It will surely go down as one of the greatest documentaries ever produced, certainly in rugby league terms.
But the ‘Slammin’
Sam Burgess’ story is so uplifting and inspiring that even viewers of a non-sporting persuasion will find it compelling.
It is a real-life fairytale about four brothers from
Liversedge who made history earlier this year when they all played together for NRL outfit South Sydney.
Sam and twins George and Tom all moved Down Under from the Bulls, of course, with eldest brother Luke having made his name at Leeds.
The Fox Sports production for Australian television centres on Sam’s switch to Souths at the end of 2009.
After Tom became the last of the four brothers to join the club 12 months ago, the story culminates in then playing together for the NRL outfit against Wests Tigers in August.
It was the first time that four siblings had played top-flight rugby together in Australia for more than a century.
The programme begins with a stirring voice-over from Souths co-owner Russell Crowe before Sam takes centre stage, a role he was born for.
“So here I am, South Sydney Rabbitohs, pride of the National Rugby League,” he says.
“It’s been a long journey getting to this point but now we’ve met, we all share the same ambition.
“That’s my brother Luke, he’s the eldest. There are the twins: Thomas, and this is George.
“Tomorrow night we will forever become part of Souths’ history when, for the first time in over one hundred years, four brothers will line up for the same team at the same time.
“Oh, and that’s me, Sam Burgess. But the lads? They just call me Slammin!”
What follows is a series of clips of Sam in action, interviews with his team-mates, Souths coach Michael Maguire and former Bulls chairman Chris Caisley, who manages the four boys.
Rabbitohs chief executive Shane Richardson hits the nail on the head.
“People talk about Sam Burgess becoming the greatest English forward to ever come to Australia,” he says.
“To me, that’s a slight on Sam Burgess. The reality is that Sam Burgess could be one of the greatest forwards to have ever played the game.”
The programme gives a unique insight into the lads’ lives and their closeness, with Sam ritually cooking spag-bol for the family on the eve of a match.
Sam teases mother Julie as she appears on the television in his apartment.
‘Will you get emotional tomorrow, mum?’ asks Sam as the boys look ahead to playing together for the first time.
Sam comes across remarkably grounded despite his awesome talent and superstar status in Sydney.
There is the raw emotion of how Sam cared for his father Mark as he battled motor neurone disease.
After Julie and Mark split up, Sam lived with his dad. Shortly afterwards he fell ill and died in 2007.
“It was horrible to find out your dad was going to die,” remembered Sam, who would carry his father to bed every night – all 21 steps.
Against this tragedy, Sam was emerging as the best young player in Super League, making his Bulls debut against Leeds at Headingley in 2006.
The programme shows the boys swimming in the sea as part of their pre-match routine in Sydney.
In their historic outing against Mick Potters’ Wests Tigers, all four brothers were involved in a tackle which proved the last play of the game.
“I don’t suppose you could have written the script any better,” said Luke.
George, who should line up for England alongside Tom today, said earlier this week: “They finished that as the happy ending of the story – but you never know, there might be more to come.”
There should indeed be more to come. Much more.