Sam Burgess has stood down as assistant coach of South Sydney as the NRL and NSW Police launch an investigation into serious misconduct claims.
The NRL has been shocked by allegations published in The Australian on Friday and has instructed its integrity unit to speak to South Sydney officials.
The newspaper report alleged drug use and domestic violence by the former Rabbitohs captain, behaviour which was then alleged to have been covered up by the famous NRL club.
Burgess, an integral part of Souths’ NRL premiership success in 2014, denies the allegations.
His lawyer told The Australian “the allegations are false and constitute indefensible defamation against my client”.
South Sydney will cooperate with the investigation and in a statement said they are treating the allegations with the utmost seriousness.
“There is no place in our society for violence, harassment or abuse against women,” the statement read.
“If anyone is found guilty of allegations of this nature, the club will take the strongest possible action.
“The club takes issues of drug use very seriously and has well-established policies and procedures in place around the use of performance enhancing or illicit/recreational/prescription drugs.”
The 31-year-old Burgess has also stood down from his role with Fox Sports as a rugby league analyst, confirming so in a one-line statement.
“I have today stood down from all work commitments,” Burgess said.
Speaking on Friday, NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo stressed the seriousness of the allegations but said no action will be taken on Burgess or the South Sydney club on allegations alone.
It comes just two days before Souths play a sudden-death finals match against Newcastle at ANZ Stadium.
“(The timing is) obviously disappointing. We’ve worked so hard this season to get to where we are and we want the focus to be on the football, however, these are really serious matters and serious allegations,” Abdo said hours before the NRL’s finals series kicks off in Sydney.
“We will put all our resources into getting to the bottom of what occurred.”
The NRL learned of the allegations late on Thursday night as the report was published online.
Abdo said the NRL would take as long as needed to get to the truth.
“This is new information to us. We will act on it, we will investigate and take the appropriate action,” Abdo said.
“We have a track record of doing this and we will continue to do it.
“It’s important that people feel safe and it’s important that we take our responsibility in society very seriously.
“However, we need to let the course of justice flow and make sure that any allegations are tested before we decide what actions are appropriate.”
NSW Police have also begun an investigation into the allegations after a report was made to The Hume police district on Wednesday.
Burgess was medically retired by South Sydney in 2019 with a chronic shoulder injury that ended his 182-game NRL career.
He has since worked in a development role with the club and this season became an assistant to coach Wayne Bennett.
The Englishman famously led the Rabbitohs to the 2014 premiership in a 30-6 victory over Canterbury.
It was a historic night for the club and Burgess, who broke his eye socket and cheekbone early but played on to claim the Clive Churchill Medal.