Sam Burgess has put his sensational form for South Sydney this year down to not getting involved in personal battles with rival players.
The Rabbitohs’ superstar is in the running to become the first forward to win the Dally M Medal since Cronulla’s Gavin Miller 1989, and credits this to keeping a lid on his frustrations.
The Englishman, who will return home to play rugby at the end of this season following a hugely successful four-year stint in the NRL, had earned a reputation of the wrong sort following some incidents in 2013.
His infamous ‘squirrel grip’ on Melbourne’s Will Chambers earned him a two-match ban and widespread condemnation.
He was also involved in a running battle with Sydney Roosters five-eighth James Maloney last year where he appeared to deliberately poke his finger in the playmaker’s eye.
There were also signs of his temper boiling over earlier this year when Burgess and his brother George became embroiled in a running battle with Wests Tigers forward Aaron Woods in a round three defeat.
Woods claimed after the game that Souths could be beaten if the Yorkshire siblings were provoked.
Burgess revealed that a heart-to-heart with coach Michael Maguire got him back on track.
“We talked through a few things that make me do some silly things on the field and why some battles might have got the better of me,” Burgess said.
“I’ve just relaxed and just tried to work hard for my teammates.”
Burgess dismissed the perception put forward by NSW prop Woods and said players at every club stand up for their teammates.
“This year I have taken personal battles out of my game and it’s worked for me,” he said.
“I had to be careful this year as my record has a few loading points on there.
“There are perceptions of everything – I never really bought into it. Everybody likes to say it’s about the Burgess boys.
“But it’s about the team really, we’re a tight-knit group and look out for each other.
“I think there was only one occasion where me and George have got involved.”
Teammate Greg Inglis was mildly critical of Burgess last season and the Queensland and Test star said he has noticed a rise in his performances as a result of his keeping his cool.
“You can see that Sam is enjoying his footy,” Inglis said.
“He’s not going into games thinking about personal battles. It’s unfortunate it took him probably after pre-season to notice that.
“Sammy is one of those players who loves those battles, but you can see now that he is really enjoying what he is doing and it’s out of his game now.
“He’s always been a great player but to take it to the next level you have to put all that stuff aside and the last month or so he has really come into his own.”