Rugby League

Tensions run deep at South Sydney Rabbitohs over return of Sam Burgess

Much has been made of Luke Keary's stoush with Russell Crowe, but the South Sydney halfback had a bigger issue with teammate Sam Burgess during that infamous bonding session.

Crowe has publicly and privately apologised for his behaviour during a training camp at his Nana Glen property after belittling several players for their performances last season.

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Keary stood up to the Oscar-winning actor and admonished Burgess for not doing likewise. We're hearing there is tension between Burgess and some of his teammates, who believe the cross-code star gets preferential treatment from Crowe. There is also resentment that several players had to be moved on in order to free up the salary cap space necessary to facilitate Burgess' return.

Keary is off contract at the end of the season and we keep hearing there are serious questions marks about his future and that of halves partner Adam Reynolds at Redfern. The emergence of young playmaker Cody Walker, likely to start in the opening round of the NRL due to a one-game suspension Keary incurred from last year, will further complicate the situation.

Together again: Russell Crowe and Sam Burgess.
Together again: Russell Crowe and Sam Burgess. Photo: Getty Images

It will also be a huge challenge for Burgess, who was unfairly made the scapegoat for England's disastrous Rugby World Cup campaign, to find the form that earned him the Clive Churchill Medal in his last league game.

Coach Michael Maguire, who was at Crowe's property when the incident took place, is also under pressure for the first time in his career. "Madge" has enjoyed a strong start to his head coaching career, most notably breaking South Sydney's long premiership drought.

However, many of his players feel they are being trained into the ground and that contributed to their fadeout last season. The other wildcard is Greg Inglis, who has been linked to a return to Brisbane next season, while the return of Shane Richardson also provides an interesting dynamic.

"Richo" left head office after his much-anticipated whole-of-game manifesto was widely criticised by the clubs. He returns to the Rabbitohs as the general manager of football, charged with resolving the issues that have been festering.

Poor showing: Tony Williams will be looking for a better season than last.

Poor showing: Tony Williams will be looking for a better season than last. Photo: Getty Images

T-Rex in crash

Tony Williams creates plenty of carnage on the field, but he also caused plenty off it while driving unlicensed late last year.

T-Rex was responsible for a nose-to-tail accident while driving a club-sponsored car, capping a forgettable year that ended prematurely when he suffered a pectoral injury in June. Williams, who didn't realise he was driving on a suspended licence, paid a hefty price for the bingle, having to cover the cost of repairs to both vehicles.

Williams came to the Bulldogs with much fanfare three years ago, but the NSW forward hasn't lived up to expectations since transferring from Manly. The 27-year-old will need a big season, and a bigger pay cut, to have any chance of earning a new Canterbury contract next year.

Back in town: Parramatta Eels great Peter Sterling.

Back in town: Parramatta Eels great Peter Sterling. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

Some Sterling support at the old shed

Here's a sight to warm the hearts of Eels fans. There was a familiar face at training during the week: champion halfback Peter Sterling.

Sterlo sightings at Parramatta training have been rare indeed since he hung up the boots. And while the Eels legend hasn't been given any official role, coach Brad Arthur has made it clear he's welcome anytime.

"He just called in to say hello, have a chat and look at our facilities," Arthur said. "He genuinely cares about the club."

Parramatta fans are understandably excited about their explosive new left-side pairing of Michael Jennings and Semi Radradra. But Eels officials were concerned when pre-season training resumed this month and the Dally M winger of the year couldn't be found. Radradra didn't return from Fiji in time to join his teammates for the NRL preparation.

He eventually lobbed and has been working hard on his combination with Roosters recruit Jennings. Another Eels centre, Ryan Morgan, attracted interest from Melbourne after Jennings' arrival but the blue and golds aren't keen to let him go.

Samoa in sights

The Australian Prime Minister's XIII side could play a historic match against Samoa to celebrate the Pacific nation's 30th year in international football.

The PM's XIII, comprised of possible and probable Australian players, traditionally play Papua New Guinea in an end-of-season clash.

However, Samoan officials are hoping they can schedule a match against the green-and-gold to mark the milestone. If approved, the match would provide a quality warm-up as the fourth-ranked nation tunes up for the 2017 World Cup.

Bennett vs Roos

Having missed out on the Kangaroos job, it wouldn't surprise to see Wayne Bennett again coach against Australia. While the seven-time premiership winner has been linked to Papua New Guinea, we're hearing whispers he could spring a surprise and help mentor England.

Bennett famously helped New Zealand to World Cup glory by assisting head coach Stephen Kearney and the chance to again punish the Roos over his snubbing for their top job could prove irresistible.

Hayne to take off

Moves are afoot to engage a marketing agency to further expand Jarryd Hayne's profile in the US.

Hayne was the biggest story of the NFL pre-season in his rookie year after making the stunning switch from Parramatta to San Francisco. The two-time Dally M medallist was used sparingly by the 49ers but is hoping a change of coach will create further playing opportunities.

Hayne has already launched a clothing label, but he soon could be exploring other avenues to become a household name in the States.

"We are looking at possibly doing something with a marketing agency," Hayne's Australian-based agent, Wayne Beavis, said. "We're working on it but that's still a long way off if we do it. I'm not over there so we need someone pushing the barrow."

Festive Chooks

Australia Day wasn't the only time Roosters players became festive during the off-season. Our spies tell us several players have been spotted living it up during summer, something the club will need to address to ensure there are no more Mitchell Pearce-style incidents.

Perrett digs deep

Canterbury forward Lloyd Perrett is digging his heels in despite the fact he has been deemed surplus to requirements at Belmore. Perrett is on a lucrative long-term deal at the Bulldogs but he is going to struggle to break into a star-studded pack.

Gold Coast have made Perrett an offer in excess of $1million over three years to shift north, but he's not budging at this point.

Wanted man: Robbie Farah.

Wanted man: Robbie Farah. Photo: James Alcock

Farah to UK?

Super League clubs are queuing up for Robbie Farah's services in the hope of signing him for next year. Leeds and Catalans are keen, while we're told Wigan could hold appeal for the NSW hooker when his Wests Tigers career ends.

Courting the king

Australian tennis stars Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic have struggled for direction during their burgeoning careers, perhaps because they haven't found the right mentor. We asked the self-proclaimed King of Crazy, Goran Ivanisevic – who enjoyed immediate coaching success by transforming Marin Cilic into a US Open champion – whether he would take on our local boys. "I am with Marin and I like it," Ivanisevic said.

"He is Croatian, the language is the same and I have known him since he was 14 years old. I am always involved in his career. At the moment I am with him and I am not thinking about anything else."

Mooney interest

Cronulla staffer Darren Mooney attracted interest from Wests Tigers before signing as Newcastle's general manager of football. Mooney will take over the roles vacated by Michael Hagan and Warren Smiles at the Knights.

Museum plan

There will soon be another reason to visit the Hunter Valley, with plans to open a cricket museum in the famous wine region.

Kingsgrove Sports owner Harry Solomons has collected thousands of pieces of memorabilia over the years, from baggy green caps to bats signed by the biggest names in history.

His collection includes an 8 x 4-foot piece signed by most of the Invincibles, a trophy presented to Bert Oldfield in 1936 and a range of Don Bradman treasures.

Solomons, who has employed the likes of Australian captain Steve Smith in his cricket stores, recently purchased a property in the Hunter to ensure the public has access to the memorabilia.

"My hope is that the Hunter Valley will one day soon have a new cricket museum," he said.

Film release

The release of the anticipated NRL-based film Broke will coincide with the 2016 season kickoff.

The governing body has backed the timely story of a disgraced former footy star and his battle with alcohol and gambling addiction. The trailer will launch on the big screen of the Auckland Nines next weekend.

The film has been warmly received since its launch at film festivals and will next screen at the Peninsula Film Festival on Friday. The Super League is keen to support the movie and producers are in talks to screen it across Europe.

"The audience reaction has been great, we're really blown away," writer-director Heath Davis said. "People of all ages seem to really respond to it, league fans and non fans, which is exciting."

Broke won best film at the recent Kiwi International Film Festival and has been accepted into official competition at the Manchester Film Festival, Los Angeles Cinefest, Cardiff, and New Jersey.

"It really seems to translate globally, which is wonderful," Davis said. "Hopefully we not only share an important story but also introduce the game to the world."

Broke will play next in NSW at a special event screening at Byron Bay on March 31, with the Sydney premieres at North Sydney Oval and Randwick Ritz. There will be special event screenings where money from ticket sales will go to the Men Of League Foundation.

Cruise control: Daly Cherry-Evans.

Cruise control: Daly Cherry-Evans. Photo: Getty Images

DCE's Jaguar

Footballers get around in some flash sponsor cars these days, but we reckon Daly Cherry-Evans has the field covered. DCE was spotted cruising in a red Jaguar, making him the envy of his teammates.

The Manly halfback is the new brand ambassador for the Bill Buckle Auto Group and Northern Beaches Jaguar Land Rover, earning himself a Jag XE that retails for a six-figure sum.

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