Paper Talk: Burgess fears, Sonny Bill ‘could have died’ & tearful Leeds star

Some big discussion points in your favourite rugby league paper talk.

Real talk on rugby league prospects

A refreshingly realistic view from Mark Evans in The Guardian about rugby league’s problems and future. He is a man qualified to talk about it too, having previously been with Harlequins and Melbourne Storm.

His headline quotes included: “The idea you can parachute a sport into an area that has no cultural and historical roots is nonsense. It’s going to take 50 years and a lot of money to touch the sides. It is extraordinarily difficult.”

And this one on the size of the areas around the heartlands. “The region where rugby league has a presence has about 10 million people. It’s twice the size of Scotland. It’s Portugal or Sweden: not to be dismissed.

“But why spend any time worrying about your national reach when you have so much of the north to conquer? Fish where the fishes are.

“I’ve never quite understood why English rugby league didn’t look to fill in the gaps in areas where it was known.”

Read the full piece in The Guardian here.

Crowe’s punt

Another real rugby league story in The Guardian, this time with South Sydney supremo Russell Crowe.

The working class roots of rugby league still shine through Down Under, despite the NRL’s increasing riches.

Crowe reflected: “I was just taking a punt. I just had an instinct that if somebody was in charge, a single voice, so people would work to one set of ambitions, then we had a chance of being able to combine all the love that was out there.” (The Guardian)

Burgess brain scare

Sam Burgess says he fears he may one day develop a degenerative disease linked to his time playing rugby. He has twice-yearly brain scans and was incorrectly diagnosed with multiple sclerosis back in 2019.

Burgess said: “I think there’s damage on my brain. Loads of white dots. It showed up on the MRI. It was something that I took very seriously. I have to get my brain scans every six months to check if it’s degenerating or getting worse or improving.” (The Mirror)

Tearful Lui

Leeds coach Richard Agar paid tribute to Robert Lui and Konrad Hurrell after their play-off defeat to St Helens.

He told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “Rob Lui has had a truly wonderful career, playing at the highest level for a long time and he is a champion bloke as well. He was in tears.”

On Hurrell, Agar added: “We wish him all the best and we’ll see him again next year.” (Yorkshire Evening Post)

A champion proposal

It was a doubly whammy for Penrith’s Brian To’o, who capped victory in the NRL Grand Final by proposing to his partner pitchside in the aftermath.

He said: “I want to thank my beautiful partner for saying yes and also for the boys for getting us the win. I’m just grateful to be here and so lucky.” (The Mirror)

Sonny Bill ‘nearly died’

Sonny Bill Williams has revealed his struggles with drugs during his time in the NRL with Canterbury.

Writing in his new book, ‘Sonny Bill Williams: You Can’t Stop the Sun from Shining’ he talks about a four-day bender that could have killed him.

The former Toronto Wolfpack star said: “I don’t remember anything about the operations except waking up having my girlfriend crying next to the bed and the doc really gave it to me, telling me I had so many drugs in my system I could have died.” (Daily Mail)

PROMOTION: Toulouse and Featherstone through to fight for promotion to Super League

Support rugby league in the media and subscribe to League Express, as well as checking out the regular coverage of the sport in The Mirror, The Sun, The Guardian and other national newspapers; the more you read, the more there’ll be.

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