If Sam Burgess does make a move to rugby union, the South Sydney Rabbitohs will need to act quickly to find a player who can adequately replace the barnstorming Englishman.
NRL players coming off contract at the end of the 2014 season who could land in Redfern as big-name replacements for Big Sam.
ANDREW FIFITA, 24
Even before it became clear Burgess had one foot out the exit door, speculation had started to mount that Andrew Fifita was being lined up to replace him. Fifita was a revelation in 2013. A Tigers discard, Fifita blossomed into arguably the most damaging forward in the competition as he transitioned from a bench bomber to one of the first on the team sheet for the Sharks, then NSW, and finally the Kangaroos. And at just 24, Fifita’s best years are still ahead of him.
JAMES GRAHAM, 28
With one British bulldog out the door, there’s every reason to consider replacing him with another. Barring the black mark next to his name in the form of a long suspension for biting Billy Slater’s ear in the 2012 NRL grand final, Graham has been a stunning find for the Bulldogs. The complete prop forward package, Graham isn’t as flashy or glamorous as the man he would replace, but when it comes to rolling up the sleeves and leading from the front, Graham comes into his own.
DAVE TAYLOR, 25
Both the most talented and the most frustrating forward in the game, Dave Taylor has already had one failed stint at Redfern. So why jump aboard the Coaltrain for a second time? Simple. At his best, Taylor is just about the only player who could not just fill Burgess’s shoes but outgrow them. At over 120kg and with the speed of an outside back, he’s got all the tools to be unstoppable, and at 25 his maturity and work ethic should be peaking. As far as coaches go, Michael Maguire seems as good as any to harness those talents. But it seems more likely that the Rabbitohs will be once bitten, twice shy.
CURTIS SIRONEN, 20
As far as future planning goes, Curtis Sironen is the type of player the Rabbitohs could build their club around, just like they did with Burgess when he first arrived in 2010. A judge as good as Bob Fulton has already touted him a player who will dominate at all levels, and as he continues to grow, lock forward looks to be the accomplished ball player’s best position. The Bunnies would have a fight on their hands to prise Sironen away from the Tigers, particularly given his family history with the club. But they’d be mad not to at least dangle the carrot.
ANTHONY WATMOUGH, 30
Given his age and injury history, Anthony Watmough is definitely the wildcard in this pack, but that’s not to say the Manly stalwart doesn’t warrant careful consideration. Year on year Watmough is consistently among the toughest and best forwards in the NRL and he’s got one thing the Rabbitohs sorely lack – he’s a winner. His resume includes two premierships, and a further two NRL grand finals. And he’s one of the few New South Welshmen of his era who can say they’ve won an Origin series. If the Rabbitohs are searching for a player who can help them win a quick premiership, Watmough might just be their man.