It’s over.
It’s over.

Burgess retires in emotional message

SAM Burgess's NRL playing career is over.

The English superstar's decision to retire immediately has been confirmed in a South Sydney announcement on Wednesday afternoon.

The Rabbitohs star endured a difficult 2019 on and off the field - plagued by a series of shoulder injuries, including an infection complication from surgery he underwent following round five this year.

The injuries have forced the 30-year-old to pull the pin on his career with three years remaining on the rich contract he signed last year.

South Sydney said in a statement Burgess was forced to retire as a result of the "chronic left shoulder condition".

The star forward wrote a lengthy message to the club's supporters, where he said the decision to hang up his boots was the hardest call he's ever made.

"To all South Sydney Members and fans, fans of the game and even the supporters that aren't my biggest fans, I'd like to thank each and every one of you for making my career what it was in the NRL," Burgess wrote.

"I have loved absolutely every minute; the highs, the lows; the Grand Final; coming home; my injuries; my dates with the judiciary. It really has been a fantastic ride.

Sam Burgess is done.
Sam Burgess is done.

"This decision was one of the hardest decisions I've had to make in my life, however the decision was out of my hands essentially. I am no longer able to be myself day in, day out on the training field and consequently the playing field.

"I will not be playing in the NRL next season. My time has come to an end. I'm excited for my next chapter in life whatever that may be.

"I'd like to encourage everyone to smile as they read this. Let's all remember what we have done together as a club over the past decade rather than what's not to be in the coming years.

"We have some amazing young men at the club and it's in safe hands. I will stay close and help grow the club continually in any way I can.

"To my teammates and coaches along the way, I'd like to thank you all for being supportive and great men. I've learnt so much in my ten years here. From the young boys all the way through to 'the fossil' John Sutton. I value each friendship created and they'll last a lifetime.

"To Russell - for making all this happen initially - I'll be forever indebted to you. Your passion is infectious.

"To the Board of Directors, and all of our wonderful men and women in the office making everything possible, thank you.

"My family have been by my side the whole way, on and off the field. I love you all so much.

"Maybe I'll come and watch a game in The Burrow next year. You truly are the heartbeat of the club.

"I'm sure you'll agree with me, the spirit of South Sydney is alive and will live long after me. It will always be a huge part of my heart. Just like it is yours.

"Love always,

"SB 1073."

According to a report from Fox Sports, Burgess was advised by doctors to retire immediately mid-way through the 2019 season.

After consulting specialists around the world, Burgess had to swallow a medical recommendation that he sit out the next 20 months.

The report claims South Sydney's only option was to allow Burgess to rest for eight months before undergoing another surgery which has a standard 12-month recovery period.

It means he would have missed the 2020 and 2021 seasons before hoping to make a return in 2022 without having played a game for more than two years.

The report also claims he has lived with ongoing pain on a daily basis ever since his round five surgery.

Burgess' retirement call comes amid reports of a relationship breakdown with estranged wife Phoebe Burgess.

Vision of him partying with friends in Mexico this week has made headlines around the world, fresh from reports his wife has moved closer to family in Bowral, NSW, with the pair's children Poppy, 2, and Billy, 10 months.

Burgess is reportedly still in Mexico, but will return to Australia to attend court on November 6.

Burgess will front Moss Vale Local Court after police granted his father in-law Mitchell Hooke a temporary AVO against him.

Under the terms of the AVO, Burgess must not go within 1000 metres of Hooke or his family home.

It was earlier reported Burgess would walk quietly into retirement with a written letter to supporters, but no official press conference.

Sam Burgess has been enjoying retirement in Mexico.
Sam Burgess has been enjoying retirement in Mexico.

Burgess missed the end to the Rabbitohs' 2019 finals series charge and has been sweating on his medical retirement call for close to a month.

While Burgess has told the club he will never be able to play again because of the injury, the NRL is reportedly yet to sign off on the medical retirement clause that would allow the Rabbitohs to pay out Burgess' rich contract outside the salary cap.

In line with the NRL's salary cap dispensation rules, South Sydney is preparing to file paperwork with the NRL to argue the new nature of the injury has cruelly cut his career short.

If the NRL accepts the claim, Burgess will be allowed to collect his entire $3.6 million contract over the next few years - money that will not be included in the club's salary cap.

South Sydney successfully applied to have Greg Inglis' large salary scrapped from their cap after he retired earlier this year.

But there was some controversy around that decision, given Inglis had battled injury in recent seasons.

For a player to be medically retired that must be able to prove the injury is new, and not an existing one.

Burgess' younger brother George told Channel 9 earlier this month he isn't sure whether Sam was planning to play in 2020 or walk away.

"He's always been tough, and he is brave. I suppose he will make the decision that is best for him and his family," George said.

The decision allows the Bunnies and Burgess to move onto the next stages of their careers, but it is still a "sad" ending to one of the highest profile players the game has known recently.

Having picked up an infection following shoulder surgery a few months ago, Burgess apparently has only 25 per cent bone in one of his shoulders.

The Rabbitohs have wasted no time moving on from Burgess and his nine years at the club, reportedly chasing Dragons' star Tyson Frizell as a dream replacement for the English big-bopper.

In was reported on Tuesday the Bunnies have identified Frizell as the best candidate to replace Burgess - and believe they can steal him away from rivals St George Illawarra, despite the NSW State of Origin star having a full season remaining on his Dragons contract.

Frizell is currently contracted with the Dragons until the end of 2020 with the Red V expected to block any attempt to try and grant the Kangaroos back-rower an early release.

At his best, Sam Burgess was the best forward in the game.
At his best, Sam Burgess was the best forward in the game.

Frizell was earlier this year linked with a possible move to the Roosters to replace Angus Crichton, but the rumour was denied by both Dragons coach Paul McGregor and Frizell's manager.

The Rabbitohs have also been linked with a rich play for emerging Broncos superstar David Fifita - who remains contracted until the end of 2020.

Burgess will go down as one of the NRL's great forwards.

He has played 182 games for the club since arriving in 2010, and was the Clive Churchill Medallist in their drought-breaking 2014 grand final success. Tough and rugged in the middle, he has been the leader of the Rabbitohs' forward pack since his NRL debut in 2010.

He also played 88 games for Bradford in the English Super League, and represented England at the 2015 Rugby World Cup during a brief switch to the 15-man code.

It leaves Tom Burgess as the only Burgess brother remaining at South Sydney from the four siblings that famously played together in the same NRL team in 2013.

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