The woman at the centre of the Souths sexting scandal has refused to speak to investigators as Sam Burgess broke his silence on the matter and the Roosters slammed wild speculation they were involved in leaking the story to the media.
As the two arch rivals cranked up preparations for a fiery preliminary final showdown on Saturday night, the case against Souths players and their alleged involvement in a lewd video chat in late May looked like collapsing.
Fairfax Media understands the woman refused to be formally interviewed by South Sydney when contacted on Monday in South Africa, where she is holidaying.
There is a belief within the four walls at Redfern this means the woman has withdrawn her complaint. The NRL argues otherwise, saying she can change her mind at any time if she decides she wants to talk.
Burgess and other Souths players shed more light on what happened in a video chat with the 23-year-old woman when they were interviewed late on Tuesday after training at Redfern Oval.
Earlier, the Rabbitohs forward had fronted reporters to discuss the investigation that has rocked his side’s premiership campaign.
"I am happy for the truth to come out," he said. "That's going to be my answer to the majority of your questions.
"I’m not running away or hiding. I’m here to tell you there is an inquiry going on and until [it is completed] I can’t talk about it.
"There’s an inquiry going on and I’m happy for the truth to come out … that’s fine."
He was then asked what the truth was.
"There is an inquiry going on and I’m following the process," Burgess said. "I’d like it completed as soon as possible, within 48 hours, or 24 hours."
There is a feeling at Souths the investigation can be wrapped up as soon as late Wednesday, relieving a lot of the pressure around their superstar player and their team.
The NRL has a different take on it. Given the spotlight that has been put on the game since the allegations first surfaced, it won’t be rushed into making a decision on whether it accepts Souths’ findings.
The NRL integrity unit has the power to enforce further sanctions if it feels the club hasn’t dealt with the matter adequately.
At the heart of the matter is whether the explicit chat, in which nude images of players were allegedly captured by the woman with screenshots, was consensual.
That Burgess fronted the media on Tuesday suggested he was more than comfortable with his position.
Those close to the 29-year-old England international say his priority is the welfare of his heavily pregnant wife, Phoebe, and his young daughter, who have both fled the city to avoid media scrutiny.
"I’m upset for my wife and my family, it’s been a tough process to go through," Burgess said. "I’m fortunate that I’ve got a strong wife … I’ve got a wife who loves me, I’ve got a great family, great friends and support around me to get through these allegations that have been made."
While Burgess and others were being interviewed, more than a hundred years of hate between the two foundation clubs was threatening to erupt ahead of the sold-out grand final qualifier.
The NRL is aware of claims the Roosters knew about the images and had leaked them to media outlets. It is more concerned about getting to the bottom of the sexting allegations before addressing how the story was broken.
For their part, the Roosters are livid about the accusation, claiming it is troublemaking from those who want to drag them into the issue when all they want to do is play football.
"We don’t care who is in their team and if any of them are stood down," said one player at a Roosters media call at Allianz Stadium on Tuesday.
Lurking in the background is Burgess’ legal team, which is poring over every syllable uttered and written about their client.
On legal advice, the Herald has not named any player involved in the investigation. It does so today because Burgess broke his silence at Tuesday’s media conference.
"Once this process is finished, I’ll speak to my lawyer then," Burgess said. "There’s a lot of important things going on at the minute. There’s some serious football games ahead of me."
As Burgess finished his media conference, he was asked how the events of the past week had impacted on his preparations for such a big match.
He swatted away the question.
When Burgess was a young player growing up in the north of England, he nursed his father, Mark, through a heart-breaking battle with motor neurone disease. Mark died at the age of 45.
"We’re all human, you do feel it, but I’ve had experiences in my life before, serious emotions I’ve had to deal with, and football’s always been great for me," Burgess said. "I’m compartmentalising those feelings, I’ve got a great team and people around me at what’s been a tricky time."
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