Bunny hop: Luke Burgess jumps into the sea at Clovelly yesterday. Photo: Brendan Esposito
Football players have long worn their hearts on their sleeves. Now South Sydney prop Luke Burgess is using a sleeve to show his heart.
A tattoo down the entire right arm of Burgess - known as a sleeve tattoo - shows a softer side to the Rabbitohs enforcer.
When he comes head to head with a brutal Manly forward pack on Friday night, he need only glance downwards for inspiration. Headlined by the Burgess' family crest, Luke's dad Mark is depicted at the top of the arm around the shoulder followed by angelic images of four boys symbolising Luke, his brother Sam and twin's George and Tom.
Beach boys: 12-year-old Felix Best meets his heroes, Luke and Sam Burgess and Ben Teo, at Clovelly yesterday. Photo: Brendan Esposito
Burgess helped design the artwork, which he has carried since December 2011. ''It's to do with my family,'' Burgess said of the ink, which took 18 hours. ''It represents me and my brothers and all my family, my mum and dad and where we are from. It's always on me and I carry it around. It's something that I wanted to do and it's nice that I feel like I always have my family with me. We are such a close family. I'm quite passionate about family too.''
Mark Burgess died of motor neurone disease in 2007, with the four brothers still in their teens. Luke said the tattoo has their dad depicted as their brother's guardian angel who is looking down on them from the heavens and guiding them along their journey.
Luke had an existing tattoo - a band around his right wrist which he said didn't have any significant meaning. George has body art on his wrist displaying his father's initials while the other brothers don't.
On the ink: Luke Burgess' tattoo. Photo: Brendan Esposito
Part of the poem Footprints in the Sand by Mary Stevenson is inked inside Luke's inner biceps with the phrase, ''The times when you have seen only one set of footprints, is when I carried you'', resonating most for Burgess.
''It's one of my mum's [Julie] favourite poems,'' Luke said. ''It's pretty cool. I love it. The last two verses I chose are my favourite parts of the poem. It's quite strong and quite good. I don't think my mum is too pleased about it. She's never really made a comment about it.''
Since the Burgess' brothers made history by becoming the first set of four brothers to play first grade since 1910 in round 25 they are yet to line up as a quartet again. First it was Luke who watched the round 26 minor premiership showdown against the Roosters, and then Tom was sidelined for South Sydney's finals win against Melbourne.
The verses that inspired the tattoo.
Neither had injuries and it is unlikely they will all line-up to play Manly, with Jason Clark preferred by coach Michael Maguire in their past two games.
''To be told you're not playing is always disappointing,'' Burgess said. ''You've got to try and be as positive as you can. If I am playing, one of my brothers might miss out which is always a bit of a disappointment. That's just the game we are in and that's how it goes.''