview: We're one big happy family in Australia, says Tom Burgess (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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The big interview: We're one big happy family in Australia, says Tom Burgess
When Tom Burgess announced he was leaving Bradford and joining his three brothers at South Sydney Rabbitohs, nobody seemed quite sure what sort of impact he would make.
The hulking prop was one of 17 players out of contract at Odsal and had been a virtual ever-present during a traumatic 2012 campaign.
After agent and former Bulls chairman Chris Caisley engineered the opportunity for Tom to become reunited with Sam, Luke and twin George at Souths, he took it.
Tom, 21, signed a one-year deal and made his debut in June.
Then he signed a new contract keeping him at Hollywood actor Russell Crowe’s club until the end of 2015.
Then the brothers became the first set of four siblings to play for an Australian top-flight side in the same game for more than a century.
It was a remarkable feat and came in a victory over a Wests Tigers side coached by former Bulls boss Mick Potter, who gave Tom his Super League debut in 2011.
Life got even better for Tom when he was named in Steve McNamara’s England World Cup squad along with George and Sam, both nurtured in the youth ranks at Bradford.
“To be honest it was a massive surprise for me to get that call from Steve at the end of the year,” said Tom, who got picked ahead of more established front-rowers such as Eorl Crabtree, Adrian Morley and Garreth Carvell.
“I just wanted to rip into pre-season, which I did, but I was out of the team at the start of the year.
“Obviously the coaching at Souths is great under Michael Maguire and I was very happy to be named in the World Cup squad.
“Being with my brothers again has helped me a lot this year because I’ve been happy within myself.
“Having those two years apart from them was quite tough to be fair, so living together and training in the gym has been like old times again.
“We’ve been bouncing off each other and I think that’s been a big key to our success this year.
“As twins, you always get classed as one person when you’re together, so in some ways it was good to have that time apart from George because it allows you to establish yourself as your own person.
“At one point during pre- season, one of us shaved our heads so people could tell the difference between us!
“George started pulling his socks down and had different colour socks on just so people could determine who was who on the pitch. But it’s all good fun and we’re definitely close as brothers.”
The boys’ father, Mark, died from motor neurone disease six years ago at the age of 45 but mum Julie has followed her sons’ career since their early days as kids at Dewsbury Moor.
When Tom left the Bulls 12 months ago, she joined her four sons in Sydney and teaches there.
“We always played together, passing the ball to one another on the street from a young age,” recalled Tom.
“Obviously our dad was a player as well and coached us all at some point. He was definitely the biggest influence on us getting into rugby.
“We had a great upbringing thanks to my mum and dad and I think rugby league is a great way of instilling discipline into you as a child.
“My dad retired when he was about 30 and my mum started playing around 30, so it was a funny one.
“The story behind that is they couldn’t play at the same time because one of them had to look after us.”
George headed to Souths without having even played in Super League but has proved a rip-roaring success.
“Obviously it was a bit of a gamble testing myself in Australia,” he said.
“The NRL is a very tough school and I had to work my way up but it definitely paid off for me and I’m happy with the decision I made.
“Did I ever have second thoughts? Not really, I just tried to stick with it and do my best in the lower grade and work my way up.
“Luke was very disappointed to miss out on the World Cup squad but it definitely won’t deter him and he’ll come back stronger.
“Competition between Tom and I is great as we’re pushing each to do our best. It’s good for the team environment.”
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