Sam Burgess may not be officially taking over at Warrington Wolves until 2024, but he’s already having a massive impact on the club and the team according to stand-in boss Gary Chambers.
It was confirmed earlier this month that NRL legend Burgess, who began his own career in Super League with Bradford Bulls, would be the man to replace Daryl Powell at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
But with coaching responsibilities to fulfil down under until the end of 2023, he wouldn’t be able to make the move back to his home country until after this season had ended.
Head of Youth Chambers, who next year will move into a new role as Director of Rugby at the club, was accordingly tasked with taking charge of the side for the remainder of the year.
Ahead of this weekend’s clash with Leeds Rhinos however, he’s revealed how Burgess is providing a helping hand from afar.
Sam Burgess already having a big impact at Warrington
Chambers said: “He’s on it, I don’t think the guy sleeps to be honest! There’s a real buzz about him and he’s loving it, he’s working with the coaches and speaking to them to look at things.
“He’s wanting data and stats, wanting to see who’s doing what and who isn’t doing what, which is good to see. His commitment is nothing short of impressive, and he’s got time for everyone.
“The lads who I’ve spoken to come out of their meetings [with him] in a real positive space and it’s good to see. He commands respect and is able to impart that knowledge, giving that feel good factor, from a long way away. It’s impressive what he’s doing.
“He’s looking at quick wins that would potentially help us now, and maybe in the long term they might help him too. His focus isn’t just on next year, he’s another set of eyes for us now.
“He’s not on the ground, but he’s someone watching from afar with a vested interest, and that’s perfect for us.”
Gary Chambers on ‘outstanding’ Sam Burgess
Cumbrian Chambers is himself vastly experienced in the game, making 210 appearances for the Wolves between 1989 and 2000.
Following his retirement, the Cumbrian ventured into the coaching world, both at club level with Warrington and in the international ranks with England Youth and England Academy.
It was in that international setup where he first came across incoming Wire head coach Burgess, a man he’s keen to re-kindle his connection with after a few years apart.
The man at the helm for the remainder of this year added: “My initial view of him coming in was that it’s brilliant. I spoke to him a couple of times before it came out, and got his passion and the aura he has around him straight away.
“He’s a student of the game, and he understood what Warrington was as a town – the Wire and the hard work. He’d done his homework into that, but I knew him and I knew what he was like anyway.
“I coached him when I was with England U18s, and I nearly signed him. He was very close to coming to Warrington on the back of my connection with him there, so we nearly had him here back then. We’d always had a strong link anyway, and we’d lost touch for a couple of years when he was doing his great stuff over in Australia, but it’s now come to fruition.
“He’s still the same outstanding young man who I met when I was coaching England, the same outstanding individual that I got to know then.”
Burgess getting to know Wolves’ pack
Former utility forward Burgess made 180 appearances for the South Sydney Rabbitohs over two stints, winning the 2014 NRL Grand Final.
Between those two stints was a short spell in rugby union which saw him as an Aviva Premiership runner-up with Bath, while on the representative front, he played for England at senior level in both codes.
On the impact he’s already having on his new club, before even touching down from ‘Aus’, Chambers continued: “He’s already got round most players I think, speaking to them individually.
“He’s spoken to the spine about some little wins that that they can get without being too intrusive yet because he’s not on the ground. He’s looked at our opposition, immediate and long-term, and he’s making notes. He’s heavily invested in what we’re trying to do without being intrusive, and just offering support.
“I’ll ask him to give us a game de-brief, and as with all good environments, we’ll then take it to the senior team because they’re the ones that have to lead on this. We’re trying to present a leadership model here, and we’ll utilise anything that’s valuable in there.”