Burgess returns to haunt Smith - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Burgess returns to haunt Smith

By Steve Jancetic & Wayne Heming 12/03/2010 09:35:36 PM Comments (0)

Brian Smith has only himself to blame if South Sydney recruit Sam Burgess tramples over his side on Sunday after the Roosters coach revealed his crucial role in unleashing the English juggernaut.

Smith was a coaching adviser to Steve McNamara at Super League club Bradford in 2006 when a raw-boned Burgess was handed his top grade debut by the Bulls at the tender age of 17.

Burgess has since progressed to become one of the most fearsome forwards in the game and, alongside the likes of Roy Asotasi and Dave Taylor, a member of the self-proclaimed best pack in the NRL.

They get their first chance to live up to the hype in Sunday's local derby against the Roosters at ANZ Stadium, Smith's first game in charge of the tri-colours.

While Smith did his best to play down his role in putting Burgess on the path to stardom, he said there was never any doubt the 21-year-old would develop into top level talent.

"Yeah, me and everybody else at Bradford," Smith said when asked if he immediately recognised Burgess' potential.

"I was giving Steve a hand there for a while so I've known what Sam can do for about four or five years."

Asked if he was directly responsible for giving Burgess an opportunity, Smith opted to deflect praise.

"Definitely not - Steve had had him earmarked from about 14 or 15.

"Steve was very excited about him and I think everyone at Bradford recognised that he was a kid that was going places."

While all eyes will be on Burgess to see if he can transform his Super League dominance over to the NRL, there is similar pressure on new Wests Tigers winger Lote Tuqiri ahead of his first league game since 2002.

Tuqiri was named on the wing to face Manly on Monday night despite having just three training sessions with his new club.

He has just returned from a stint playing rugby union in England, with sceptics claiming the 30-year-old will be off the pace after seven years out of the game.

One not buying into that theory is fellow dual international Mat Rogers, who played alongside Tuqiri in the 2003 Rugby World Cup before returning to rugby league with Gold Coast in 2007.

"He'll go alright, it's not like the guy is unfit or anything," Rogers said.

"He's been playing rugby over in Europe, it's pretty tough footy over there.

"He'll come back and I've got no doubt, absolutely no doubt in Lote's ability.

"There's no doubt the intensity (in league) is more consistent but Lote is not your average player, he's a superstar.

"I think he'll slot in nicely and the Tigers have got themselves a nice player."

A final decision on whether Tuqiri plays on Monday is not expected until game day.

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