So Sam Burgess has buggered off to the land of poisonous spiders, kangaroo's and Kylie Minogue quicker then Craig Joubert leaving the pitch after a debatable penalty, and it's truly a talent wasted.
Slammin' Sam was slowly winning me over as a union pro, let's not forget, we were winning against Wales and the game turned when he, our top tackler, was withdrawn from the game and a tiring England side crumbled under Welsh pressure. He was getting there, he wasn't international class, but some areas of his game were beginning to blossom.
The press had a field day blaming Sam for most of England's poor RWC showing, seeing him as a talisman for Stuart Lancaster's team, of course including fellow league convert, Andy Farrell. The selection of Burgess was also blamed for dividing the squad, with rumours abound that Farrell Sr pushed the selection upon Lancaster. True or not, this was unfair to Burgess as he was the innocent party in all of it. He didn't select himself, that's for sure.
So is Sam running away or was it the correct decision?
The Fans opinion
Twitter, or more precisely, my timeline, seems 80% to 20% that Burgess is running away without giving himself a chance to succeed. Some messages have been posted in diappointment, a lot have been posted in anger. Some have even started claiming conspiracy theories regarding the infamous Salary Cap breaches. One things for sure, the fans have missed out on the best of Sam. Given time, he would have been an incredible ball carrier, most likely at 6 rather than 12, but we have been robbed of a potential star.
The Media blame game
Some areas of rugby media have sensationalised Sam from day one, and when he didn't live up to their lofty expectations, they rounded on him, suddenly this Superman they had created was a second rate player, plucked on the coaches will to play for England, a synonym for all that went wrong with the national team. Harsh words have been written and spoken, but really, nothing worse than have been said and written about other England 12's, Billy Twelvetrees and Luther Burrell, (is it ironic that the two players vilified by the media are the ones that missed out on selection for the white elephant that replaced them in the world cup squad and in Burrell's case especially is now portrayed as the man who would have saved the world cup dream?) Burrell and Twelvetrees have both upped their games since their international omission, something many would have loved to have seen Big Sam do, knuckle down, keep learning and fight for his international future!
England (the RFU) and Bath
At loggerheads since day 1. The RFU refused to help St Bruce of Craig finance the move for Burgess, England wanted a badass, all conquering centre, Bath wanted a hard working, ball carrying, tackling back rower. What we got was a guy partially trained in two positions and not ready for international rugby at either. Positionally, as was pointed out to me by Debbie Knight at the premiership final, he was clueless, constantly out of line and struggling to bridge the gaps. He also never really got to grips with union tackling, with a few incidents of high tackles and shoulder charges, He'd only had a year in union and these were simple things that could've been ironed out over time. Even up til about an hour prior to announcing his departure, Bruce Craig and Mike Ford were determined that Sam was staying at the Rec. So what deal was struck to let him leave? Maybe the 500k they spent on his transfer was reapid to them, who'll ever know. Premiership finances are notoriously shady.....but that's a different blog.
So we've established Sam was under pressure, under prepared and over hyped. But for a professional sportsman to be affected by what people say in 2015 is a very poor excuse to turn your back on a sport! Did Twelvetrees and Burrell turn tail and run.....no.
For me, Sam Burgess has tarnished his own legacy in Union, no-one will remember the media pressure or the club v country wrangling, they will remember Slammin' Sam giving up. He will now forever be lumped in with the likes of Chev Walker and Karl Pryce, great at league but lacking in union (harsh on Chev as he suffered a horror leg break.....) even guys like Henry Paul and Lesley Vainikolo carved out Union careers even when they were chewed up and spat out by England. For a guy reknowned for his toughness, to walk away because he wasn't appreciated or celebrated by the fans or the media, it's a bit of a poor show really, where was the fight back?. His stint in Union will always be clouded with 'what if's' and insinuations he did it for the money or the chance of glory. To walk away in a little over a year is a massive waste of everyone involved in his moves time, effort and money.
Whatever happens.... this Canterbury advert is now particularly galling.