Rugby league siblings set to star on the biggest stage in their careers to date.
It’s a story scripted by Hollywood star Russell Crowe, and England will hope their trio of beefy Burgess brothers can provide a happy ending at the Rugby League World Cup.
Hired by Crowe, co-owner of the South Sydney Rabbitohs, forwards Sam, Luke, Tom and George have entered Australian rugby league folklore as the first set of four brothers to play in the same top-level side for more than a century.
And now Sam, 24, and uncapped twins Tom and George, 21, will be generating more history at the October-November World Cup in England and Wales as the first trio of brothers to be chosen in an England rugby league squad — though there is no place for older brother Luke.
It is an extraordinary tale for the Burgess clan who have made their presence felt in the hurly-burly of Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL), regarded as the sport’s toughest arena.
The opportunity for the brothers to thrive in the NRL came after Crowe spotted Sam by chance while filming for “Robin Hood” on location in England.
Oscar-winner Crowe saw him on television while he was playing for the Bradford Bulls — where was given his debut by England coach Steve McNamara at 17 — and was so impressed he gave him a call.
Sam linked up with the Rabbitohs in 2010 and was joined by sibling Luke, 26, the following year from Leeds Rhinos. George followed in 2012 and Tom joined the fray this year.
The four turned out together on the same ground on the night of August 30 when they played in the final stages of the Rabbitohs’ 32-18 win over Wests Tigers, watched by their mother, Julie, sitting in the stands with Crowe.
The four-brother feat was last accomplished 103 years ago in the competition.
They appeared to sense history was with them when they all enthusiastically rushed in to make a combined crunching tackle on the last play of the game.
“It’s something we dreamt of as kids but we didn’t expect it to happen this quickly,” Sam said. “It’s fantastic and great credit to the twins for how they’ve come on in the last two years.
“I’m really proud of the family. The team is our family and we’ve been working extremely hard.”
There was early heartbreak for the Burgess boys when their father, Mark, died from motor neurone disease aged only 45.
Crowe holds such affection for the clan that the seat beside him at every home game is saved… as a place for their late father.
The brothers are huge physical specimens — Sam stands 1.96 metres (6ft 5ins) and weighs in at 116 kilogrammes (256 pounds) and his brothers are hewn of the same stuff. They make a considerable impact as they charge into rival defences with or without the ball.
Sam has suffered his share of unsavoury incidents this season and was suspended for a “squirrel grip” (testicle grabbing) which left Melbourne Storm back Will Chambers writhing.
“He is a guy who can be as vicious as he needs to be. He can do anything he needs to do during the course of that 80 minutes to bring the result towards his team,” Crowe said.
“His will to win rises to any occasion. But the moment that final whistle blows, he is a completely different man.”
Sam Burgess has developed into one of the most fearsome ball runners in the NRL while George had a tremendous season capped by being named the Dally M Rookie of the Season.
Now the Burgess boys, minus Luke, are looking to translate their impact to the international level.
“Sam was first to get the call, then George. Tom was the last as there was a doubt over his fitness but he’s good to go,” England coach McNamara said.
“I can only imagine what it must be like for Luke. It would have been a marketing person’s dream to have four in but I’ve based my selection on what is best for the team.”