I wouldn't change Sam for anyone: Reynolds

Rabbitohs captain Sam Burgess (R) will lead from the front in the semi-final against Manly.
Rabbitohs captain Sam Burgess (R) will lead from the front in the semi-final against Manly.

Cody Walker, after signing his first deal with South Sydney, rocked up for his medical at Bondi the day after the NRL club broke their 43-year title drought.

Sam Burgess was there too.

He was getting checked for the fractured cheekbone he played with less than 24 hours earlier, a display of courage that will never be forgotten in NRL history.

But, for Walker, the day after will be forever etched in his memory as well.

For while Walker had only just arrived for what would be the start of his rise at the foundation club, Burgess was on his way out of the league altogether.

"I didn't really know too many of the players when I got here. I knew 'Reyno' (Adam Reynolds), having played against him and being the same age," Walker tells AAP.

"So it was a bit different, daunting.

"Sam was heading to rugby union. It could've been easy for him to sit in the corner and not say hello to anyone, but he came up and introduced himself.

"He was so open and down-to-earth.

"It was obviously a great first impression of a guy that had just won the Clive Churchill medal and a leader of this club."

Burgess has made a habit of making a strong first impression.

For Junior Tatola, it's been almost two years to the day Burgess made a bee-line for the young prop trying to keep his head down on his first day at Redfern.

Little outside of the Rabbitohs expected much of the Wests Tigers junior, but he was emboldened by his first interaction with the dual-international.

"He didn't even know me, but he told me to train hard and that you'll never know what's going to happen," Tatola says.

"Funnily enough I was there round one and played the whole year.

"I'll never forget that chat. I was quite shocked when he was coming over. I'd been watching him since I was growing up. That was huge for me."

This is part of why, when champion centre Greg Inglis surprised the rugby league community by retiring in April, Burgess was a no-brainer to take over as skipper.

About six months earlier, the English international had been handed a four-year extension that tied him to the club until the end of 2023.

It is the type of contract that suggests Burgess is who the club is building around.

Almost 12 months on and the now 30-year-old looms as the man the Rabbitohs players are looking at to leading them past Manly in Friday's semi-final.

"You can see his leadership by his actions on the field. That's not even in question," centre Dane Gagai says.

"But when he speaks, he's passionate.

"He doesn't speak for the sake of speaking. Everything he says is from the heart. It has a lot of meaning behind it. The result is him going out and backing it up."

The only issue for Burgess is staying on the field.

The Rabbitohs' qualifying final defeat to Sydney Roosters last week was the 11th game in Burgess' career he's missed through suspension.

In total, he's been charged 16 times since his debut in 2010.

And his frustration with the match review committee has now resulted in him being hauled into a meeting with NRL boss Todd Greenberg next week.

South Sydney have won 12 of 17 games with Burgess in their line-up this year, but their strike rate drops to four from eight when he's missing.

However while teammate Adam Reynolds ribs Burgess the most over his aggression, the halfback doesn't want to big man to change his style.

"I'm always into him, always calling him a grub," Reynolds quips.

"Look, he gets fiery at times, but so do other players. I don't know if he gets judged more than others.

"He's a big boy, he's strong, he's powerful, and plays the game hard. He's probably the perfect player for back in the 80s.

"But we love his aggression and everything he brings to this team. Obviously wouldn't change him for anyone."

Australian Associated Press