Rabbitohs Sam Burgess and Greg Inglis during their win over the Bulldogs during the 2014 NRL Grand Final match between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014.
Rabbitohs Sam Burgess and Greg Inglis during their win over the Bulldogs during the 2014 NRL Grand Final match between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014. AAP Image - Dean Lewins

Inspirational Sam is the man for me

A MATE of mine just can't cop Sam Burgess.

After Sunday night's NRL grand final he texted me with 'if Sam Burgess finds another camera he will win an Academy Award'.

Big Sam sure did find a camera or two, but not nearly as many as found him.

Unlike my mate, I love Sam Burgess, and rate him among the very best forwards of my time.

And his performance in the grand final - fractured cheekbone aside - was inspirational.

Add to that his teary embrace with fellow footballing genius Greg Inglis, his heartfelt and sincere post-game interview plus the pure ecstasy the win brought him, and the departing Burgess will forever be a South Sydney legend.

This magical victory not only ended a 43-year drought for the Rabbitohs - the team tagged the pride of the league - but it took a massive monkey off their back after two successive grand final qualifier failures.

A record crowd (for the current configuration of ANZ Stadium), smashed TV ratings, the pure passion of the Rabbitohs fans and the noise and electric atmosphere that was evident even though our TV sets, surely makes this one of the most emotional season finales in recent memory.

And to top it off, the contest was an absolute ripper and still in the balance with 10 minutes to go.

And despite some refereeing clangers, the on-going ASADA calamity, predictable player dramas and the heartbreaking injury to Alex McKinnon, season 2014 was still a mighty success.

 

My annual awards go to:

 

  • Team of the year: Obviously the Rabbitohs, but the Roosters ran a close second. Minor premiers two years in succession and finishing one game shy of the grand final is a remarkable performance.

 

  • Improvers: The Panthers, and although they finished out of the eight, the Eels climbed off the canvas too.

 

  • Disappointments: They led the competition after six rounds, yet the Titans finished 16th - enough said. The Warriors promised much but again delivered little.

 

  • Player of the year: I can't split Johnathan Thurston, Jarryd Hayne and Sam Burgess from a horde of candidates as skilful as I have ever seen.

 

  • Most improved: Ben Hunt. To graduate from an interchange dummy half to a genuine match winner and Dally M Medal contender in 12 months was an outstanding achievement.

 

  • Disappointing: Terry Campese, closely followed by Ben Barba. Where has their form gone?

 

  • Coach of the year: This gong should always go to the grand final-winning coach, so it's Michael Maguire. But Ivan Cleary ran him close.

 

  • Disappointments: Matt Elliott, Steve Price, Anthony Griffin, John Cartwright and Mick Potter, all of whom were shown the door during the year. And Ricky Stuart's first season back at Canberra wasn't exactly flattering either.

 

  • Referee of the year: All of them. They have the toughest job under a spotlight akin to that shining on our Prime Minister.

 

  • Disappointment: Because of that pressure, they no longer feel confident to make a decision.

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