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The Roar


'I really struggled without any purpose or drive': How Bennett's advice convinced Burgess to jump into coaching deep end

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14th February, 2024

Sam Burgess is ready to make the most of his entry into head coaching after an acrimonious exit from his assistant’s role at South Sydney with the new Warrington mentor admitting he struggled to adapt to life after football.

Burgess has revealed that a piece of advice from record-breaking premiership-winning coach Wayne Bennett convinced him to take the plunge when offered the Wolves gig at the age of 34 just a few years after injury forced him to bring down the curtain on his illustrious playing career.

South Sydney severed ties immediately with Burgess late last season  with co-owner Russell Crowe consulted before the final call was made.

The situation exploded after reports emerged that Burgess and fellow assistant John Morris had told Demetriou that star players Cody Walker and Latrell Mitchell held too much sway in the club.

“I was finishing up at Souths and this just came up. A lot of people advised me to take a bit more time but Wayne Bennett told me: ‘Go do it. It’s the only way you’re going to learn’. It was a sliding doors moment,” Burgess said in an interview with The Telegraph in London.

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

“It wasn’t a plan but it was a great opportunity outside my comfort zone. I wanted to be a head coach in the long run and I thought this was just a great fit. It is such a great club to be part of.”

Burgess conceded that he struggled to adapt to his career ending abruptly due to injury and he was involved in a string of off-field incidents including accusations from his former wife and father-in-law which led to a high-profile court case.


He was found not guilty of the domestic violence allegations but was admitted to a drug rehabilitation clinic after being caught driving with cocaine in his system.

“When I first retired I had a rough time. I did not have a purpose or a drive and I really struggled with that,” he said.

“For such a big part of my life, for so many years, I had that sense of belonging to a group and having a responsibility. Almost instantly that had gone.

“In that time when I was away from the game I was just totally lost. I don’t find many things hard but I found that period very hard to manage. I didn’t make great decisions.

“I didn’t know how to manage it emotionally. I didn’t understand how I was feeling. It’s something I wasn’t equipped for. I had to go and spend a lot of time working on myself and understanding those feelings and emotions which young men really don’t do a lot of.”

Burgess, who will guide Warrington into battle against Catalans on Saturday, says he has made a fresh start back in his homeland, the first time he’s lived in the UK since his ill-fated stint in rugby nine years ago.


“I actually had a great time in rugby union and had some success. People might laugh at that but I played in a Premiership final for Bath against a ‘heavily-paid’ Saracens team and I got into a World Cup squad. I had to work my backside off to do that,” he said.

“I represented my country and I felt like I gave something to the game of rugby union. I guess a lot of people will disagree with that but when you really break it down, I was happy with it.

“I did love the game of rugby union. I still do.”