Sam Burgess is the centre of the Dragons attention at the SCG. Photo: Getty Images
Former Canterbury hardman Peter Kelly says Souths need rugby-bound Sam Burgess to tap into last season’s form to help keep their premiership dream alive. The Rabbitohs, who went into round 12 in ninth place on the premiership ladder, take on St George Illawarra at ANZ Stadium on Monday night.
Kelly, 54, one of the most feared props in the game in the 1980s, believes the English international, who has signed a lucrative deal to join English rugby at the end of the season, is crucial to the Rabbitohs’ premiership campaign. He nominated Burgess as one of the modern front-rowers who excited him, but put the onus on the 25-year-old to replicate last year’s form – and quickly.
‘‘The form Sam was in last year, I thought he was the one,’’ Kelly said. ‘‘I rated him ahead of Sonny Bill Williams, I thought he was taking himself into the match, I thought he wanted to participate in all facets and being an old front-rower I liked his intimidating style, you might say.
‘‘He’s lost a bit of it this year, and I think Souths need for him to get that if they’re going to get near it.’’
Kelly also nominated Bulldogs’ rookie front-rower David Klemmer as the up-and-comer who could have an enormous future if he continued to progress.
Klemmer, 20, was signed by the Bulldogs from the Parramatta juniors when he was only 15. He made headlines in the club’s last-round match when he and Sydney Roosters hardman Jared Waerea-Hargreaves staged a running duel.
It was that brand of enthusiastic aggression that Kelly – who played in Canterbury’s premiership-winning teams in 1984 and ’85 – said helped lure him to watch the football.
‘‘He wants to carry the footy, he wants to get involved, he’s a big, raw kid and I think potentially he could be the next big one to come along,’’ he said. ‘‘Canterbury just have to let him play. I hate coaches restricting players and I think the reason why Canterbury has turned the corner is because they’ve gone from a second-man wide style of play to a hit it up and play footy approach. It’s a simple game, why complicate it? If that’s the way to win games, learn to win before you get too fancy with it.
‘‘So, for young Klemmer I think give him the ball as much as you can, give him free rein. If the offload is there let him do it.’’
Meanwhile, Parramatta’s Will Hopoate says he’s not exactly where he wants to be heading into a potential NSW recall for Origin II at ANZ Stadium.
However, he remains hopeful of coming into Laurie Daley’s side, following injuries to right-side combination Josh and Brett Morris in Wednesday’s brutal encounter.
In 2011, Hopoate was outstanding in his only NSW appearance and, after being named 19th man for game one in Brisbane, is odds on to take his place at centre or on the wing on June 18 in Sydney as the Blues look to end Queensland’s eight-year reign.
However, after spending two years out of the game as a Mormon missionary, Hopoate admits his strength needs improvement, believing the Origin arena has gone up a level in physicality since he was last there.
On Friday night, Penrith scored six of their seven tries down Hopoate’s right side in a 38-12 drubbing.
If thrown into the Origin cauldron, Hopoate would go face to face with the most successful try-scoring combination in Origin history – Queensland powerhouse Greg Inglis and his deputy Darius Boyd.
Hopoate hopes Daley will show faith, but the 22-year-old is reluctant to say he’s back to his best. ‘‘It was definitely a physical encounter [on Wednesday] so hopefully I can,’’ Hopoate said. ‘‘Again I’m still trying to build on strength and bulk up a little bit more to handle the contact. There’s still plenty of things I can do to improve and it’s a whole new level of footy and I’m still adjusting back to club footy.’’