Question mark over latest Burgess move down under
With all due respect to Luke Burgess, his
Back in April I wrote a piece applauding James Graham's move to Australia, while urging more top British players to follow suit. My argument here was for our top international stars to test themselves against the best Down Under, in the hope that this would produce a more battle-hardened England team capable of closing the worrying gap on the southern hemisphere superpowers.
The move was always going to happen with Luke's brothers, George and England international Sam, already warming the Sydney beaches for "Biffa's" arrival, and even more so this year with first-team chances increasingly limited under new Rhinos boss Brian McDermott.
But you always scratch your head a little when a player who can't hold down a regular Super League spot can secure a transfer to the best league in the world.
Would it have happened had Sam, and to a lesser extent George, not already been there? I'd say almost certainly not. The Aussie club believe the talented brothers will flourish from being together on the other side of the world.
"It's no shock to me," prop forward Luke told us this week as he prepared for his flight out to Australia, where he will join Sydney until 2013. "It is something that I have wanted, that I have asked for, and I've just been waiting for a decision from Leeds.
"I am very grateful to Leeds for releasing me to the next chapter of my career, but we couldn't agree on a new contract. They offered me one but I wasn't happy with it. I did want to stay this time as I was enjoying it here, but it hasn't happened and I have always wanted to challenge myself in Australia."
Luke Burgess has failed to secure a regular spot in the Rhinos side. Photo: Getty
I really hope Burgess gets a game and makes the most of this fabulous opportunity. In truth I think he will struggle to make an impact upon the first team squad but the Rabbitohs' coach-in-waiting - Wigan boss Michael Maguire - disagrees with me.
"He's quality," said Maguire. "You've seen what his brother [Sam] does so I can't wait to work with him. Luke will push himself into the representative arena and we will work him hard.
"He will need to work really hard to get in but I'm sure if he wants it enough he will. I am looking forward to working with all three brothers."
It's worth remembering too that there is a fourth Burgess. Tom went against the family grain by rejecting the Sydney overtures at the time of George's departure, and opting to stay and make his name at Bradford. Whatever Mr and Mrs Burgess put in the boys' breakfast cereal growing up should be replicated throughout the rugby league heartland.
I understand Leeds now face a real fight to stop another player heading to the NRL. I'd heard whispers for the past few months that hooker Danny Buderus was being courted by the Newcastle Knights and this was confirmed this week following the appointment as chief executive of the former St Helens centre Matt Gidley
"We've spoken to him [Buderus] but he's contracted to Leeds so we can't do much at the moment. I hope we can agree terms," he told my colleague Phil Kinsella.
Gidley was outstanding at St Helens. He now has a master's degree in business administration and his brother Kurt captains the Knights. He's only 33 but I think he'll be a revelation in the role.
Back in Super League, Sport England this week delivered the expected but nonetheless depressing news of a £1m budget cut for rugby league over the next two years.
This is disappointing given there are record numbers playing our sport at the moment, but the simple truth is they are not playing the sport regularly enough and it is that which is at the heart of the decision.
I'll be doing my bit this summer by donning the colours of Neil Thorman's London Skolars touch rugby team. Warrington coach Tony Smith labels me "hands like a digital watch" so if you're also a dreadful player I urge you to get involved too.
A final word for the family of Paul Darbyshire. The Warrington great passed away this week aged only 41 after battling motor-neurone disease and will be greatly missed.
Thoughts go out to his family and friends.