The NRL has pledged to investigate serious accusations of domestic violence and drug use by former South Sydney Rabbitohs captain Sam Burgess, after a bombshell four-month investigation by The Australian.
Today’s front page report also claims club staff went to extraordinary lengths to keep the allegations under wraps, with Burgess’ blood and urine samples allegedly submitted for a drug test under a false name.
The article, which claims to draw from interviews, sworn statements to police, and pharmacy receipts, alleges Burgess became agitated and aggressive towards his former wife, Phoebe Burgess, at their Sydney home on November 6, 2018.
Phoebe Burgess’ father, Mitchell Hooke, told The Australian he was present during the alleged altercation. He claimed Burgess verbally abused his pregnant daughter and “grabbed” her in “a very aggressive embrace”, which she escaped.
Amid concerns for Sam Burgess’ wellbeing, a doctor was allegedly called to the scene. Hooke claims the doctor declined to admit Burgess to a public emergency room, and instead asked Hooke to purchase tranquilisers for the player in his own name – not Burgess’ name.
The article also reported that in a subsequent statement to NSW Police, Phoebe Burgess claimed Sam Burgess underwent a secret blood test in the days after the incident, with his blood and urine samples submitted to pathologists under a fake name.
Burgess’ lawyer Mark O’Brien has categorically denied the allegations, telling The Australian they “constitute an indefensible defamation against my client.”
O’Brien said the “false allegations” came from “those currently in dispute with my client over various issues,” an apparent reference to a charge of intimidation levelled by Hooke against Burgess relating to a separate 2019 incident.
In a statement provided to the ABC, NSW Police said they aware of a report outlining “various allegations relating to the conduct of a 31-year-old man” and that “inquiries are in their infancy”.
Speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald, NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said today’s “new” information would be investigated by the league’s Integrity Unit, and that the league would seek police advice.
“The allegations have not yet been tested and due process will be followed as we undertake a thorough investigation,” he said.
“There is no place in our game for violence, harassment or abuse against women. If anyone is found guilty of these allegations we will take the strongest possible action.”
Abdo added that league staff will interview South Sydney Rabbitohs officials.
Speaking to 2GB radio this morning, ARL Commission Chairman Peter V’landys said the league had no prior knowledge of the allegations.
Sam Burgess retired from playing duties last year, owing to a lingering shoulder injury.
He maintains an assistant coaching role with the Rabbitohs.